It amazes me how many seats we fill at the DCU Center in Worcester, MA, with fewer than 400 students crossing the stage at Commencement. Anyone attending the ceremonies on Saturday, May 11th would have noticed the enthusiasm of the graduates and their families and friends in attendance. Lots of cheering, posters with baby and current pictures of grads, signs saying “That’s my Sister,” and custom t-shirts with a graduate’s name.
When it came time for me to speak, I stressed how special commencement is to students and their families. As they prepare for a new chapter in their lives, graduates are surrounded by those who loved, encouraged, and supported them when they needed them the most. Also, I wanted students to realize that they are truly ready for their future endeavors when I said, “Your time at Nichols was a dress rehearsal for what comes next,” and they are more than prepared for that.
We presented honorary doctoral degrees to three distinguished leaders, including Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito, our Commencement speaker. I thought she did a remarkable job integrating key things about Nichols into her remarks. And she stressed the importance of service, of which she is a role model herself.
We also recognized two college presidents from neighboring institutions, Charles Monahan, Sr., current president of the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences and Robert Miller, the founding president of Quinebaug Valley Community College.
Nichols conferred the degree posthumously on Bob Miller, who had passed away shortly before Commencement. He was a long-term member of the Nichols Board of Trustees and a good friend to me and the College. I thought it was poignant that Daniel Baker, the undergraduate speaker, was a transfer student from QVCC. Bob and his wife Sylvia attended many Nichols events over the years. He will be greatly missed.
I always end my remarks with, “And remember, no matter how far our Bison roam, they will always be welcomed home on the Hill,” because I want them to remember the special people, places and events that shaped their academic lives.
Even though I’ve said that sentence eight consecutive years, it always chokes me up. As we say goodbye to the Class of 2019, we will welcome the Class of 2023 in a few short weeks. All the classes that preceded them do leave Bison prints on our hearts.