Congressman Seth Moulton, a Massachusetts native and Marine veteran who served four tours in Iraq, encouraged UMass Boston graduates to “live your life with courage” at the university’s 48th undergraduate commencement Friday at the TD Garden.
“Be proud of getting here today not because it was easy, but because it was hard. And plan to succeed tomorrow, not because life is always easy, but because you can find the courage to meet its challenges,” Moulton said. “And if you live your life with courage, you will look back on it with pride.”
Moulton delivered the keynote address and received a Chancellor’s Medal for his patriotism, for risking his life in the service of his country in Iraq, and for his commitment to public service through his work in Congress.
UMass Boston graduated its largest class ever this year – 4,262 graduates. Due to the record number of graduates, for the first time in university history, there were two separate ceremonies. The university also held a graduate commencement Thursday afternoon in the Clark Athletic Center. Watch the ceremony on YouTube.
The university awarded degrees to 2,922 graduates at its undergrad ceremony, including 88 Honors College Scholars.
Members of the class hail from 150 countries and speak 90 languages. More than 60 percent of UMass Boston students are the first in their families to earn a college degree. Read student stories from commencement.
Chancellor J. Keith Motley spoke of how proud he was that the graduating class used engaged scholarship and experiential learning to open doors to opportunities, enhancing their own lives and sharing the gift of educations with others.
“Whether you come from Roxbury or Dorchester, South Boston or the South End, Dubai or Seoul, Montego Bay or Mumbai, you have demonstrated a commitment to standing with your community—whether you aim to serve the town that raised you or the global community that we all are part of as a human family,” Motley said.
UMass President Marty Meehan was also amazed by the diversity of the class.
“I look at the audience and I see faces and people from all over the world,” Meehan said. “The diversity of this university is its greatest strength. You inspire us all.”
Boston Public Schools educator and community leader Suzanne Lee received an honorary doctor of laws degree. Lee worked in the Boston Public Schools for 35 years, first as a teacher and later as a principal. She led a high-profile turnaround at the Baldwin School in Brighton, transforming a low-achieving and divided school into a national model for school improvement. As a community leader, Lee helped immigrant mothers launch the first Chinese Parents Association and worked with unemployed garment workers to secure Boston’s first bilingual training programs. She also was a founding member of the Massachusetts Asian American Educators Association.
The university also recognized the late Congressman Louis Stokes, a lawyer and legislator who became a powerful figure in the fight for civil rights and social justice, with a posthumous honorary doctor of science degrees. His daughter, Lori Stokes, received the honor in her father’s memory.
Stokes, raised in Cleveland’s inner-city housing projects, rose to prominence as a lawyer and legislator, becoming a powerful figure in the fight for civil rights and social justice. The first African-American congressman from Ohio, he served 15 consecutive terms in the House of Representatives before retiring in 1999. As chairman of the Select Committee on Assassinations, he conducted hearings on the deaths of Martin Luther King, Jr., and President John F. Kennedy. As chairman of the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct (aka Ethics), he led the investigation into the ABSCAM corruption scandal. On August 18, 2015, he passed away at the age of 90.
Three faculty members received Chancellor’s Awards: management and marketing professor David L. Levy, Asian American Studies professor Shirley Suet-ling Tang, and gerontology professor Jan E. Mutchler for their distinguished scholarship, teaching, and service, respectively.
Chancellor J. Keith Motley also presented biochemistry major Alexander Winnett, who earned his bachelor of science in biochemistry, with the John F. Kennedy Award for Academic Excellence, the university’s highest recognition for undergraduate achievement.
Winnett, a Whitman native, encouraged his classmates to share their “crayons” – their skills and experiences – with others.
“…We each have talents that alone can be brilliant, but when combined, produce masterpieces,” Winnett said. “I task you to become experts in your field – master artists with the crayons you choose to color with. But also share your crayons – your expertise – outside your own canvas, and keep an eye out for how you can work with the colors and artistry of others to enhance your own masterpieces.”
Moulton told students that as they graduated, they were leaving a place that has allowed – even encouraged – them to be courageous.
“You took classes that challenged you intellectually, debated issues that challenged you morally, and probably had some relationships that challenged you emotionally,” he said.
“Courage is rare. Courage matters - much more than we appreciate today. And if you live your life with courage, you will inspire others to do the same.”
About UMass Boston
The University of Massachusetts Boston is deeply rooted in the city's history, yet poised to address the challenges of the future. Recognized for innovative research, metropolitan Boston’s public university offers its diverse student population both an intimate learning environment and the rich experience of a great American city. UMass Boston’s 11 colleges and graduate schools serve nearly 17,000 students while engaging local and global constituents through academic programs, research centers, and public service. To learn more, visit www.umb.edu.