College's 69th Commencement Celebrates the Class of 2020
Stonehill made history, hosting the College’s first virtual Commencement and the first ever held in August.
Initially scheduled for Sunday, May 17 with a traditional in-person format but knocked off course by COVID-19, Stonehill’s 69th Commencement finally took place on Saturday, August 8 thereby making history by being the College’s first virtual Commencement and the first ever held in August. Another big change this year was the presentation of candidates for master’s degrees.
Live-streamed from the McCarthy Auditorium in the Thomas and Donna May School of Arts & Sciences building, with some portions prerecorded, the ceremony addressed 630 undergraduates, 13 graduates, their families, and a wider audience of Stonehill faculty, staff, alumni, and friends.
Outside the quad was empty although there was a trickle of Class of 2020 graduates returning to campus to say a final farewell—an exception the College made to its recent limiting access to campus policy to accommodate class members who faced so many challenges in their final semester and who reached out to request access far enough ahead of students returning for the start of the semester.
In his prerecorded remarks, Commencement speaker New England Patriots star Matthew Slater drew on his career as a three-time Super Bowl Champion to hail the Class of 2020 for their ability to endure, persevere and thrive in the face of adversity.
Wealth of Experience
“As you continue to navigate life, as you continue to go on and establish yourselves professionally, personally, as you begin to lead families down the line, you’ll be able to draw back on what happened this year and the wealth of experience you have in handling adversity and you will be able to forge your path forward,” Slater told the graduates in his prerecorded video address.
Slater encouraged the graduates to build on their caring reputation, saying, “…it gives my heart great joy to know that you (will) continue to display, love, compassion, kindness and integrity.” Watch Slater’s address.
This year, our three honorees all received honorary doctor of humane letters degrees and they did so in absentia. Slater was honored for how, despite professional success, he has remained grounded by family, prayer and his deep Christian faith, which drives him to serve others, especially those in need.
Stonehill trustee John E. Drew ’65, president of The Drew Company, is a leading authority on public-private partnerships who pioneered the transformation of Boston’s Seaport district. He was honored for his creativity and vision and using his success as a conduit to help others.
Sr. Clare Fitzgerald is a prominent Catholic educator and inspirational speaker who has been a member of the Northeast Province of the School Sisters of Notre Dame for 75 years. Sr. Clare was honored for her dedication to Catholic education at all levels, in support of which she travelled the world presenting and lecturing.
Lux et Spes Forever
In her remarks, student speaker, Erin Flanagan reflected not on what she and her classmates lost as a result of the pandemic but on what they gained—more empathy for others, patience, perspective on what is really important in life, quality time with family and friends, and opportunities to foster creativity and curiosity. Watch her speech to her classmates, which ended with the words “Lux et Spes forever.”
In her Invocation, Emily Daversa asked God’s blessing upon the graduates and extended prayerful gratitude for those who have loved and supported the Class of 2020.
- Teachers who have given themselves in ways that will only be understood with the passage of time
- Families who have sacrificed much
- And friends who taught them, learned from them, and shared so many memories as only peers can.
When Class of 2020 President Alison Cashin presented the class gift to President John Denning, C.S.C., she noted that, despite the disruption and losses that her peers experienced, they still rallied to raise $3,883, funds that will benefit a variety of scholarship and academic programs. She also noted that the connections she made at Stonehill with professors, staff and friends are “some of the most rewarding that I have ever made in my life.” Watch her remarks and presentation of the class gift.
In welcoming the Class of 2020 into the Alumni Association, Alumni Council President Jacquelyn Tracy ’88 told the graduates that they follow in the footsteps of 68 previous classes. Tracy added, “while no one knows exactly what the future holds, I promise you that when it is safe to do so, you will be invited to Stonehill to reunite with your classmates and revisit the moments that made your Stonehill journey memorable.” Watch her welcome to the new alumni.
By video, nine faculty members extended heartfelt congratulations, advice and good wishes to the Class of 2020. The professors were Robert Rosenthal (Economics), Robert Spencer (Management), Michael Mullen (Finance), Hilary Gettman (Management), Elizabeth Stringer Keefe (Education), Wanjiru Mbure (Communications), Heather Bleakley (Biology), Juan Martin Galvan (Spanish), and Timothy Woodcock ’93 (Mathematics). Watch their videos.
Character, Ability, Compassion
In his remarks, President Denning expressed confidence in the Class of 2020 as they go out into the world because they will be “leaders with strong character, ability and compassion—bearers of Lux et Spes, Light and Hope,” something of which the world needs much more.
Fr. Denning also referenced the example of the late civil rights leader and Congressman John Lewis whose final message speaks about how ordinary people with extraordinary vision can redeem the soul of society.
He added that his prayer for the Class of 2020 is that “…the education you received at Stonehill is one that continues to challenge you to be ordinary people with extraordinary vision to redeem souls and society.”
In giving the Benediction, Rev. Bryan Williams, C.S.C. invited everyone to bow their heads and pray for God’s blessing for the Class of 2020:
Bless and guide them, we pray,
that they may continue their Stonehill education and transformation in the world,
may they labor to make it a more just and compassionate place for all.