State commissioner praises education, nursing graduates for choosing careers with ‘immense heart’

May 12, 2024

Half a dozen nursing graduates stand and smile in a row among a sea of graduates

As members of the Class of 2024 prepared to enter a new chapter as Quinnipiac alumni, Connecticut State Department of Education Commissioner Charlene Russell-Tucker took a moment to thank the School of Education and School of Nursing graduates for choosing careers that require more than skills — but also “immense heart.”

“What a great day! I am very pleased to be here with you all, as we gather not only to celebrate an ending, but a life-changing beginning,” said Russell-Tucker. “I want you all to take a moment to reflect on the journey that has led you to this pivotal moment. Your time here at Quinnipiac has been defined by dedication, perseverance…and an awe-inspiring commitment to service.”

Through the lens of her role in the State Department of Education, Russell-Tucker spoke about the generosity of spirit needed to be an educator or nurse, and noted the multiple ways the two professions are intertwined.

“As your commissioner of education for our great state, I am taking the opportunity to share that physical, mental and behavioral health are critical facilitators of academic and educational success,” said Russell-Tucker. “Our teachers and administrators as well as our students and families depend on our school nurses to ensure students’ health and wellness needs are met, so that they can be happy, healthy and ready to learn.”
Charlene Russell-Tucker speaks at a podium during Quinnipiac Commencement
Charlene Russell-Tucker, Commissioner of the Connecticut State Department of Education, delivered the keynote address.

During the Sunday afternoon ceremony, the university conferred 152 degrees on School of Education graduates, including 60 Master of Education, 33 Master of Science and 59 Sixth-Year Diplomas in Educational Leadership. In the School of Nursing, the university conferred 388 degrees, including 168 Bachelor of Science in Nursing, 97 Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing, 57 Master of Science in Nursing and 66 Doctor of Nursing Practice.

Russell-Tucker delivered the commencement address and is a passionate supporter of family and community engagement in education, having successfully led school attendance and discipline initiatives with an intensive focus on equity and diversity. Her remarks reflected her commitment to inclusivity and access to quality education and healthcare services for all.

“Whether you are graduating today from the School of Education or the School of Nursing, you are now embarking on this life-changing beginning — a journey beyond the halls of this fine institution,” said Russell-Tucker. “Thanks to your preparation from Quinnipiac, you are equipped not to see barriers, and you have the strength, the skills, and the fortitude to persevere through any obstacle.”

She reminded the graduates to remain focused in the face of challenges and to not let others define them or discount their ability to make meaningful contributions in their respective fields.

“Don’t let those who will call you ‘inexperienced’ prevent you from achieving your goals…younger generations are filled with ideas and bursting with energy that are vital for our future success,” said Russell-Tucker. “By earning your degree today, you are starting on this life-changing beginning. Whether you find yourself in an educational setting or a healthcare environment, I hope these small lessons will serve you in these noble professions.”

Provost Debra Liebowitz opened the ceremony by warmly greeting the audience followed by Sofia Grace Delicata ’24 and her rendition of the National Anthem.

President Judy Olian began her address by shining a spotlight on the mothers, grandmothers, sisters, aunts and inspiring women in the audience with a round of applause in honor of Mother’s Day.

As she spoke directly to the Class of 2024, Olian highlighted the tenacious spirit of this year’s class and congratulated the graduates for all of their accomplishments during their time at Quinnipiac, including their ability to “adapt and adjust with grace and generosity” to the pandemic.

“To our graduates. You made it! This has been quite a journey — one marked by pride and joy but also by more than a few twists and turns during the time you have been here,” said Olian. “You weathered that period with strength and resilience. You supported each other. You supported the broad communities around us. You emerged stronger and here you are, finishing on a high note with a brilliant future ahead.”

Speaking on behalf of the School of Education Class of 2024, Megan Lynn Pushard, Sixth-Year Diploma ’24, urged her fellow classmates to work together to create stronger, healthier communities. Later in the ceremony, Pushard took the stage a second time to receive her Sixth-Year Diploma in Educational Leadership.

“Educational leaders, teachers and nurses can work together to make each town and city a positive environment where everyone feels welcome…where staff, students and families receive the education and care they need to close the achievement gap and lead healthy lives,” said Pushard. “Quinnipiac has prepared us for the challenges that lie ahead and to make an impact each and every day. Together, we can make a difference in the world.” 

Representing the School of Nursing Class of 2024, graduate Cheree Marie Simone Wright ’24 echoed Pushard’s message by reminding the graduates that they have the capacity to be the hero in someone else’s life.

“Let’s be the new generation of nurses and educators that show empathy, compassion, professionalism and genuine care for the lives we touch,” said Wright. “Whenever you feel unsure of yourself, your abilities, how to care for a complicated patient or how to teach a child who may have some challenges, no matter what the challenges…You are capable, you are destined for greatness, and you are the best in your field. Never forget this.”

Celebrating commencement on Mother’s Day was especially meaningful for moms in attendance like Rebecca Iannucci, MSN ’24, who earned her Master of Science in Nursing degree just two weeks after giving birth to her daughter, Ryleigh.

The mother of four, including two children born during her nursing school education, praised Quinnipiac for providing the support and resources she needed to balance the demands of motherhood with her academic studies. She also credits her husband, Mark, for his encouragement and help at home while she completed her degree program.

“Graduation has been something I have looked forward to for a long time. The fact that it falls on Mother’s Day is so special for me considering both of my daughters were born during my time in the nurse practitioner program at Quinnipiac,” said Iannucci, who was featured in a recent story on NBC Connecticut. “My hope is that this experience of mine will inspire them one day to chase their own dreams and know they can accomplish whatever they put their minds to.”

