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January 25, 2013

A frigid week of winter weather and a threat of flurries couldn’t dampen the spirits of the approximately 800 students who received their degrees Friday night during the university’s 26th annual Winter Commencement Convocation.

The Rondileau Campus Center Auditorium was filled to capacity for the two-hour-plus ceremony.

BSU President Dana Mohler-Faria in his address reminded the graduates how lucky they are but that this good fortune comes with a price.

“A third of the world’s population lives on than less than two dollars a day,” he said. “You are among the privileged. You are among those who have a responsibility to be engaged and to change the world.

“As you prepare to make a living, make a life,” the president said, in closing.

Rev. George Winzenburg, president of the Red Cloud Indian School in Pine Ridge, SD, delivered the ceremony’s keynote address. A Catholic priest and a member of the Society of Jesus, Rev. Winzenburg has been affiliated with the Red Cloud School since 2002 when he joined its Board of Directors. He was named president of the institution in 2010.

He began his address by listing the four core values of the Lakota: Respect, generosity, wisdom and courage. Throughout, he returned to these, urging the graduates to adopt each in all that they did.

Rev. Winzenburg also shared stories and poems from the residents of the reservation he serves in South Dakota, and stressed the importance of education to the students of Red Cloud.

One of the reasons to attend college, “is to develop the habit of reflection. Think for a moment what your life, when you started your studies here, and how far you’ve come, intellectually morally and spiritually, and how far you would like to go,” he said.

In closing, he urged graduates to “know your heart, develop the habit of self reflection. (It) can keep you honest and humble.”

Chairman of the Board of Trustees Louis Ricciardi, ’81, took a cue from Rev. Winzenburg and Native American life, when he told the students that life is about taking chances. He illustrated this idea with a metaphor passed on from the Lakota.

“Life happens on the river, not on the river bank. Grab a kayak and jump in,” he said. “The greatest risk is to not know what life may have held for you.”

Giselle Valdes of North Attleboro, a special education major with a concentration in communication disorders, was the student speaker. She told her fellow graduates of the need to take risks in life, and spoke of her family’s heritage, and having served in the U.S. Army National Guard for the past five years.

“I’m a first-generation Cuban-American and university graduate. So although this is technically my achievement, it’s actually my family’s success,” she said. “Although I spent countless of hours studying and writing papers, while keeping up with all kinds of responsibilities, if it hadn’t been for my family’s dream and ultimate decision to emigrate from Cuba to live in the United States, I wouldn’t be standing before you today as a proud American citizen, a United States soldier and college graduate from a state university. My family’s risk to leave everything behind, allowed us to commence a prosperous future for generations to come. Our experiences teach us that we can mold our future into any shape we want it to be.”

Ms. Valdes’ goal is to continue her education to become a bilingual speech-language pathologist in a hospital setting.

Bridgewater alumnus Dr. Joshua Hamilton, chief academic officer and scientific officer of the Marine Biology Laboratory in Woods Hole, was this year’s Honorary Degree recipient. He has been an active faculty member, scientist, administrator and professional leader in the scientific community since receiving his Bachelor of Science in Biology from BSU in 1980. He earned an MS in Genetics and a PhD in Genetic Toxicology from Cornell University and has been recognized for his accomplishments in teaching and research. The Falmouth resident is a board member of the Bridgewater State University Foundation.

(Left to right) Christine Dias of Taunton, Kara Friedman of Quincy, and Margaret Randall of Braintree, show their spirit.
Andrea Hinojosa of Brockton celebrates commencement with her son Isaac, 6.
Ala'a Elsharr has a message on commencement night.
President Mohler-Faria
Louis Ricciardi, '81
Keynote speaker Rev. George Winzenburg
Student speaker Giselle Valdes