“Today marks the culmination of your hard work,” said President Christopher E. Hopey, the College’s eighth president. “I know each of you will use your talents, your faith, your entrepreneurial drive and the education to this which ceremony attests to make a difference in the world.”
The keynote speaker was Sonia Manzano, best known for her role as the character Maria on the long-running PBS Television show “Sesame Street,” where she also earned 15 Emmy Awards as a writer. Manzano learned that as an actress and writer she needed to use her personality, heritage and observations as a Puerto Rican woman who grew up in the South Bronx in the late 1950s and early 1960s to help the show accomplish its mission to welcome diversity.
“People pay you for solving their problems, they don’t pay you for creating problems for them,” Manzano said.
Sesame Street worked as a creative effort when it went on the air in 1969 because everybody involved with the show was trying to accomplish the same goal. However, it’s hard as a nation to be successful because we are so polarized that protecting social programs and public education is increasingly difficult now, she lamented.
“But the worst is this: Compassion and empathy are being seen as signs of weakness instead of the stellar values we know they are,” Manzano told the graduates. “I think this is your opportunity to rise and fill the void. I urge you to bring your skills of compassion and your understanding of the strength of group effort to the workforce. I also urge you to bring your particular and individual sensibilities to everything you do.”
Victoria Robbins ’18 gave the undergraduate commencement address and Brian Shea ’18 gave the commencement address representing graduate school students.
“In some way, I know I can always come back to Merrimack and still be accepted,” Robbins said. “Though we will be leaving, Merrimack won’t be. Merrimack is part of all our hearts.”
The college awarded honorary degrees to educator and philanthropist Kerridan Crowe P’17, Liberty Mutual Insurance Group Chairman and CEO David Long, former Lawrence (Massachusetts) Public Schools superintendent and current state Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeffrey C. Riley, and WCVB Channel 5 public affairs director and host for “CityLine” Karen Holmes Ward.
The prestigious Edward G. Roddy, Jr. Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award was presented to professor Kathleen Shine Cain, now faculty liaison to the Global Education Office.
The Merrimack Medal for commitment to outstanding service was presented to Alfred Larsson ’18, a member of the men’s hockey team who was a three-time Hockey East All-Academics member with a 4.0 grade point average who majored in mechanical engineering with a minor in mathematics, and was active on campus, including volunteering as a tutor for area youth.
Martin Borys ’18, of Woburn, Mass., was a business administration major with a concentration in finance who starts work for Cambridge Savings Bank as a financial analyst in Harvard Square Monday morning. He walked out of the stadium smiling at his accomplishment but leaving his home away from home brought mixed emotions. “Very excited,” he said. “I’m happy to move on but sad to see it go.”
Kathryn Lane ’18, of Litchfield, Conn., earned a graduate degree in health and wellness major from the School of Health Sciences a year after earning her undergraduate degree from Merrimack. She praised her time on campus.
“I loved it, obviously. I stayed a fifth year,” she said. “I changed completely over the five years.”
Rachel Aldorisio ’18, of Bedford, Mass., majored in human development social services with a minor in education from the School of Education and Social Policy with plans to be a special education teacher. “I’m so excited, so proud of everyone in the class of 2018 — we did it together!” she said.
Watch video of Merrimack College’s 68th Commencement held on Sunday, May 20, 2018.