Innovation. Access. Opportunity
Wheelock College held two separate Commencement ceremonies on May 16. The Commencement theme was "Innovation. Access. Opportunity." Our distinguished honorary degree recipients were exceptional individuals dedicated to increasing access to quality healthcare and education for children and families around the globe: Dr. Howard Koh, Mr. David Banks, and Ms. Mary Tiseo.
The 217 members of Wheelock College's Class of 2014—the College's largest-ever graduating class—celebrated Commencement May 16 with a ceremony that included singing, inspiring speeches, and a rousing spoken word performance.
"We have watched you mature with confidence, competence, grace, and excellent leadership skills," said Wheelock President Jackie Jenkins-Scott. "We couldn't ask for a more accomplished graduating class....We can't wait to see the impact you will make on the world."
Undergraduate Commencement Speaker Dr. Howard K. Koh advised the graduates to live by three guiding themes as they make their way in life:
- Stand for something bigger than yourself
- Connect with someone every day
- Try to live an 'attitude of gratitude'"
As the Assistant Secretary for Health for the United States Department of Health and Human Services, Dr. Koh is dedicated to the "bigger than himself" mission of creating better public health systems for prevention and care so that all people can reach their highest attainable standard of health. He praised the graduates for their commitment to public service and encouraged them to continue to follow the Wheelock mission of inspiring a world of good. But he told the students not to feel like they have to have all the answers yet, but rather to be open to new experiences.
"When I was a young doctor in Boston, I was determined to cure everyone through direct patient care," Koh told the graduates. "But I came to recognize that far too many of my patients were suffering from preventable ailments and I knew I had to do more. I thought there had to be a better way....That's how the world of public health drew me in. That's how I found my calling. In the future, if you ever say, 'There has got to be a better way,' that could be your inner voice helping you find your calling."
- Graduating Senior Aaron Swiniuch kicked off the ceremony with a stirring performance of the song "Finding Wonderland" from Wonderland: the Musical.
- Graduating Seniors Lissa Piercy and Guillermo Caballero drew laughs and loud applause with their outstanding spoken word performance that summed up the full range of their Wheelock experiences, from student protests to procrastinating writing papers.
- Student Speaker Mary McNeil spoke about the growth she has seen in her classmates. "In four short years, the Senior Class of 2014 has transformed from a group of 'unapologetic idealists' into a group that is 'tough enough' to turn their dreams into reality," she said. "As future social workers, teachers, child life workers, advocates, historians, artists, writers, thinkers, and doers, we are determined to work in our respective communities and rewrite our histories every single day."
- During the ceremony, Susan Owusu received the Cynthia Longfellow Award, presented to a non-tenured faculty member to reward academic excellence. Recognized as an expert in the field of race and media education, Susan Owusu has been director of Wheelock's Communications and Media Literacy program since its launch in 2009.
- Psychology Professor Maya Honda received the Edward H. Ladd Award for Academic Excellence and Service, which is given to a tenured faculty member for outstanding service. Honda is a linguist and developmental psychologist. Her work focuses on making linguistics-the scientific study of our knowledge of language-conceptually accessible and meaningful to students of all ages.
The members of Wheelock's Graduate Class of 2014 celebrated Commencement on May 16, hearing several calls to continue living Wheelock's mission of improving the lives of children and families.
"The liberty of the individual and the pursuit of happiness depends on the liberty for ALL and the happiness for ALL," President Jackie Jenkins-Scott told the graduates "So, we hope you leave Wheelock as a courageous, passionate advocate for a just society."
Keynote Speaker David C. Banks, president and CEO of the Eagle Academy Foundation, told graduates about his circuitous path to becoming an advocate for quality education. He started college as an engineering major before switching to political science and then attending law school. While working as a district attorney, he discovered his passion for education and decided to become a school administrator. He needed a second master's degree, but only had one semester to earn the 24 credits required if he was to switch jobs within the year. When one college said he could only take a maximum of 15 credits per term, he got a brainstorm to take classes simultaneously at three different colleges.
"When you focus on something, have a clear goal, and put in the work to make it happen, the universe will conspire to make it happen," he said.
- Chelsey Ballard '14MS opened the ceremony with a lovely vocal rendition of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."
- Student Speaker Natasha M. Antoniak '14MS told a parable about mankind's endless struggle between good and evil and encouraged her classmates to make the world a better place by 'feeding the good.' "So how can we also inspire a world of good and improve the lives of those around us?" she said. "In short, we too, must 'feed the good.' I believe this can happen as we internalize as well as employ the education we've received here as we go throughout the world and communities before us....Feeding the good leads to healing, resilience, and the perpetuation of more good," Antoniak said. "Therefore, when we witness injustice, we must continue to stand and advocate and, thus, feed the good. When we face fierce disagreements or see conflict amidst communities, we must seek to genuinely understand rather than dismiss others and, thus, feed the good. When we see the lonely, poor in spirit, outcast and ill, we must love them—not avoid or neglect them—and feed the good."