On Sunday, May 22, 678 students participated in Stonehill's 65th Commencement ceremony in which author of the bestselling book “Dead Man Walking” Sister Helen Prejean served as the keynote speaker.
Starting off her speech, Sr. Prejean told the graduates in a charming southern tone, “You’re like little eagles, you’re on a limb, flapping your wings and I know you can’t wait to graduate. As your commencement speaker I make a pledge to you– this won’t be no longer than 15 minutes, I have three stories to tell and then we outta here. Flap those wings because we goin’”
Sr. Prejean spoke candidly of her own failings in life and how she was able to find a path to where the Gospel lives, which is in solidarity with the poor and the marginalized.
“You’re made for greatness. You have God in your heart. You have God’s spirit. You have an infinite thirst for knowledge and love. And while that sounds great- it’s also the source of your hunger and anguish because as you begin to do things in life, to love…and to do work, there is always going to be that thirst and always going to be that hunger for God,” said Sr. Prejean.
Prejean was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree for her prison ministry work which she began in 1981 in New Orleans. While living in the St. Thomas housing project there, she became pen pals with Patrick Sonnier, the convicted killer of two teenagers, sentenced to die in the electric chair of Louisiana’s Angola State Prison. The story of her spiritual guidance to Sonnier was the subject of her book which in turn became a feature film of the same name. To read her citation, visit here.
In describing her own experiences and journey in life, particularly when working with Sonnier and the father of one of the teens he was convicted of murdering, Sr. Prejean encouraged Stonehill’s graduates to be forgiving. “Forgiveness is saving our own lives and not letting the love inside of us be overcome by the evil. That is grace.”
In congratulating the graduates, Sr. Prejean also praised their families for the love, support and guidance they have provided over the last four years. “We can’t exist without community. We belong to community so it’s everyone’s celebration today. And imagine my joy, one little Catholic nun from Louisiana, who gets to celebrate with you today in this great achievement, and with the Holy Cross fathers who run this tremendous, tremendous school.”
Greene and Motley Also Receive Honorary Degrees
Also receiving honorary degrees at the ceremony were business leader and W. B. Mason Chairman Steven Greene and University of Massachusetts Boston Chancellor J. Keith Motley.
Greene has served as chairman of W.B. Mason, the largest, privately owned office products dealer in the United States, since 1993 after spending nearly 15 years as its president. Under his leadership, the company’s revenue grew to $20 million by 1993.
Today, the company has grossed $1.65 billion in sales with over 1,000 sales people, 700 trucks making deliveries across 60 plus locations throughout the United States all the while maintaining its headquarters in Brockton. The company continues to hire Stonehill graduates year after year with over 100 alumni working there today.
A 1965 graduate of Brockton High School, Greene has served on the board of a number of local organizations including HarborOne Bank for the last 23 years. He has been a member of the Brockton Rotary Club for 37 years and served as its president in 1989-90.
The winner of the Leo Koretz Award from the YMHA, Greene has coached hundreds of players over the years at Brockton’s YMHA. He has also twice been named a Brockton Rotary Paul Harris Fellow. To read Greene’s citation, visit here.
Motley has been the chancellor of the University of Massachusetts Boston, a research university with 11 colleges and graduate schools and 17,000 students, since 2007. Aside from overseeing the university’s strategic planning initiative, Motley is also guiding a 25-year master plan to significantly enhance the campus and its layout on the scenic Columbia Point Peninsula.
Previous to his appointment as chancellor in July of 2007, Motley served as vice president for business, marketing, and public affairs at the system-wide University of Massachusetts President’s Office.
Aside from his job as chancellor, Motley has been a dedicated leader in the Boston community. He is a founder of the Roxbury Preparatory Charter School and chair emeritus of the school’s Board of Trustees. He is also the founder and education chair of Concerned Black Men of Massachusetts, Inc., and the Paul Robeson Institute for Positive Self-Development, an academic and social enrichment program for school-aged children of color. To read Motley’s citation, visit here.
Student Speaker Encourages Classmates to Be Themselves
In her remarks to her classmates, student speaker Elveera Lacina ’16 spoke of awareness and the importance of being true to one’s self. “Awareness is the first step toward a more fulfilling relationship with the greater community, others, and ourselves,” said Lacina. “How can we become more aware in our communities? For starters, we need to ask questions. Ask questions. And if you don’t get satisfying answers, keep searching for different sources and questions until you start to see a clearer picture,” she continued.
Lacina also encouraged the members of the Class of 2016 to be their own person despite what society may say. “Society doesn’t support that it’s okay to be sad or outraged if that’s what you’re feeling. You need to give yourself permission to experience and share your emotions and your passions. If we honestly listen and dialogue with ourselves, we will quickly discover and develop into who we are meant to be, and furthermore, we will be better equipped to facilitate open dialogue with others, and help them and even society grow into their more dynamic, true selves.” To read Lacina’s full speech, visit here.
Senior Class Gift Honors Classmate Matt Brown
In presenting the senior class gift to President John Denning, C.S.C., Class President Cody Page ’16 announced that over $58,000 has been raised for the Matt Brown Perseverance Scholarship. Announced earlier this semester, the scholarship was created to honor Brown, who in high school became paralyzed from the neck down with a spinal cord injury. Page also announced that the Class of 1966 Reunion Committee has selected the Matt Brown Perseverance Scholarship as their special fundraising project in recognition of their 50th Reunion.
Alumni Council President Christine Ferretti ’92 welcomed the Class of 2016 as Stonehill’s newest alumni.
“Twenty-four years ago, I sat where you sit today hopeful for what the future held and wanting to make a difference…Being an active alumna has provided me tremendous opportunities and a personal sense of fulfillment,” said Ferretti.
“When you walked on campus four years ago you became part of Stonehill’s family as students. Today we welcome you into the Stonehill family has alumni forever,” she continued.
Year of Mercy
In his remarks, President Denning noted the emphasis that Pope Francis has been placed on the importance mercy. In doing so, he said “Pope Francis reminds us of the important of patience, understanding, forbearance, forgiveness and kindness…Given that our mission is to educate both the mind and the heart and to make our world more just and compassionate, the Pope’s emphasis on mercy resonates strongly with us.”
President Denning also noted the service outreach of the honorary degree recipients and also praised the Class of 2016 for their efforts.
“I have witnessed your own growth in maturity, knowledge, experience and confidence. You have worked hard to make Stonehill a better college and community and I thank you…You will always be a part of this community, and as you go forward, I pray that you may know God’s merciful love for you and that you might always have the courage to look to the future with hope,” said President Denning.
Graduation Facts and Figures
May 2016 Degree Breakdown (includes double degrees)
Bachelor of Arts degrees: 388
Bachelor of Science degrees: 114
Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degrees: 158
Class of 2016 Latin honors (includes September 2015, December 2015, and May 2016 graduates)
Summa cum laude (3.90 or above GPA): 31
Magna cum laude (3.70 – 3.89 GPA): 71
Cum laude (3.50 - 3.69 GPA): 111
632 students officially earned their degree
678 students participated in Commencement (includes September 2015, December 2015, students planning to complete their degrees in September 2016, and students completing their first year at the University of Notre Dame through the dual-degree program).