Chancellor’s Welcome: 45th Commencement

J. Keith Motley, PhD, UMass Boston Chancellor | June 04, 2013

Congratulations, University of Massachusetts Boston Class of 2013!

Before we begin today’s ceremonies, I’d like to ask for a moment of silence as we remember the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing earlier this year.

Thank you. President Caret, will you please join me at the podium. We remember the survivors of April’s horrifying attack, and those whose lives were taken from us: Martin Richard, Lu Lingzi, and the University of Massachusetts Boston’s own former student, Krystle Campbell.

One of Krystle’s professors in sociology remembers her as a strong, beautiful, ebullient, and wise woman; an enthusiastic learner who worked very hard to overcome obstacles; a sensitive and caring listener with her classmates; and a motivated student who “worked until she got it right.”

Her Spanish professor says, “She warned me at the beginning of the course that she was not good at languages. But she was certainly good at communicating with others and sharing projects and smiles. By the end of the semester, Krystle had made friends with everyone in her class. And she did well after all.”

This morning, we honor Krystle’s memory by granting her a posthumous bachelor of arts degree in sociology–a degree she was on the cusp of achieving. We are honored to be joined by Krystle’s mother, Patricia Campbell, her father, William Campbell, Jr., her brother, William Campbell III, her aunt and uncle, John and Leise Reilly, and her cousin, John Reilly Jr.

I would like to invite William Campbell III to the stage to accept Krystle’s degree on her behalf.

By the authority vested in me by President Robert Caret and the Board of Trustees of the University of Massachusetts, I confer upon Krystle Campbell the degree of bachelor of arts as recommended by the faculty of the University of Massachusetts Boston. In accordance with the usual custom and in token thereof, we present this diploma to her brother, William Campbell III. We are proud and honored to celebrate her life today.

I’d like to invite Trustee Richard Campbell to the front of the stage.

It is also my honor to announce that Trustee Campbell and his wife, Barbara Campbell, have designated their scholarship to University of Massachusetts Boston students in honor and in memory of Krystle, their fellow Medford native who happens to share their name.

Class of 2013, today we also remember your classmates who cannot be with us today because they were called to active duty as members of the United States Armed Forces–including one graduate who is en route to Afghanistan as we speak.

Army National Guard Staff Sergeant Deena Cummings is on her third volunteer tour of duty. Today, she earns her bachelor’s degree in management. Deena, if you’re watching now, congratulations! Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family, and with all of our enlisted students and their families.

Like Deena, many students among us today have served our country. Those of you who are veterans, please rise and be recognized. We thank you for your service!

The University of Massachusetts Boston was founded to provide access to academic excellence. Members of the class of 2013, you are living proof that we are fulfilling our mission.

Well over 50 percent of University of Massachusetts Boston undergraduates are first-generation college students. I ask you now: If you are the first person in your family to earn a college degree, please rise and be recognized!

You may be seated.

Class of 2013, this is an unusually solemn ceremony for this university, and an unusually sad spring for our city. 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, as we celebrate what you have worked so hard for, for so long.

The 13th-century Persian poet Rumi said, “Sorrow prepares you for joy. It violently sweeps everything out of your house, so that new joy can find space to enter. It shakes the yellow leaves from the bough of your heart, so that fresh, green leaves can grow in their place. It pulls up the rotten roots, so that new roots hidden beneath have room to grow. Whatever sorrow shakes from your heart, far better things will take their place.”

Class of 2013, the sorrow in our hearts makes your successes even sweeter.

Consider the example set by College of Nursing and Health Sciences students Meghan Croake, Stacey Tosado, Christine Marino, and Monika Mruk. They were inadvertent first responders on that terrible day, as they volunteered at the medical tent near the finish line. Meghan said, “Instead of letting this event make me feel weak or timid about my career choice, I intend to only let it make me that much stronger.” Meghan, Stacey, Christine, and Monika, please stand up so we may thank you for your bravery. You are an inspiration.

Another student who’s working to save lives is William Hanna, an Army veteran and physics major graduating today with a 3.94 GPA. After taking a graduate-level biophysics course, Will discovered an interest in cancer research. He designed an independent study to find a better, more precise way to track the growth of certain kinds of tumors—which could help researchers treat them more effectively. Will is preparing for graduate school this summer and hopes to continue doing cancer research in our city.

