Switzer Gives Syracuse Commencement and Receives Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters

If Kathrine Switzer’s Syracuse University commencement speech didn’t inspire every graduate to lace up and run, we don’t know what will.

Switzer, who in 1967 became the first woman to run the Boston Marathon with an official race bib, addressed her alma mater 50 years after she graduated with a degree from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.

“Running is just a metaphor for our lives,” she told students on May 13. “When we strive and accomplish something difficult together, we respect and support each other.”

Kathrine Switzer Syracuse University 

Kathrine Switzer holds up her bib number from the 1967 Boston Marathon at the 2018 Syracuse University Commencement.

Courtesy of Syracuse University

Switzer urged students to take even small actions to right some of the injustices in the world, noting that her legendary run, which helped pave the way for women’s running, wouldn’t have been possible without support from Arnie Briggs, a Syracuse mailman who helped her train.

“I realized I wasn’t special, that talent is everywhere, it only needs an opportunity, and women had none to disprove the old myths and restrictions,” Switzer said. “I knew then that a goal in my life would be to create those opportunities. It wasn’t just about running per se; instead it was about changing women’s lives.”

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