As the ceremony drew to a close, Alumni Association Board Member Pam Martinez ’86 officially welcomed the newest members to the Quinnipiac alumni family. As the graduates moved their tassels to the left, she reminded them that even as they prepare to leave campus, they will always find a home at Quinnipiac.


Watch the School of Education and School of Nursing Livestream

graduates smile while processing in

Watch the Recording

Watch the livestream recording of the School of Education and School of Nursing Undergraduate and Graduate Commencement.

Sunday, May 12, 3 p.m.

Download the program (PDF)

Order of Exercises

School of Education
School of Nursing

3 p.m.

Trumpet Prelude and Processional

Pomp and Circumstance, Sir Edward Elgar

Call to Commencement

Tom Ellett, PhD
Chief Experience Officer

National Anthem

Sofia Grace Delicata ’24


Judy D. Olian, PhD

Class of 2024 Student Speakers
  • School of Education: Megan Lynn Pushard

  • School of Nursing: Cheree Marie Simone Wright

Introduction of Commencement Speaker

Lisa Rebeschi, PhD
Senior Associate Dean

Commencement Address

Charlene Russell-Tucker
Commissioner, Connecticut State Department of Education

Presentation of Candidates for Degrees and Awards

School of Education: Anne Dichele, PhD, Dean
School of Nursing: Larry Slater, PhD, Dean

Conferral of Degrees

Judy D. Olian

Alumni Welcome

Pam Martinez ’86
Alumni Association Board


Charlene M. Russell-Tucker

Charlene Russell-Tucker speaks at a podium during Quinnipiac Commencement

Commissioner for the Connecticut State Department of Education

School of Education and School of Nursing Ceremony | Sunday, May 12, 3 p.m.

Charlene Russell-Tucker was appointed by Gov. Ned Lamont as commissioner of the Connecticut State Department of Education in August 2021, after serving as acting commissioner. Prior to becoming acting commissioner, Russell-Tucker served as deputy commissioner managing educational supports and wellness priorities. She’s also testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions about “Supporting Students and Schools: Promising Practices to Get Back on Track” in June 2022 and “Why Are So Many American Youth in a Mental Health Crisis? Exploring Courses and Solutions” in June 2023. In 2015, Russell-Tucker was named to the inaugural class of “100 Women of Color” in Connecticut. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of St. Joseph and a master’s degree from Albertus Magnus College. Russell-Tucker also serves on the Board of Trustees at the University of Connecticut.

A Message from the President

President Judy Olian

Congratulations to the Class of 2024! You are well prepared to continue your life journey as professionals who will impact the world and the workplaces of tomorrow. We are confident you will apply your talent, passion and education to serve boldly as engaged citizens in your communities — and beyond. These qualities are at your core and will continue to propel you well into the future.

As graduates of Quinnipiac University, you have learned from a distinguished faculty and a committed staff who proudly stand beside you today. You also have learned valuable lessons from each other during this most transformative time in your lives. Please stay connected to our Bobcat family, visit us often, and draw upon the many friendships and mentorships you have formed here.

This day is shared with your families and friends, those who also deserve special recognition and appreciation for their contributions to your success. Enjoy this momentous achievement! Together, we are cheering for you, with utmost pride.

Judy D. Olian

Mace and Medallion

The mace — a symbol of authority — has antecedents in both Roman and Medieval history. The Roman mace (fasces) was carried by a lictor before the chief magistrate of the city, as well as before the legions. During the Middle Ages, the mace (mateola), a weapon of war, became first a symbol of victory and then a symbol of authority. The mace emblazoned with the Great Seal of England became a symbol of authority in Parliament by the end of the 13th century. It is this form of the mace that was the prototype of those symbols of authority, not only of legislative bodies, but also of cities and universities.

In 1246, following some 20 years of strife, the University of Paris was finally conceded the right to its own common seal. Since then, the use of the seal engraved on the mace has come to symbolize the authority of the academic community. In July 2000, Quinnipiac commissioned the noted sculptor Robert Meyer of Westport, Connecticut, to design and execute a new mace for Quinnipiac University. Cast in bronze, the mace incorporates elements of the university seal.

The medallion (medal of office), like the mace and the seal, is also a symbol of authority. It is possible that its roots may be traced back to the Roman “bulla” (a gold amulet of honor). The obverse of the medallion shows the seal of the office the wearer holds — in our case, the seal of the university. Not infrequently, the reverse would show the personal seal or coat of arms of the bearer. Since the High Middle Ages, the medallion has been worn by such officials as the chancellors of England, mayors of cities, and rectors of universities, and came to signify the high personal position such figures occupied in their respective governments. During the Renaissance, medallion design reached unique artistic heights, and in certain portraits the medallion was given particular prominence. The medallion is worn by the university’s president. The Quinnipiac medal showcases the university seal, sculpted in relief and cast in bronze.

Doctoral Hooding Ceremony

The 12th and 13th centuries saw the formation of universities under the jurisdiction of the Church. Most students of the day were clerks in the Holy Order, monks or priests. Cowls or hoods adorned their habits and protected the young scholars from harsh weather and the pervading dampness of the stone buildings in which they studied. Hoods also served to cover tonsured heads before the use of the skullcap.

Today, the cap, gown and hood have taken on a symbolic meaning. Color and shape conform to an academic code signifying a university’s conferral of the degree and the nature of the degree conferred. Gowns for the doctoral degree carry velvet panels and three horizontal velvet bars on the upper arm of the full, round, bell-shaped sleeves.

Download the program (PDF)

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