At Stonehill College’s 72nd Commencement, 524 undergraduate and 24 graduate students received their degrees on Sunday, May 21. During the program, Cristina Solorzano Valencia ’23 was awarded Stonehill’s 30,000th degree. Peter Ubertaccio, vice president for academic affairs, served as master of ceremonies. 

This year’s speakers encouraged the Class of 2023 to remain hopeful, empathetic and open to the possibilities that await them beyond college.

Peter Ubertaccio, vice president for academic affairs

Jillian Wexler '23

Commencement speaker and honorary degree recipient John Della Volpe, director of polling for the Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politics

Honorary degree recipient Janet Wu, Emmy-winning political and investigative journalist

Walking in Prayerful Appreciation

Jillian Wexler ’23 opened the ceremony with the Invocation. She prayed that God help graduates walk in prayerful appreciation and gratefulness for the many blessings in their lives. She also asked that He watch over those who have supported our seniors throughout their college careers. 

“God, each of us sitting here today has faced unique challenges and accomplished so much,” she said. “As our time here at Stonehill comes to an end and the next phase of our life begins, we ask that you grant us patience, courage, grace, and strength.”

Read the Invocation.

Opening Doors for the Next Generation

The citation bestowing an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree upon Janet Wu, Emmy-winning political and investigative journalist, was read by Anne Mattina, professor of communication. It highlighted the trailblazing work that the recently retired reporter did across her expansive five-decade career in local news. Her storytelling has not only helped to demystify the democratic process but has also inspired and opened doors for young women of color interested in media careers.

Read the citation.

Championing Our Youth

Read by Robert Rodgers, assistant professor of political science, the citation granting an honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters to John Della Volpe, director of polling for the Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politics, showcased his dedication to fostering a culture of civic engagement and public service. Responsible for managing the Harvard Youth Poll, the most comprehensive study of young Americans and their views on democracy, the scholar is a champion for youth everywhere. 

Read the citation.

Exhibiting Empathy and a Fighting Spirit

While addressing the Class of 2023, Della Volpe discussed the importance of listening to others, noting that the task is “essential for human flourishing.” Additionally, he referred to the sense of care evident in Generation Z. The pollster and researcher encouraged graduates to cherish and protect this quality.

“When you leave here today, I hope one of the things you carry is the empathy and fighting spirit you developed on this campus out into the world,” he said. “This is truly a gift. Your fighting spirit is a gift to us all.” 

Read his address.

Class President Emily G. Hartford '23

Graduate student speaker Amanda Perra ’19, M.Ed. ’23 

Undergraduate student speaker Elizabeth Jalette ’23 

Taking Risks and Changing the World

Amanda Perra ’19, M.Ed. ’23 served as the College’s inaugural graduate student speaker at this year’s ceremony. During her address, she challenged her peers to embrace failure.

“These opportunities will help you grow,” she said. “I encourage you to take risks and use the tools Stonehill has given you to change the world.”

Read her remarks.

Embracing a World of Possibilities

Undergraduate student speaker Elizabeth Jalette ’23 encouraged her classmates to celebrate all that they have achieved at Stonehill and to thank those who helped them fulfill their goals.

She also noted that although the Class of 2023’s college years are sadly ending, a whole new world of possibilities awaits them beyond Stonehill.

“No matter where your new story starts, there is no doubt it will be full of so many wonderful chapters,” she remarked.

Read her speech.

Creating Opportunities for Others

Senior Class President Emily G. Hartford ’23 and Vice President Bridget Ryan ’23 presented this year’s class gift, which will benefit the Center for the Study of Race Ethnicity, and Social Justice, which fosters innovative and interdisciplinary teaching, research, and public dialogue at Stonehill College. The gift will also support student scholarships and the Bridge Fund. The latter provides resources to students facing unexpected financial hardships.

“Education is the key to fulfilling our goals, and we hope to ensure this opportunity for future Skyhawks,” Hartford said. 

Read their speech.

Cicily T. Shaw ’97, president of the Alumni Council

Rev. John Denning, C.S.C., president of Stonehill College

Paying It Forward

Cicily T. Shaw ’97, the recently elected president of the Alumni Council, welcomed the Class of 2023 into Stonehill’s Alumni Association, which consists of over 30,000 graduates. 

“Be proud of your time at Stonehill, share it with others, and consider how you can pay it forward to those who will one day be students on this campus,” she said.

Read her address.

Listening Deeply to Ourselves and to Others

Rev. John Denning, C.S.C., president of Stonehill College, recounted the challenges that the Class of 2023 faced over the past few years, including a global pandemic and social distancing on campus. Through it all, he noted, students persevered, remained creative and exhibited fortitude.

“The world needs you,” he said. “Needs your leadership. Needs your compassion. Needs your courage. But most of all, it needs you to never diminish your reservoir of hope. And that can often feel impossible. But there is a tool for that as well. And it is to pause, to listen deeply to ourselves and to others.”

Read his remarks.

Executive Assistant Nancy Dunsing

Br. James Walters, C.S.C., campus minister for retreats & faith formation

Living Out the Mission of Stonehill College

Ubertaccio thanked all who made this year’s ceremony possible, including staff from Facilities, Campus Police and Dining Services, among others. He also gave special recognition to Nancy Dunsing, executive assistant in the Academic Affairs division, who will soon retire.

“For 21 years, she has organized this event almost singlehandedly,” Ubertaccio said. “She lives out the mission of Stonehill College daily by treating every person who comes into our office with dignity and respect.”

Bringing Light and Hope to a World in Need

Br. James Walters, C.S.C., brought the ceremony to a close with the Benediction. He asked that the Lord enable the Class of 2023 to use their talents to bring light and hope to those in need. 

“Above all, may God bless you with the competence to see, and the courage to act, so that together we may all work toward the creation of a more just and compassionate world,” he said.

Read the Benediction.

Watch the Full Commencement Ceremony