Undergraduate Commencement Day
May 16, 2014
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 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.
Wheelock recognized three honorary degree recipients, talented leaders who embody the spirit of the undergraduate and graduate Commencement theme of "Innovation. Access. Opportunity." Receiving honorary degrees were: Howard K. Koh, David C. Banks, and Mary Tiseo.
Howard K. Koh
Undergraduate commencement speaker Dr. Howard K. Koh serves as the 14th Assistant Secretary for Health for the United States Department of Health and Human Services. Dr. Koh is dedicated to the mission of creating better public health systems for prevention and care so that all people can reach their highest attainable standard of health. Dr. Koh has close ties to Boston having served as Commissioner of Public Health for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (1997-2003) and his son, Daniel Arrigg Koh, serves as Chief of Staff to Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh.
As Assistant Secretary for Health, Dr. Koh oversees 12 public health offices, and implements an array of interdisciplinary programs relating to disease prevention, health promotion, the reduction of health disparities, women's and minority health, adolescent health, HIV/AIDS, chronic infections diseases, and health fitness and promotion.
David C. Banks
Graduate commencement speaker David C. Banks is the President and CEO of the Eagle Academy Foundation. He was the founding principal of the Eagle Academy for Young Men, the first school in a network of innovative all-boys public schools in New York City. Since opening in 2004, the Eagle Academy family has grown to include a total of three schools in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens, and is expanding its vision to Newark and other cities in the United States.
Eagle Academy is based on the belief that a nurturing institution which believes that excellence, both in character and scholarship, opens doors and provides a bridge to equality. Since its inception, Eagle Academy has graduated young men who are making a difference in their communities and in the nation.
An honorary degree will also be awarded to Mary Tiseo, Executive Director of South Africa Partners, a nonprofit organization facilitating mutually beneficial partnerships between U.S. and South Africa in the areas of health and education.
Working with community organizations, academic institutions, and state and local government, SA Partners brings together practitioners from both countries who are committed to addressing social, political, and economic needs in a manner that strengthens communities, builds institutional capacity, and fosters local leadership.
For more information visit: www.wheelock.edu/commencement.