It was four years ago that the Class of 2012 got its first taste of what Suffolk University had to offer. It was a much different time. George W. Bush was President of the United States, David Sargeant was President of Suffolk University, and the 10 West Street Residence Hall had just opened weeks before. The Modern Theater? A plan which would be a few years away from completion. The Brewer Fountain was covered in aged copper and bikes were the worst possible transportation for inner-city commutes. Today, Barack Obama is facing Mitt Romney in the General Election, the Brewer Fountain has been completely restored, and Boston is one of the top five biking cities in the United States. The Modern Theater has won awards for its energy efficiency, while the university welcomed James McCarthy as the institution’s ninth president.
The afternoon ceremony, which took place on Sunday, May 20 in the Bank of America Pavilion, saw a condensed crowd of family members, friends, and colleagues all there to celebrate the final step of their loved ones’ undergraduate journey. Preceding the march of students into their seats, two huge screens in the front of the room broadcasted segments from Suffolk U News — featuring interviews with faculty and a skit with Rammy, Suffolk’s mascot, waking up late and having to run from Temple Street to the waterfront pavilion.
“For quite some time we have called the halls of Donahue, Sawyer, Archer, Sargent, and Fenton our home,” spoke Raymond Babu Kaniu, selected as the student speaker for the ceremony. “Our feet have graced the meandering paths of Temple, Ashburton, Derne, and Tremont. We have laid firm grounds in friendship, comradeship, and loyalty with people from here and far beyond; some who we regrettably lost, but in spirit we know that they are here with us on this scorching afternoon.”
As he stood up there, Kaniu spoke of his times living in a small Kenyan village. He represented the embodiment of Suffolk Founder Gleason Archer’s dream—to provide education to those who have lived under unfortunate measures.
“We diligently listened to instruction from our professors and shared our knowledge and views with our colleagues. We refined our values and exerted ourselves to the pursuit of a quality education for our gratification and for those who supported us along the way. Each and every one of us brought with them a different story and generously added on to the Suffolk legacy that over a century ago Gleason Archer began when he moved the school from Roxbury to that familiar, tasteful piece of land on Beacon Hill,” he said.
Also speaking during the ceremony was Alan Solomont, United States Ambassador to Spain and Andorra, who spoke about how pursuing his love of community organizing and politics lead to his work with President Barack Obama.
“I stand before you, on this glorious day, to impress upon you one basic idea: while you might have gotten here from following your head, and while you sit here thanks to strength from your soul, never forget to follow your heart,” said Solomont. “For 40 years, I’ve followed not only my heart, but what is my passion. And I hope that is something each and every one of you can find in your own lives. If you do—believe me when I tell you this—you’ll do things you would never have imagined.”
Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects to the event was just how diverse and accomplished the graduating class was. President McCarthy, during his short, quote-less speech, spoke about the class of 2012 which, with more than 1,335 students, “was the largest class ever to receive undergraduate degrees from Suffolk University.”
McCarthy went on, stating, “Approximately 8 percent of you are international students hailing from about 100 nations. Among you are many veterans who have returned from serving our country and then enrolled at Suffolk through the Yellow Ribbon program. One of you receiving a BA today is 84 years old. More than 10 percent of you are heading directly to graduate school,” said McCarthy.
“More than 500 of you have gained a global perspective through international study experiences, including at our Suffolk Madrid campus. About 60 percent of you completed internships while at Suffolk, working for everyone from the Boston Celtics to Fidelity Investments. And the statistic I’m most proud of: Over the course of four years, students in this class have contributed nearly 29,000 hours of service to the community.” The crowd applauded, McCarthy finished his speech, and the graduates started to walk across the stage.
One notable aspect of the graduation ceremony was that the two jumbo-sized televisions showing a closer view of the stage included a phone number where audience members or friends and loved ones at home could text messages to be displayed on a ticker underneath the video.
When it was all over, families gathered on the edges of the venue closest to the harbor to take photos and celebrate. Before long, all the graduates and their guests disappeared, ending the afternoon’s activities, and their time as undergraduates.