Bridgewater State University held its first commencement convocation as a university, as nearly 600 undergraduates from across the region, nation and countries all over the world, earned bachelor's degrees.
Loud applause broke out in the Rondileau Campus Center auditorium when Louis Ricciardi, chairperson of Bridgewater State's Board of Trustees, told the graduates: "You are the first graduating class of Bridgewater State University."
Graduating students came from down the street and as far away as Japan, Jordan, Alabama, California and Florida.
The commencement address was delivered by alumna Dr. Susan Szachowicz, principal of Brockton High School and member of the Bridgewater State University Board of Trustees. Ms. Szachowicz pointed out some of the major changes she's seen on campus during her decades-long connection to the institution, such as the expansion of the campus and the immense growth in enrollment. "One thing that hasn't changed," she said, "is the quality of the education."
Dr. Szachowicz told the students they should be proud about their education and use it to create change. "This is an achievement that most people in the world do not earn," she said. "Now what can you do to make things better for someone else?"
Under her leadership, Brockton High School has been recognized as a Massachusetts Compass School and a National Model School for seven consecutive years. The school has received the National School Change Award, a National Association of Secondary School Principals Secondary School Showcase, and two bronze medals from U.S. News and World Report.
President Dana Mohler-Faria told the graduates that as alumni of Bridgewater State, they have to work for the betterment of humanity regardless of their path in life. "It's now your responsibility, no matter where you are, to guide us to the next generation, to a better world."
In his remarks, Mr. Ricciardi told students that just as their alma mater had progressed through the years notwithstanding various difficulties, they too must find a way to thrive in the face of adversity.
"Despite the challenges you face, you still have a life to run," he said, adding, "Never underestimate the power one life - your life - can have on those around you."
David B. Jenkins, a native of Bridgewater and retired president and CEO of Shaw's Supermarkets, received an honorary degree from President Mohler-Faria for his advocacy on behalf education and public service to Bridgewater State. He has served as chair of the university's Board of Trustees and is on the Steering Committee of the Three Pillars of Excellence, a campaign for Bridgewater that is on target to meet or exceed its $15-million goal.
Peter "Max" Quinn of Medway, a management major, delivered the student address, answering the question, "What would I do if I wasn't afraid?" The transfer student recalled entering Bridgewater State several years ago and realizing "that each of us has been given wonderful gifts and learn some valuable lessons that will help us combat our hesitation and fear of change."
Quinn told his fellow graduates that through the pursuit of their dreams "we will each learn exactly what it is like to not have to be afraid & and let that guide each of us in the choices that we make."
The event was held before an audience of 1,500 relatives, friends and invited guests. (Story by Eva Gaffney, G'01, and Rob Matheson, '07; photos by Rob Matheson and John Winters, Office of Institutional Communications; videos by the Moakley TV Studio)
Dr. Susan Szachowicz delivers the commencement address.