Class of 2020 Commencement
May 15, 2021
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May 15, 2021
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the university chose to postpone on-ground Commencement celebration last year for the safety of the community. In August of 2020, thousands of people tuned in for the university's virtual Commencement ceremonies.
Class of 2020 graduates of the Schools of Business and Engineering were lauded for their grit and resiliency on Saturday morning in a special ceremony on the Mount Carmel Campus Quad.
The Commencement celebration comes a year after the graduates completed their Quinnipiac education, and nine months after the university hosted a virtual commencement celebration.
“What a treat to finally be able to share this celebration with all of you — in person and on the Quad,” Matthew O’Connor, dean of the School of Business, told the graduates. “I’m so happy that we are here today with you, and your friends and family, as well as the faculty and staff who worked with you while you were in your programs. This is just great.”
O’Connor praised graduates for their tireless efforts and work to overcome unprecedented obstacles.
“I’m sure it felt unfair,” he said. “Who could have blamed you if just threw in the towel and succumbed to feelings of loss and unfairness? But here’s the amazing thing: You didn’t do that. You forged ahead. You adjusted to online learning. You started jobs virtually. When job offers were canceled, you went out and secured new offers. Others took the opportunity to jump start graduate school. Many of you volunteered to help the less fortunate — everything from shopping for friends and neighbors in quarantine, to virtual visits with nursing home residents.”
O’Connor told the graduates that they exceeded even his most wild expectations of them.
“You did what every parent and every person in education hoped you would do — you accepted the reality of the situation, shouldered your responsibilities, and moved forward with dignity and a sense of purpose,” he concluded. “You were going to make it through the pandemic, no matter what.”
School of Engineering Dean Justin Kile praised the graduates for rising to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We shouldn't overlook how you overcame those obstacles,” he said. “The majority of the credit goes to you for how you overcame these tough situations. You’ve worked hard and accomplished great things.”
President Judy Olian offered the graduates an enthusiastic welcome back to campus nearly 14 months since most were last on the Quad — for what she called their first alumni reunion.
“They say good things come to those who wait, and even though we had to wait a full year to celebrate in person, I am filled with joy to have our Bobcat family together once again,” she said. “Even with masks on, I can see the pride and delight conveyed through your eyes, I can see it peeking above your masks.”
Megan Donnelly ’20, MBA ’21, praised her fellow graduates for already accomplishing great things during one of the darkest times in recent history.
“It’s the time to show the world what Quinnipiac engineers can do,” she said. “There’s a big, bright beautiful tomorrow that is shining at the end of today.”
She praised the students for shining as beacons throughout their respective communities.
“You experienced something no other graduating class has ever had to experience,” Olian told the graduates, who she described as exceptional. “The pandemic forced you to end your college experience physically apart and unable to mark this milestone and other year-end traditions in person. Yet, you navigated those challenges with grace and understanding, and found creative ways to stay connected, and to hold each other up when times were tough.”
Members of the Class of 2020 were celebrated on Saturday for their tireless commitment to bettering the world, and were encouraged to look to the future with optimism.
“When I look back at your years at Quinnipiac, I give huge credit to each of you for your consideration of the whole community throughout your time here, and especially during your final semester,” President Judy Olian told the graduates of the College of Arts and Sciences, and Schools of Communications, Education and Law. “You are living proof of the old adage, ‘Actions speak louder than words.’ You show deep care and consideration for your fellow classmates, members of our university community, and the local and global communities you engage with.”
Among the many examples she cited was taking action for social justice while advancing important work around inclusive excellence; developing PR campaigns for local institutions to expand their impact; hosting virtual diaper drives; teaching STEM courses; working in pro-bono clinics; fighting human trafficking; dedicating thousands of hours of community service time; and raising millions of dollars to benefit important causes.
“This is such an exciting time, and you are now part of this accelerating wave of innovation and socially impactful change,” Olian said. “Thank you for the impact you are already having, and will have. You are making us proud, already.”
College of Arts and Sciences Dean Robert Smart welcomed the graduates back to the university.
“It is very gratifying to see you all in person again. Last year’s ceremony was a miss, not because our hearts weren’t in it — they were — but because you weren’t in it, in person,” he said. “There is something affirming and gratifying about human proximity. It lets us appreciate each other in community, and that is something we sorely need as we exit this pandemic year.”
He told the graduates they are all linked in ways that come just once in a generation.
