For the class of 2016, the journey to becoming the newest Griffin alumni began four years before with an orientation themed around the glitz and glam of Hollywood. Presented as if the next four years were the viewing of a film that was still in production, the credits on the Class of 2016 began to roll on Saturday, May 14. As the students walked a symbolic red carpet, they were flanked not by paparazzi, but by members of the faculty, administration, parents and friends, who helped produce The Class of 2016.
The stars arrived for their grand premiere early that morning to share final moments with classmates, take a few selfies and make sure their caps and gowns were in order. Once everyone was ready, the procession began.
Passed down from class to class is the legend that if one descends the final set of steps at the base of the Rotunda while still a student, they will not graduate, so it is fitting that the procession begins at that very spot. For the first time, students were invited down those stairs, a symbolic gesture that they were about to become alumni.
Mary Helen Kashuba SSJ, D.M.L., ’61, professor of French and Russian, and longest-tenured faculty member at the College, acted as grand marshal. She was joined by a color guard featuring the College’s banners and flags representing the international student population and the procession continued down the hill toward a large tent erected in the parking lot. A banner emblazoned with “Hold Hope High” greeted them — a common CHC maxim.
As always, the ceremony began with a prayer, delivered by Kathleen Patricia Maxwell ’16 SCPS.
“Today as we sit here together, we are celebrating in the presence of God,” said Maxwell. “We are celebrating not only our accomplishments, but our gratefulness to our families, friends and loved ones who have helped us on this journey.”
Leeann Burke ’16 offered opening remarks, speaking of both opportunity and inspiration, while encouraging the graduates to find and pursue their greatest passions.
“In the words of Albus Dumbledore, quoting Jesus in Luke’s gospel, ‘Where your treasure is, there will be your heart also.’”
Honorary degrees were conferred upon four distinguished individuals, whose accomplishments in their fields as well as their commitment to social justice and other CHC core values, made them perfect candidates. John F. Haught, Ph.D., was presented with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree, while former board member, Carol McCullough Fitzgerald, and her husband, the Honorable James J. Fitzgerald, III, received honorary Doctor of Laws degrees.
“It is especially meaningful to me to be receiving this degree because of the deep bond my family and Chestnut Hill have shared over the years,” said Carol Fitzgerald, who cited her daughter, who gave the commencement address in 2008, and her father, who was one of the first lay members on the board as well as the chief architect for the late Albert M. Greenfield, the man who built the SugarLoaf estates.
“Each member of my family loves CHC,” she added, “as it is a place that has provided countless students the opportunity to learn, to grow, to succeed and to do God’s work.”
The Honorable Kevin M. Dougherty, who also received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree, gave the commencement address and then had the rare opportunity to present his son, Sean Dougherty, with his diploma.
“Initially I was reluctant to accept because today is his day, it’s the graduates’ day,” Dougherty said prior to the ceremony. “But to at least participate in my first born’s graduation is a phenomenal, phenomenal event and I am just absolutely overwhelmed to have the opportunity.”
Dougherty focused on three areas of importance: family, friends and faith.
“Appreciate your family and know that you are blessed to have someone behind you, beside you and hopefully in front of you as you leave here today,” he said. “Appreciate your friends, whether they will be with you for the rest of your life or whether they were just a part of what made your journey through college the experience it was. And appreciate your faith. Don’t become that which you detest. You will succeed but not at the cost of your soul and your heart.”
More than 320 graduates across the three schools, received their diplomas, including 12 who were hooded and presented with doctoral degrees in the field of clinical psychology, after which they sat among the College faculty — their new peers. Other numbers include: two military graduates from the Yellow Ribbon Program, 23 students hailing from 18 international countries, 22 CHC legacies and 12 seniors who graduated with the President’s Award for outstanding academic achievement of a cumulative GPA of 3.90 or higher.
In her closing remarks, Carol Jean Vale, SSJ, Ph.D., president of Chestnut Hill College, reminded the students of the banner that hung above their heads.
“In all you strive to do, hold hope high,” she said. “Congratulations and may God bless you!”
As the students processed out, decorated mortarboards offered previews of what The Class of 2016 sequel might look like — enrolling in masters’ programs, competing in the Olympics, traveling the world, going to dentistry, nursing or law school, becoming a teacher and so much more. No matter their paths, it is clear these graduates are destined for greatness.
To see more photos from commencement as well as Friday night's baccalaureate mass, click here.
— Marilee Gallagher ’14
This story originally appeared in the June 2016 issue of Connections.