by Kevin Dicciani
Yesterday hundreds of Griffins donned their caps and gowns to receive their diplomas at Chestnut Hill College’s 92nd Annual Commencement.
The College held its commencement ceremony on May 11 in Ann Rusnack Sorgenti Arena. Nearly 200 students from the Class of 2019 walked across the stage to accept their diplomas. The graduates comprised students from both the School of Undergraduate Studies and the School of Continuing and Professional Studies.
Prior to the ceremony, as “Pomp and Circumstance” played throughout St. Joseph Hall, the graduates processed down the Bishop's Steps in the Rotunda, a longheld CHC tradtion, and through the Hall of Philanthropy before striding outdoors to the courtyard. Along with Mary Helen Kashuba, SSJ, DML, graduating students who are veterans of the United States Armed Forces led the procession, carrying the U.S., state, and papal flags. The graduates carrying the flags of foreign countries were graduating international students and undergraduates who studied abroad during their time at the College.
Once in the courtyard, under a clear blue sky, graduates were greeted and congratulated by faculty, board members, and administrators. Afterward, they processed through Martino Hall and into the arena, where they were met with applause from the lively, cheerful crowd.
Farah Jimenez, J.D., the president and CEO of the Philadelphia Education Fund, delivered this year’s commencement address. The theme of Jimenez’s speech was courage. Addressing graduates, she said that courage is “the most important of all the virtues because without it, you don't have any of the others.”
“If I've learned anything in life, it's that you can't fail without trying, and you can’t try without courage,” Jimenez said. “As you set about your life, you will need courage to pursue that dream job, and to quit it, to love and to leave, to pursue justice, to have that honest conversation, to lead and to follow.”
Using examples from her life, such as how she was able to overcome her profound shyness, Jimenez told graduates that finding courage is the first step toward living the life they want to live. She urged them to keep a bucket list of goals they’d like to accomplish so they can see where realizing them takes them in life.
Jimenez closed her speech with a quote from Atticus Finch, the protagonist of Harper Lee’s best-selling novel “To Kill a Mockingbird”: “What good are wings without the courage to fly?”
“Class of 2019 — today you earn your wings. Now summon your courage and fly,” she said.
Cecelia J. Cavanaugh, SSJ, Ph.D., the dean of the School of Undergraduate Studies, conferred upon graduates the diplomas for their bachelor’s degrees. Elaine Green, Ed.D., the dean of the School of Continuing and Professional Studies, presented SCPS students with theirs.
Carol Jean Vale, SSJ, Ph.D., the president of the College, informed the Class of 2019 of the immense power their degrees hold to fundamentally transform their lives and create possibilities for the future.
“Your freshly minted bachelor's degrees symbolize the determination of will and passion of heart that brought you to this day,” Sister Carol said. “If you allow that determination and passion of heart to characterize all of your undertakings, you will not escape success.”
The College bestowed honorary Doctor of Laws degrees upon six individuals: Jimenez; Holocaust survivor Eva Mozes Kor; Anne and James Gallagher, Ph.D.; and Patricia May ’63 and James Agger, J.D., to the latter of whom the doctorate was awarded posthumously.
Speaking in a prerecorded video, Kor said she was touched to have been awarded the honorary degree, adding that she wished she could’ve accepted it in person.
“I want to say to the faculty at Chestnut Hill College that I’m going to cherish the doctorate and also the wonderful memories that you helped me create,” Kor said.
In her final words to graduates, Sister Carol said she hoped that Chestnut Hill College was able to instill in them its core values and mission. Both, she added, will help them create meaningful lives.
“Your lives will be fulfilled if, when given a choice, you choose not what is good, but what is best,” she said. “If, when given a choice, you choose not what is self-aggrandizing, but what promotes the common good. If, when given a choice, you choose not what is comfortable, but what will force you to grow.
“And, most important of all, if given a choice, you choose not so much to be loved as to love.”