May 9, the day of CHC’s 88th Commencement, dawned overcast and chilly. For a short time during the ceremony, heavy rain fell, leaving rivulets running around the feet of those in attendance. And yet, by the time all 531 had received their diplomas, the sun was out, shining on the happiness below.
Graduates of the School of Undergraduate Studies, the School of Continuing & Professional Studies, and the School of Graduate Studies (which included 20 recipients of a doctoral degree in clinical psychology) processed down the hill from Fournier Hall with all the pomp and circumstance expected on such an auspicious day.
As the group neared the huge tent erected in the parking lot near the tennis courts, family members, friends and well-wishers greeted them with shouts of excitement, pride and joy — waving balloons, signs and flowers as they cheered and took pictures.
Speakers including Sister Carol Jean Vale, Ph.D., president, and Margaret McCaffrey ’77, chair of the board of directors, opened the ceremony with congratulatory remarks, encouraging the graduates to allow themselves to savor the pride and sense of accomplishment and to be truly present in the day while acknowledging their achievements.
Colin Boyle ’15 welcomed his classmates with humor and appreciation for the College and the vital role played by its faculty and staff in shaping them all, calling the College community his second family. “This is about people,” he said. “About the friendships that will impact your life. What will matter in the future? The relationships built here.”
Prior to the conferring of degrees, four distinguished men and women received honorary Doctor of Laws degrees from Chestnut Hill College. In introducing them, Sister Carol cited the “immeasurable good they have done for their individual communities and worthy causes, making a selfless commitment to others.”
These degrees were presented to Joan L. Specter, Rosemary Murphy Gulati ’61, Jack D. Gulati, and Judith L. Gay, Ph.D.
Jack Gulati, CEO of the Gulati Family Foundation and an entrepreneur who has bought, sold or created 40 businesses in the United States and Europe beginning at age 26, encouraged the graduates to find one person after the ceremony who “has helped you. Give them a hug and say thank you.” And in that spirit of giving back, he also encouraged them to mark May 9 on the calendar and send a check to Chestnut Hill College every year on that date to thank their alma mater.
The commencement address was given by Judith L. Gay, Ph.D., vice president for academic affairs for the Community College of Philadelphia. Dr. Gay was a psychology professor at CHC for 18 years and currently is a member of the College’s Academic Affairs Committee.
In her remarks, Gay acknowledged the considerable effort demonstrated by the graduates as they worked to reach their goals. “I hope you are experiencing the satisfaction and joy that comes with success,” she said. “Pat yourselves on the back.”
She went on to describe the things that have shaped her life’s journey and suggested the graduates try some of the same: “Resist the temptation to stay in the comfortable present; cultivate a network of trusted advisors; and commit to what you believe in for the long haul.” She added that they should take advantage of all the opportunities and challenges that come their way, moving forward through each of them.
And then it was the time for which the students had waited patiently. Names were called and one by one graduates made their way across the stage to receive the diploma for which they had worked so hard.
As Sister Carol closed the ceremony, she exhorted the new graduates to “walk with God and serve the dear neighbor with generous hearts. Congratulations on your accomplishment and this celebratory milestone. Thank you to parents and families for entrusting their education to Chestnut Hill College. In all you attempt, hold hope high. God bless you!”
This story was originally published in the June 2015 issue of Connections.