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A ‘Degree in Tenacity’

Graduate commencement celebrates commitment and persistence

Sam Alloy, G’22, knows what it means to persist.

Once told he shouldn’t be an elementary teacher because he has autism, Sam never gave up. He eventually found a community of professors at Bridgewater State University who offered unwavering support and believed in him.

“I have gotten through everything that stood in the way. It’s been a very long road,” Sam said, adding: “Stubbornness is a virtue.”

Sam was one of 490 graduates celebrated at the College of Graduate Studies’ Class of 2022 commencement. With Gillette Stadium towering above them, the newest BSU alumni reflected on the challenges they faced: adapting to remote learning during COVID-19; juggling classes, work and raising families; and living in a deeply divided world coping with war and economic challenges.

“The fire of adversity has been very hot indeed,” President Frederick W. Clark Jr., ’83, told graduates in his address. “Because of that adversity, you, my friends, are emerging stronger than before.”

Times like these provide the best opportunities to challenge oneself, just as the members of the Class of 2022 did, said student speaker Em Sandman, ’19, G’22.

“Tenacious people do not wait around, they find a way to make things happen, and best believe, they get it done,” said Sandman, who earned a master’s degree in criminal justice. “Tonight, we graduate with a complementary degree in tenacity.”

Massachusetts Higher Education Commissioner Carlos Santiago, who received an honorary Doctor of Public Service, drew parallels to his college experience in the 1970s. Then, as now, war and rising gas prices dominated the headlines. But today’s graduates also faced a pandemic.

“I am more optimistic because I look at the graduates and what you have gone through to earn your academic credentials,” Santiago said. “I know that you will bring about a better future than perhaps any of us did.”

Catherine Harvey, ’19, G’22, who studied social work in graduate school, is already making a difference as a crisis clinical coordinator at Aspire Health Alliance, a job that fulfills her longtime career goals.

“I’ve had a passion for mental health and service and just helping people,” she said.

Sandman said the class is ready to make their mark on a world where she hopes equity overcomes oppression and hate.

“We’ve done hard things and we stay ready to conquer even harder ones,” she said, adding: “Our potential is too powerful to conserve.”