129th Annual Ceremony
Friday, May 19, 2017, 10 a.m.
Watch videos, including U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren's full Commencement speech, highlights of the ceremony, plus a an archive of the live feed of the full ceremony.
See a photo gallery of 2017 Commencement activities, from the traditional Senior Candle Lighting ceremony all the way through the big day!
Wheelock College Commencement Speaker U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren urged the members of the Class of 2017 to become political advocates for the causes they care about, noting that "if you're not at the table, you're probably on the menu."
Warren told the graduates gathered in Temple Ohabei Shalom in Brookline that even though the political landscape has become "ugly and frustrating," it is more important than ever to make their voices heard in Washington.
"Our democracy depends on you," she said. "If democracy for you simply means leaving it to others and letting others set the terms of the political debate, and surrendering the policy decisions to people in faraway Washington, then our country will work better and better for a smaller and smaller number of people. But if democracy for you means connecting up, studying, making thoughtful decisions, and defending them with intelligence and commitment, then this country will flourish."
Warren peppered her remarks with several jabs at President Trump, though she never mentioned him by name:
- Noting that Wheelock was founded in 1888 as a training school for kindergarten teachers, Warren said "People were taught to deal with unruly five-year-olds—we could really use that experience in Washington today."
- After greeting students and their guests, Warren said, "According to the official White House crowd counters there are over 14 million people here today and I want to thank you all."
- Warren noted Wheelock's location within walking distance of Fenway Park, Warren added, "The Green Monster is the only wall I would like to see in this country."
Warren said she accepted the invitation to be Wheelock's 2017 Commencement speaker in part because of the College's mission to improve the lives of children and families and the fact that many Wheelock graduates go into public service as educators, social workers, youth advocates, and nonprofit leaders.
"I wanted to be here in part because this was an opportunity to honor someone who changed my life: my second-grade teacher, Ms. Lee," said Warren. "One day, she took me aside and told me I could do something with my life. No one had ever told me that before....After Ms. Lee told me I could be a teacher, I saw myself differently."
This year's undergraduate student speaker was Kyra Thomas '17, who earned a bachelor's degree in Psychology and Human Development. Thomas said it took a lot of courage to overcome obstacles and bouts of self-doubt on the way to earning her degree. "I pushed past my own expectations and did more than I thought I was capable of," she said. "Wheelock has given me the desire to inspire." She told her classmates that they were graduating with the skills they need to improve the world, saying, "We now have the skills to collaborate and create a positive change for children and their support systems....This degree is only now a piece of the gift that you're going to give the world."
The graduate student speaker was Wayne Peterson '13/'17MS, who earned his master's degree in Nonprofit Leadership and is also a member of Wheelock's Information Technology staff. Peterson appealed to his fellow graduates to use their education to advocate for others. "Now is the time to use our privilege to balance the scales," he said. "Knowledge is not something to be hoarded, but to be shared freely....The real safeguard of democracy is education."
Academic Excellence Awards
Wheelock President David Chard, presiding over his first Wheelock College Commencement Ceremony, presented the following 2017 Academic Excellence Awards:
- Cynthia Longfellow Teaching Recognition Award recipient was Assistant Professor of Life Science Dr. Sara Levine. This award is given each year to a non-tenured faculty member to acknowledge and honor distinguished teaching.
- Edward H. Ladd Award for Academic Excellence & Service Award recipient was Dr. Felicity Crawford, Associate Professor of Special Education. This award is given each year to a tenured faculty member who has demonstrated a career-long commitment to academic excellence and service at Wheelock.
- Presidential Award for Student Scholarship recipient was Julia Paolino, who double-majored in Communications and Arts and served in a variety of student leadership roles. This award is given each year to a graduating senior to acknowledge outstanding academic achievement during his/her attendance at Wheelock.
About the 2017 Honorees
Senator Warren received an honorary degree along with two other remarkable leaders: Dr. Valora Washington and Pablo Javier Almaguer. The life's work of these three honorees are closely aligned with Wheelock's mission to improve the lives of children and families. See full bios of all three honorees.
About the Ceremony Location
Temple Ohabei Shalom, founded as the first synagogue in Massachusetts, is a progressive Reform Jewish community located at 1187 Beacon Street in Brookline (three blocks from our Hawes Campus). Their mission—to create a diverse mosaic of interfaith families of many ethnicities and nationalities without regard to sexual orientation—closely aligns with our own.