Valedictory to the College by Jonathan Lee ’23

News subtitle

“Seek out those who inspire you, who push you to grow, and who make you feel like you belong.”


From the first moment I arrived in Hanover, I immediately understood why Dartmouth is so special. I loved everything, from sunrise hikes on Moosilauke to late nights in the Novack study rooms. The one thing that I didn’t get, though, was pong. My first game, I almost got golden treed—losing without hitting a single cup—and I was so embarrassed that I didn’t play again until sophomore year. Four years later, I’ve come around on pong, and count it among the many Dartmouth traditions that I cherish. 

Now you may be wondering, “Is this guy really going to talk about pong?” Yep ... why not? For myself, and many of you graduating today, pong isn’t really about alcohol. Athletes and scholars play with water and electrolyte drinks, and this year’s senior master’s winner never drank in his life. Any beverage works, because no matter what’s in the cup, a sink is a sink. 

Jokes aside, the thing that makes pong memorable is people you get to play with. It facilitates friendships with amazing people across campus. Even when we have no other activities or classes in common, we can still bond over teamwork, cooperation, and calling out the spin on serves. Some of my closest friendships have started from coming back from a potential golden tree or gutting out a half-half battle with someone I had just met. Pong also isn’t specific to an affiliation or location. Many of the most entertaining games occur in living rooms and off-campus apartments, between friends who are playing honestly, hitting shoulder height, and making witty conversation.

This spirit of inclusivity and creativity is what drives the emotions that we feel during other seminal Dartmouth experiences as well. For example, Homecoming isn’t remembered fondly because there’s a big fire ... we look forward to Homecoming because it’s an opportunity to find common ground, no matter how different our backgrounds, friend groups, or academic interests may be. This mindset is what turns our exciting and mundane experiences into uniquely Dartmouth experiences worth remembering for the rest of our lives.

Dear President Hanlon, faculty, and the board of trustees: I’m done talking about pong. It’s just one of many traditions that unite us. Our best college memories were forged in communities like the performing arts, sports, and religious spaces. We’ll all remember going on trips, meeting friends in O-week, and walking around the bonfire. Lou’s challenges at the end of hard exam weeks. Winter Carnival and Green Key. Darty season once the snow melts in spring. Pretending to study with friends on FFB. These traditions seem silly to people outside Dartmouth but are the things we’ll miss dearly. 

And now, as we leave these traditions behind and embark on our separate journeys beyond these walls, let us cherish the memories we’ve made and the friendships we’ve forged. Let us reflect on the many things to be grateful for. Dartmouth has introduced us all to incredible people and communities:

To Coach Turner and the Dartmouth Forensics Union: you were the first community that embraced me as a freshman. I’ll never forget traveling across the country together on weekends to compete and spending hundreds of hours on the second floor of Robinson Hall. I am grateful that you continued to welcome me even when I took a break after COVID.

To Phi Delt: this is where I’ve met my closest friends at Dartmouth. Thank you to our mysterious house advisor, Gig, and members of our “need 1 good” chat. To the ’24s, I know you’ll have an amazing senior year, and I hope that you continue to welcome others as I was welcomed three years ago. To the ’25s, do what Martel couldn’t.

To the Computer Science and Math Departments: thank you for challenging me to think more deeply. In particular, Professor DeepC, you are the best teacher I’ve ever had; thank you for introducing me to algorithms and advising my research. You embody the rigorous, logical thinking that we need more of in the world, and I hope to continue applying what I’ve learned in my future work in computer science.

To Pastor Craig and the Wellspring Church community: thank you for providing a space for me to grow in my faith.

Lastly, to my family: thank you Kacie and Shawn for being my siblings. Thank you Umma and Appa for your unwavering support and teaching me to strive for excellence. Thank you Eemos and Haraboji: you remind me every day that it’s not vain to trust in God and His guidance.

To the rest of the world, the diplomas that we’ve received will symbolize our excellent education. But for us, Dartmouth is more than four years of lecture halls and exams. Here, we’ve cultivated a spirit of intellectual curiosity and community that can and should be spread beyond Hanover.

So, as we step into the next phase of our lives, let’s remember the importance of building and nurturing communities wherever we go. Seek out those who inspire you, who push you to grow, and who make you feel like you belong. Remember to check in with each other frequently, especially amidst our recent losses. It’s through these connections that we will continue to learn, to thrive, and to make a difference in the world. Remember to hold on to the spirit of Dartmouth. Stay curious, embrace challenges, and build pong tables in your apartments.

It has been an incredible four years, and I hope that everyone after graduation can create communities like the ones we’ve found here. If you ever see me on campus again, don’t hesitate to text me a “need 1.” Thank you, Dartmouth College, and congratulations to the Class of 2023! We did it!

Office of Communications