“We learned just how fragile the fabric of our communal and familial lives really is, and how moments just like this one today — when we insist on picking life up at a point where something was lost — are critical and important,” Smart said. “When we are thrown into our lines of defense, with tests and masks and distancing and quarantines and Zoom classes, it’s easy to forget that the point of it all is to be able to return somehow to human proximity, to find our common purpose, to celebrate the lives we have chosen to live, in the most energetic ways we can.”
He stressed there are reasons to be hopeful and optimistic about the future.
“We are moving again, coming out of isolation, celebrating each other and planning for the future,” Smart said. “And, after all, isn’t a Commencement meant to speak to a future filled with potential and growth and achievement? That is what I wish for all of you: Cherish each other more than ever; strengthen the ties that bind you to family, friends, colleagues and schools; and make sure that you chase your future successes relentlessly.”
Elyssa Wrubel ’20, of the College of Arts and Sciences, urged graduates to use this time to become better people.
“Let us engage passionately, thoughtfully and critically, and, in this way, create a world of meaning for ourselves,” she said.
Kailee Heffler ’20, MS ‘21, a graduate of the School of Communications, said that Quinnipiac has built the foundation on which graduates will build their lives.
“Quinnipiac taught us to take fear we felt and make opportunities out of it,” she said. “Quinnipiac taught us fear should be used as motivation to step outside of our comfort zones. To take risks. But most importantly, Quinnipiac taught us to take the fear we have felt and turn it into fearlessness.”
She encouraged graduates to harness the fears they may feel right now and use it for positive change.
“Use it to apply to a job you think you won’t get, or use it to move across the country to chase your dreams,” she said. “Remember all that Quinnipiac has taught us and remember to be fearless as we take on the next chapter in our lives.”
Cynthia Clement, MAT ’20, a graduate of the School of Education, encouraged her peers to take pride in successes and not dwell on stumbles.
“We have shown we can persevere through the toughest obstacles life can deal us,” she said. “May you continue to lead by example and be an inspiration to those around you.”
Nicholle Maille, JD ’20, of the School of Law congratulated her fellow graduates to celebrate all that has brought them to this day.
“This last year was not lost time. It was time to reflect and think about the kind of lawyers we want to become and the kind of people we want to be. This year has brought out the best and worst in people, and it is our job to continue being our best,” she said. “Please, do not rush this next phase in our lives. Use this as a reminder to never take anything for granted and always look with eager eyes on the bright side. Your journey has molded you for the greater good and it was exactly what you needed it to be.”
Members of the Class of 2020 were celebrated as the future leaders who will shape health care and the health sciences.
“You have entered professions that put you in positions of trust, and because of that, you hold a great deal of power,” School of Health Sciences Dean Janelle Chiasera told the graduates. “With that power comes a great responsibility. A responsibility to live up to the trust that has been placed in you.”
She urged the graduates to remain humble and remember from where they came.
“Show gratitude to those around you. You would not be without the love and support of your family and friends; they sacrificed much to make this dream for you a reality,” Chiasera said. “Possess integrity in the way you live your life and practice your craft. Take care of yourself. Work-life balance is important because you cannot serve others if you do not take care of yourself.”
Members of the Class of 2020 were urged to reflect on their years at Quinnipiac, and to take what they learned and experienced, and allow that to help prepare them for a new life and new career.
“Lean into this moment,” she implored. “Lean into the opportunities that lie ahead of you. Take your knowledge and share it with others in positive ways You are blessed, and I hope you never forget it.”
Provost Debra Liebowitz said she continues to be amazed by the graduates, and what they are already accomplishing.
“You, the Class of 2020, were particularly impacted by the pandemic, as you saw your final semester come to an abrupt halt,” she reflected. “You have risen to every challenge that came your way during these unprecedented times.”
President Judy Olian praised the class for immediately getting to work, fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.
“You have launched your careers and are already sharing your expertise, showing compassion, alleviating societal ills, and addressing chronic disease and the needs of an aging population,” she said. “Some of you are also assisting in conducting research to seize the opportunities of rapidly advancing technologies and scientific discovery that will radically improve the quality of life for so many. This is such an exciting time, and you are now part of this accelerating wave of innovation and socially impactful change.”
Olian praised the class for both the courage they showed in the face of adversity as well as the way they conducted themselves — with courage, compassion and resilience.
“I will continue to follow your journeys with great interest,” she said. “Congratulations to the Class of 2020. I am so proud of you, and how you are already making your mark and changing the world.”
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