ILR's most joyous day of the year rolled out on a blue sky day that shone on nearly 300 men and women.
They strode from the Arts Quadrangle onto Schoellkopf Field with other Cornellians for graduation Sunday, then attended an outdoor reception at ILR before receiving diplomas at Lynah Rink.
Graduates and others paused again and again to share bits of their histories, thoughts and hopes.
"It feels," said Tia Greene '11, "like everything has paid off."
As thousands of Cornell graduates filed into the university stadium, Greene spotted her parents in the stands. Fifteen family members and friends traveled from southern Virginia for the event.
Greene has joined Teach for America and will work in a Phoenix, Ariz., school.
John Ertl, who carried the ILR symbol banner in the graduation procession Sunday, was a union member through the grocery store cashier job he held while a student at the University of Wisconsin. He transferred to ILR so he could get an education that would prepare him for work in the labor movement.
Last semester, Ertl returned to the Badger State with a carload of students from the Cornell Organization for Labor Action to join tens of thousands protesting the Wisconsin governor's plan to curtail collective bargaining rights for public sector workers.
In what he considers his most defining moment as a Cornell student, John electrified the thousands of protesters occupying the state capital with a rousing speech about his union heritage and the importance of the struggle facing unions.
Ertl spent last summer organizing private school teachers and Head Start workers in Los Angeles with the Service Employees International Union, Local 99. In August, he begins full-time work as a union membership organizer in the health care industry for the Service Employees International Union 1199 NE in Hartford, Conn.
Class of 2011 members were "charming and challenging students to work with," Harry Katz during his address at ILR's diploma ceremony.
The Kenneth F. Kahn Dean and Jack Sheinkman Professor told students they will be well served by negotiation and conflict resolution principles learned at ILR.
Katz urged them to "simultaneously think of both sides' interests" and to remember that the process of resolving conflict "is as important as the solutions."
ILR students have a responsibility to provide solutions to economic and social problems, he said. "You have an obligation to use your skills."
Richard White Smith '11 spent 1966 to 1968 as a U.S. Marine Corps member. After serving in Vietnam, he enrolled at Monroe Community College in Rochester, then transferred to ILR as a junior in 1970.
Smith was 12 credits shy of an ILR degree when he left Cornell to begin a career as a contractor. He returned to ILR for the fall 2010 semester to fulfill requirements. On Sunday, Smith graduated.
Ashley Daniels '11 described graduation with three words.
"Overwhelming. Sad. Exciting."
Daniels has accepted an analyst position with Deloitte in its Philadelphia office.
Gabe Gershenfeld '11 begins working for the Cleveland Indians this summer.
The former co-president of the ILR Sports Management Club is part of the team's Executive Development Fellowship program. Gershenfeld will use business analytics to improve the organization through qualitative and quantitative methods.
On Sunday, he became the third generation in his family to receive an ILR degree.
Gladys Gershenfeld MILR '51, his grandmother, was one of the field's first female arbitrators. She served as a neutral in residence at ILR as did Walter Gershenfeld, her husband.
Joel Cutcher-Gershenfeld '78, Gabe Gershenfeld's father, is dean of the School of Labor and Employment Relations at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
All three generations attended Sunday's ceremonies.
Jason Clifford '96 received a Cornell Executive MBA last weekend.
When university commencement ceremonies at Schoellkopf Field wrapped up Sunday, he stopped by ILR to see friends from his undergraduate days.
They included Laura Lewis, the Frank B. Miller Director of the ILR Office of Student Services.
Clifford, a human resources director for Honeywell International, said going through Cornell a second time "strengthens the bond to the university … this is home."