UMass Boston Graduates Urged to Lead at 44th Commencement Ceremony

Crystal Bozek | June 07, 2012
UMass Boston Graduates Urged to Lead at 44th Commencement Ceremony

Aspire to something bigger than yourselves.

That was the message principal speaker Ambassador Anwarul Karim Chowdhury delivered to graduates at UMass Boston's 44th commencement on June 1.

“Rather than waiting for others to lead, it is incumbent on each of you to assume that you are it,” Ambassador Chowdhury told the crowd in his commencement address. “Let your time here at this great institution serve as a call to action ... so you may wield your talents, and intellect, and passion toward something that moves you and moves others.”

Ambassador Chowdhury, a former under-secretary-general at the United Nations (UN) and the leading UN Culture of Peace emissary, delivered the keynote address under sunny skies to 3,810 graduates and their families, emphasizing their potential to be leaders and agents of change.

More than 10,000 people attended commencement and hundreds watched the ceremony as it streamed live on the website. This year's graduating class — the largest in school history — represents 101 countries. Many of them are first-generation college graduates.

“The diversity and globalism of UMass Boston is phenomenal,” Ambassador Chowdhury said. “You should be proud that your alma mater values and provides a learning environment that not just respects differences, but excites curiosity and embodies civility.”

Watch video of Ambassador Chowdhury's speech on UMass Boston's YouTube Channel.

Chancellor J. Keith Motley awarded Chowdhury with a Chancellor’s Medal for Global Leadership for Peace. He was joined by honorary degree recipients Jackie Jenkins-Scott, president of Wheelock College; Pastor James Wuye and Imam Muhammad Ashafa, co-founders of the Interfaith Mediation Centre in Nigeria; and philanthropist and advocate for the blind Carla Lynton, who also accepted a degree on behalf of her husband, Ernest Lynton, who was honored posthumously for his service to higher education in Massachusetts.

Chancellor Motley awarded Albert Chen, a social psychology major, with the John F. Kennedy Award, the highest honor a UMass Boston undergraduate student can receive. In his speech to graduates, Chen encouraged his fellow students to “be the change.”

“Whether it’s bringing honesty to corporate finance, or showing compassion within public policy – be the change,” Chen said. “Whether it’s showing patience to a difficult customer, or generosity to a stranger – be the change. Whether it’s practicing integrity in school, or humility on the basketball court – be the change.”

Rounding out the day's honorees were the four recipients of the Chancellor's Awards. Department Chairman of American Studies Rachel Rubin and Professor of English John Tobin received the Chancellor’s Award for Distinguished Scholarship. Graduate Program Director and Professor of Sociology Stephanie Hartwell received the Chancellor’s Award for Distinguished Teaching, and Professor of Psychology Joan Liem received the Chancellor’s Award for Distinguished Service.

Chowdhury closed his speech to graduates with a message of encouragement.

“Try,” he said. “And with every try, may you find strength in the knowledge that you tried for all of us, and just through the act of trying, you have made all our legacies richer.”

View photos of this year's commencement on UMass Boston's Flickr page.

For more information about UMass Boston's 44th commencement ceremonies, visit

Tags: anwarul chowdhury , chancellor , commencement , distinguished awards , graduation , honorary degrees , jfk award

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