Also at the top of her game is Alyssa Trinidad, whom Governor Deval Patrick honored last month as one of 29 state college and university graduates “Who Shine.” Alyssa is gearing up for an unprecedented third internship at prestigious financial services company Deloitte and Touche, an opportunity she found through our career fair and made her own. After spending a semester abroad at Oxford University, she came back to campus to co-teach a first-year honors seminar on British economics. Alyssa will be pursuing her passion in a master’s program in accounting this fall, before joining the staff of Deloitte and Touche.

Another College of Management student I’d like to recognize today is Michael DeFilippo, who at six feet six inches tall has been the virtual chancellor on more than one occasion when they had to get the lights just right but I wasn’t around. He is a stand-up stand-in, and he graduates today!

Finally, I have as my special guests, members of a family whose joy today embodies the uniqueness and inclusiveness of the University of Massachusetts Boston. I often say to students that graduation isn’t just about you. It’s about parents, guardians, and loved ones who supported you through the process. In this case, I mean it literally, in that both daughter and father are graduating together today.

Johnson Igbineweka, a student in the Exercise and Health Sciences Program, sent me a note the other day saying:

I felt it would be great news for the college to know that a father and his last daughter will be graduating this Friday. I came to this great country some years back with four kids—two boys, two girls—who have all gone to college. My daughter Ivie will be graduating from the College of Liberal Arts this Friday with me on that campus lawn. I want to use this opportunity to give thanks to this country, the United States of America, to all the academic staff of this great university, and to all the young boys and girls that I took classes with, for their great respect for an older classmate like me.

Thanks and God bless you all
Long live UMass Boston

It’s difficult to imagine a scenario that evokes more joy than this. And father and daughter now share a bond of mutual pride that will last the rest of their lives. Johnson and Ivie Igbineweka, won’t you stand along with your family members:

These are just a few stories from our 3,906 graduating students, each of whom is inspiring in their own right. Class of 2013, may the joys and successes we celebrate today carry forward into your bright futures!

Graduates, so many people have helped you get to where you are today. As I stated earlier, our celebration is for them as well. First, I’d like to ask you to rise and join me in thanking your family, friends, and loved ones with a round of applause. I want you to make so much noise that they can hear you on Nantucket at our field station.

Today, we also recognize the support of your University of Massachusetts Boston faculty. Many of them are seated behind me here on stage–and others, including retired faculty members, are in the audience or assisting with the ceremony. They are so proud of you.

I am also honored to acknowledge the presence of Iraqi peace advocate and activist Aari Najmuldeen Mohammed Jabari. Yesterday afternoon, he was awarded the Chancellor’s Medal for International Peace and Reconciliation for his steadfast devotion to justice, human rights, and the safety and freedom of all Iraqis.

Class of 2013, you join the ranks of more than 90,000 alumni, including members of the 50th and 40th anniversary classes present today. Representing the 1963 graduating class of Boston State College, we welcome Board of Visitors Vice Chair Selma Sax; representing the 1973 graduating class of Boston State College, we welcome former Massachusetts State Representative James P. Collins; and representing the 1973 graduating class of the University of Massachusetts Boston, we welcome Linda Zoe Podbros.

In addition to Selma Sax, Arthur Mabbett, Chair of the Board of Visitors, has joined us today.

We also recognize the vice president of the University of Massachusetts Boston Alumni Association, Maureen Melton, from the Classes of 1985 and 1990.I would now like to introduce members of the University of Massachusetts Board of Trustees:

Also on stage today are University of Massachusetts President Robert L. Caret and Senior Vice President Marcie Williams, here to show their support for this campus and for you, our wonderful students.

Please join me in recognizing our dedicated trustees and Board of Visitors members for their hard work on behalf of the entire University of Massachusetts community and our campus.

And those who know me well, know that I can’t let this moment pass without recognizing those who help keep me level and clear about what’s important in my life: my beloved family. Please recognize my first lady, my beautiful wife, Angela; and with her today, my equally radiant daughter, Kayla.

It is now my privilege to introduce President Robert Caret, who brings greetings on behalf of the University of Massachusetts system.

Note: This is an edited version of Chancellor Motley’s remarks as prepared for delivery.