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Go Forth!

Undergraduate commencement celebrates doing good, doing well, giving back

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As she settled into her seat, Christy Knight of Somerset stared toward the stage and smiled. Today her son, Brandon Moreno, was collecting his degree in Athletic Training. 

“I am beyond proud; he’s exceeded every expectation I’ve ever had,” Ms. Knight said. 

While studying as an undergrad at Bridgewater State, Mr. Moreno worked full-time as an EMT. He earned an internship with the FC Dallas major league soccer team and also completed 500 clinical hours at Brown University. Despite the hectic schedule, he consistently made the dean’s list, Ms. Knight said. 

Next up, Mr. Moreno plans to pursue a graduate degree in physical therapy or tackle medical school to become an orthopedic surgeon. 

“His experience here has motivated him to further his education and to take care of people,” Ms. Knight said. 

Mr. Moreno was among approximately 2,200 students who received bachelor’s degrees during undergraduate commencement ceremonies on the Boyden Quadrangle Saturday. Students from the Louis M. Ricciardi College of Business, the College of Education and Allied Studies and the Bartlett College of Science and Mathematics were honored at the morning ceremony, while the College of Humanities and Social Sciences held its commencement in the afternoon.

William Richard, ’93, who delivered the keynote speech during the morning ceremony, highlighted people’s yearning to take care of others and to spread unity, kindness and peace. These intangibles are important to carry past graduation, he said. William and his wife Denise Richard, ’93, received honorary doctorates of public service during the ceremony. 

The couple lost their 8-year-old son Martin in the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombings. Inspired by a photo of Martin holding a handmade sign that read “No More Hurting People, Peace,” they started a foundation in Martin’s honor to share his message of peace. BSU also renamed its social justice institute after the boy.

“Don’t judge the value of your life based on the context of symbols that others deem important,” Mr. Richard said.

Instead he encouraged graduates to see life through the lens of others, to help people in need and to, “find meaning and fulfillment in the small and humanistic.”

Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, who also received an honorary doctorate of public service, praised the Richard family’s efforts to turn tragedy into something beautiful.

“Be intentional every day about being kind and making your community better, not only for yourself but those around you,” Lt. Gov. Polito told graduates while delivering the commencement address at the afternoon ceremony.

She recounted how her great-grandfather, Francesco, emigrated from Sicily to Massachusetts in 1909. He set his compass toward creating a better life for his family. He did so by making concrete blocks and saving money so he could buy construction equipment that started a family business still operating today, the lieutenant governor said.

Lt. Gov. Polito found her passion for public service and encouraged graduates to be mindful of what will drive them to get up every day and make Massachusetts better.

“If it isn’t discovered today, recalibrate your compass … and make sure the center of your compass is something you absolutely love,” she told graduates.

As they move on to the next chapter in their lives, President Frederick W. Clark Jr., ’83, said he is proud to serve a class that, “celebrated diversity and supported inclusion.”

“You never failed to hold the doors for one another… You proved not only to be good students but exceptional people,” said President Clark, who took group selfies with the graduates from the stage. “Continue to do good; to be good. Pay forward what has been given to you by so many on this campus and by your family and friends; continue to engage as citizens.”

President Clark also presented the Distinguished Service Award to Vincent Marturano, president and CEO of the Old Colony YMCA.

Student speaker Mariah Fossella, a double major in chemistry and biology, urged her fellow classmates to remember the connections made at BSU and to strive to make a difference. 

“We leave here changed people, better people – people with the knowledge to change the world. We are now equipped to make an impact,” Ms. Fossella told her fellow graduates Saturday morning. 

Connor McLernon, a criminal justice major who spoke in the afternoon ceremony and is planning to become a fulltime police officer in his hometown of Attleboro, praised the opportunities Bridgewater State provides students. He recounted jobs in residence life and as an orientation leader as well as the mentorship he received from BSU Assistant Chief of Police Michael Froio.

“We grow the most from the things that challenge us,” he said. “Do hard things. Do the things in life that challenge you.”

As she prepared for the ceremony in the Rondileau Campus Center, Lauren Golda, a psychology major from Acushnet, said she is fortunate to become the first person in her family to graduate from college. Golda hopes to pursue a career in social work.

“I just want to help people,” she said.

Daniel Padula, who is from Franklin and studied psychology, said his time at Bridgewater taught him to advocate for himself.

“It helped me grow up,” he said.  (Story by Heather Harris Michonski and Brian Benson, University News.)

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