Commencement 2016: Jobs, Family, Texting, and Creating the Light
Posted by Peter on May 18, 2016 11:29 AM
For many of the more than 800 new Marywood University graduates, it felt like the end. The conclusion, the closure, the finish.
After years of reading, writing, listening, speaking up, collaborating, investigating, proving and disproving, socializing, struggling, and succeeding, and, finally, reaching the long-imagined goal of graduating, it seemed like the end of a long trail for most graduates who crossed the stage on Saturday, May 14, in the Mohegan Sun Arena in Wilkes-Barre PA—the 98th Commencement ceremony for Marywood University.
As the ceremony’s keynote speaker, Sister Andrea Lee IHM, affirmed, it was indeed a time for celebration of an extraordinary experience—an accomplishment in all of their lives and in the lives of their families and friends, who gathered by the thousands at the arena to support the new graduates.
However, Sr. Andrea, President of St. Catherine’s University in Minnesota, challenged the students to understand that this is the time to begin anew, to commence; a time for the new graduates to go forward, to continue to improve their lives and, in the process, improve the world.
“Repair what’s broken; create what’s needed,” Sr. Andrea said to the students. “Be what the ancient mystics called ‘redeeming sparks.’ Our dimly lit world desperately needs the light you will bring. May you open your eyes to God’s best blessings. They are lit up everywhere around you.”
In a colorful, elaborate setting complemented by musical fanfare from the Marywood Orchestra and student vocalists, Marywood’s newest graduates crossed the stage and officially began their new life journeys in a ceremony that was highlighted by Sr. Andrea’s recommendations about jobs, communicating, collaborating, and the bonds of family and friends.
Sr. Anne Munley Thanks Graduates
The ceremony was also the last Commencement for retiring Marywood President, Sr. Anne Munley IHM. In her remarks, Sr. Anne asked the graduates to remember their Marywood experience by thinking of those who supported them, and she thanked the new graduates for their many contributions and accomplishments.
“As you commemorate this important occasion, reflect on all those who have supported, loved, and mentored you throughout your years of study. Some of them are here with you. Some of them are only here in spirit. Let us take a moment to express thanks for all the family members, faculty, staff, friends and classmates who have journeyed with you to this significant moment of endings and beginnings.
“One hundred years of spirited leadership and bold vision have set the course for Marywood’s second century of education and service. The Class of 2016 has built on that legacy of progress with its many significant accomplishments.”
Keynote Speaker on Texting, Jobs, and Collaboration
During Sr. Andrea’s keynote address, the graduates were caught by surprise with a gesture from the podium that acknowledged students’ reliance on instant communication. But first she reminded the graduates about the value of personal interaction.
“Tweet and text all you want, it will never replace a long talk with a good friend,” Sr. Andrea remarked. “Zip off emails or memos by the gigabyte, they’ll never replace a thoughtfully constructed letter. Talking through lawyers, mediators, intermediaries, third parties, or cyberspace does work, but never as effectively as face to face conversation, problem solving around a table, and asking for or granting forgiveness while looking someone straight in the eye.”
Then, in an irony well appreciated by the students, Sr. Andrea paused in her exhortations about communication to invite the students to text her at that very moment, in the middle of her remarks. “Raise your hand if you’re texting now or have done so since you entered this room,” Sr. Andrea announced, to the gleeful surprise of the students. “It’s OK–your diplomas are up here and your degree is assured. OK–let’s play the six-word statement game.”
Sr. Andrea announced her cell phone number and then instructed the students: “Before the ceremony ends, text me in exactly six words, and I’ll send a prize to the person who most creatively captures his or her ‘right now’ idea, thought, or emotion related to what I’m saying or to the experience of being here today.”
Sr. Andrea offered a few humorous examples of texts she might receive from them, and then addressed the issue of jobs for graduates.
“What if I don’t get one?” she asked, rhetorically. “Well, you will,” she told the graduates. “You’re bright, accomplished, and ready, even if the perfect job hasn’t found you.
“You know how to learn; to think, write, speak, disagree, invent, create, and integrate, and to appreciate art and music, literature, and culture. Your major is important, but not nearly as important as these core skills. Your individual abilities count for sure, but–here’s truth worth holding onto–they expand exponentially when combined with those of others. Career and professional success definitely matter, but the choicest fruits of your Marywood education–wisdom and moral and ethical strength–will always carry the day.”
Sr. Andrea concluded her remarks by reminding the graduates to stay close to their families. “Look around,” she said. “You’re surrounded by the people in the world who love you most. Take strength from them as you make your way.”
She offered a final commentary on certain cultural nuances that define the generation of graduates she addressed.
“Your contributions to your work, your family, your community will be significant and truly yours, but they will be dramatically enhanced, bettered, and more significant when joined with those of others. Sometimes, you will be the lead dancer or batter or scorer; sometimes, the enhancer, the partner, the one who assists, supports, or enhances the work of others; and, sometimes, you’ll be the enthusiastic cheerleader from the sides. Even though the world will need the very best personal contributions you can make, it’s definitely never all about you.”
At the conclusion of the Commencement ceremonies, Marywood Alumni Association President Robert Ide ’89 asked all Marywood alumni in attendance to stand and be acknowledged. Throughout the arena, alumni stood up in every section of the audience, demonstrating their support and connection to the new graduates.
Mr. Ide then asked all graduates to perform the symbolic gesture of turning their mortarboard tassels, officially commissioning them as Marywood alumni, “forever green.”
Later, outside on the open-air arena patio, scores of those mortarboards filled the upper atmosphere, as graduates celebrated both an end and a beginning.