Commencement  for Worcester State University’s Graduate School’s class of 2020 took place in a virtual format on Friday, Aug. 27, marking the second time this year that a major academic exercise has been held online due to the ongoing global pandemic. Resilience emerged as a common theme in the remarks of the speakers as they recognized the unprecedented struggles faced by this year’s graduating class.
“It certainly took more than the typical graduate school effort to commence this year,” said President Barry M. Maloney. “Your final semester hurdles surpassed those of every class before you as you all confronted the global pandemic that started in March.”
Referencing Malcom Gladwell’s book David and Goliath, Maloney compared the class of 2020 to the Londoners of World War II, who chose to “keep calm and carry on” while their factories and businesses were bombed by German forces.
“This Class of 2020 has been forged by the dual fires of a rapidly spreading virus and the nation’s outrage over discriminatory practices against people of color,” said Maloney before closing his remarks with a reminder to students to maintain their resilience and continue to break through convention.
Commencement speaker Gabriel J. Hopkins, M.Ed. ’20, offered up a call to action in his remarks, reminding his fellow classmates of their responsibility to protect their values in the face of political and social turbulence. Hopkins, who graduated with a Master of Education in English as a second language, shared a value that his mother instilled in him at a young age: looking out for others.
“This is the belief that life is not just about your own individual success, but the growth, wellbeing, and prosperity of your neighbor, of your town and country, and of the interconnected global community that we are today,” said Hopkins. “It is with despair that I notice that this seems to be a tenet of functional society that is in hiding.”
Hopkins pointed out that he and his fellow graduates, in their chosen academic and professional capacity, have the opportunity to change this: “You will inherently hold the power and have daily opportunities to repair this hole. . . It is incumbent upon all of us to keep marching forward.”
In closing, Hopkins shared this quote by late tennis player and civil rights activist Arthur Ashe: “True heroism is remarkably sober. Very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass other at all costs. It is the urge to serve others at all costs.”
Class of 2020 Marshals Nicole S. Graham offered a bit of practical advice to their classmates with a brief explanation of the graduate hood and how to put it on. Hooding is an important ceremonial element of graduate commencement and is usually performed by the academic deans.
In her message to the graduating class, Roberta Kyle, Ed.D., associate vice president for continuing education and dean of graduate studies, expressed heartfelt disappointment at not being able to congratulate graduates in person, but added she was proud of their accomplishments and wished them joy.
“Tonight I like to think of you as hundreds of points of light, filled with joy in your homes with your family and friends watching the ceremony and celebrating…We look forward to your light shining the way.”
To see the entire presentation, visit: https://youtu.be/DfkVDwuaWWg