Amid sunny skies and beaming parents, 561 students received their degrees at Stonehill's 61st Commencement on Sunday, May 20.
Suffolk County District Attorney and Stonehill alumnus Daniel Conley '80, this year's keynote speaker, told the graduates, "Even within the United States, you just graduated from one of the best liberal arts colleges in the country. Whatever anyone wants to say about the economy, student loan debt, or the value of an undergrad degree, you possess one of the only true keys to real economic opportunity".
Conley was one of four to receive honorary degrees at the ceremony. They included business executive William Devin '60, homeless advocate Dr. James Joseph O'Connell III and caregiver Mother Margaret Regina.
Also honored was Associate Dean of Academic Achievement Richard Grant, who received the President's Award for Excellence. In 43 years of dedicated service at Stonehill, Grant, who is retiring, has been an advisor, counselor and mentor to generations of students. The award recognizes how he has always put student first, treating them as whole persons and advising them in ways that recognize their strengths, challenges and capabilities.
Finding Success and Happiness in Life
In his keynote speech, Conley stressed to the students the importance of not setting too strict of a template for their lives at such early age. "(It) could cheat you out of the experiences that develop your interests and hone your skills. By the same token, wasting time in pursuit of temporary pleasures and self-indulgence will also cheat you out of the meaningful experiences you need to build on in order to lead happy, purpose-driven lives," he said.
Never having anticipated he would one day become a district attorney, tackling such issues as wrongful convictions and child sexual exploitation, Conley credited his parents and the critical thinking skills he received at Stonehill with leading him down his career path.
"You might think that I'm advising you to pursue your careers without aim or thought, but I'm not. My experience is just closer to the truth of how we not only find success in life, but happiness. We start off not with a certain destination, but with certain curiosities and inclinations that set us down a path," noted Conley.
In closing, Conley told the Class of 2012 that they were going off into a world where much work needs to be done. "And here's the good news: whether you know what you want to do or are still trying to figure it out, we are all in a position to serve...There are opportunities to do it in every conceivable career. Most importantly, there is no one better equipped to do it than you. And looking out upon all of you, I know that work will be done. It fills me with hope - and for that, I thank you very much." To read a transcript of Conley's speech, visit here.
Who is Stonehill To You?
In her address to her fellow classmates, Haley McNeel '12 asked them "Who is Stonehill to you?"
"Maybe your Stonehill is your classmates. The people in your major who you have shared a classroom with countless times. Or your peers you traveled with to China for your Learning Community, a New Orleans HOPE trip, or a familiar face abroad. Or it is your orientation group- your first connections here at Stonehill...or maybe Stonehill is your professors," said McNeel.
"Whether Stonehill is your roommate turned best friend, coach turned confidant, or professor turned mentor, it is most likely a combination of many influential people who have created the past four years for you. But also, a combination of individuals who have created a foundation for our growth. A springboard of strength to jumpstart our next stage in life. Whether you are headed to New York City, California, India, or South Boston, I am confident that some part of Stonehill is tagging along with you." To read a transcript of McNeel's speech, visit here.
Honorary Degrees Awarded To Four
Since 2002, Conley has overseen the largest and busiest district attorney's office in Massachusetts, managing about 130 lawyers who prosecute between 40,000 to 50,000 criminal cases every year in the state's most densely populated, demographically diverse county.
He has championed a number of difficult issues, from human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation to witness intimidation and wrongful convictions. To read the citation for Conley's Honorary Doctor of Laws degree, visit here.
Throughout and beyond his 30-year career with Fidelity Investments, Devin has supported Stonehill through his service as a member of the Board of Trustees and as a benefactor. His scholarship, The William F. Devin Scholarship, has provided deserving business administration students the opportunity to attend Stonehill. To read the citation for Devin's Honorary Doctor of Business Administration degree, visit here.
A pioneer for the homeless population, Dr. O'Connell founded Boston Health Care for the Homeless (BHCHP), the nation's largest and most comprehensive health care program for the homeless. Each year, his organization serves over 11,000 patients in two hospital-based clinics and over 80 shelters and outreach sites in Boston. To read the citation for Dr. O'Connell's Honorary Doctor of Humanities degree, visit here.
Dedicated to the care of the elderly poor for nearly 50 years, Sister Margaret entered the Little Sisters of the Poor in 1964. For the past 20 years, she has served her community as Provincial Superior, assuming responsibility for 12 homes for the elderly in both the U.S. Eastern and Western Provinces at various times. To read the citation for Sister Margaret's Doctor of Humane Letters degree, visit here.
Largest Senior Class Gift In History
Class President Meagan Harrington and Vice President Michelle Virshup presented the College with a gift of $16,237 on behalf of the Class of 2012 Legacy Campaign. The class gift is designated for a fund that will support students who want to study abroad. Thanks to a $5,000 challenge grant from Ken Michel '68, this year's class gift is the largest in College history.
Our Newest Alumni
Alumni Council President Cathy Campbell '96 asked all alumni at Commencement to stand and join her in extending a warm welcome to the College's newest alumni. With 61 alumni classes, Stonehill now has an Alumni Association that totals 23,772.
In his closing remarks, President Mark T. Cregan, C.S.C. '78 thanked the Class of 2012 for their four years of service at the College.
"I want to congratulate all of you, the Class of 2012, for all the ways you have given back. As so many of you crossed the stage, I had memories of different moments and events here and in Europe, in Central America, and other parts of the world where you have found yourselves and I have been there with you over these last number of years."
"It struck me how much our lives are not just a series of experiences, but there is a focus and that focus is to greet our world, bringing the values of the gospel, bringing the values of human compassion and love, to all the circumstances in which we find ourselves."
For more information, contact Communications and Media Relations at 508-565-1321.