Commencement ceremonies can be rowdy affairs, as the pressures of college life dissolve into the rapturous joy of achievement, and students become graduates with one toss of a mortarboard.
The mood was more subdued at University of Massachusetts Boston’s 45th commencement exercises, but the happiness was no less evident. Ten thousand people gathered on the Campus Center lawn May 31, sharing the bliss of a record-breaking 3,906 graduates and the sorrow of one family whose daughter was on the minds of everyone in attendance.
Under a blazing early summer sun, Chancellor J. Keith Motley opened the ceremony with a tribute to Krystle Campbell, the former UMass Boston student who died in the Boston Marathon bombing six weeks earlier. The university awarded a posthumous bachelor’s degree to Campbell, which was accepted on stage by her brother, William III.
“This is an unusually solemn ceremony for this university, and an unusually sad spring for our city,” Chancellor Motley said. “Although we are under the shadow of a tragedy, we are reminded that it is normal, and human, and necessary to continue to feel joy, especially on a day like today.”
Chancellor Motley shared several inspiring stories from the Class of 2013, reminding the crowd of the many reasons to celebrate. He paid tribute to four seniors from the College of Nursing and Health Sciences— Meghan Croake, Stacey Tosado, Christine Marino, and Monika Mruk— who volunteered at the Marathon medical tent. The four students showed incredible bravery by rushing into danger with other first responders after the explosions.
He honored William Hanna, the Army veteran who designed an independent study program to track tumor growth. And he called out Alyssa Trinidad, the College of Management student who was chosen by state education officials as one of “29 Who Shine”—a list of elite students at Massachusetts public colleges.
Then Chancellor Motley asked the crowd to offer a loud tribute to the entire Class of 2013.
“I want you to make so much noise that they can hear you on Nantucket at our field station,” he said.
James Gustave “Gus” Speth, co-founder of the National Resources Defense Council and a longtime environmental activist, delivered the keynote address. He sent the Class of 2013 into the world with a simple instruction: Value personal connections above material possessions.
“There is no meaning to be found at the mall,” Speth told the graduates. “The main thing that gives meaning to our lives, and indeed to the world, is caring so much for others that we act to create for them as much joy and as little suffering as possible.”
Speth received an honorary degree at the ceremony. Also honored were Jack Dangermond, founder of ESRI, a software firm that pioneered the use of geographic information systems; and Tererai Trent, who fled an oppressive culture and an abusive marriage in her native Zimbabwe to become a powerful advocate for women’s educational opportunities.
The Chancellor’s Medal for International Peace and Reconciliation was awarded on May 30 to Aari Najmuldeen Mohammed Jabari, a leading Iraqi peacemaker who has worked closely with the Forum for Cities in Transition, a global coalition founded by UMass Boston’s Padraig O’Malley.
Hear from the Class of 2013 in their own words here.