The day was significant for the Class of 2021 in more ways than one. After a remote fall semester and a spring semester altered by COVID-19 guidelines, graduates were able to cross the stage—in two separate morning and afternoon ceremonies—in the presence of classmates, friends and family.
Margaret L. McKenna ’83, Chair of the College's Board of Trustees and Executive Vice President at Fidelity Investments, addressed the graduates and recognized their perseverance, “having faced more challenges than any class in Emmanuel’s 102-year history.”
McKenna encouraged the Class of 2021 to continue their vigilance toward sudden shifts, large and small. “May we never have another pandemic, but disruptions takes many forms,” she said. “Maintain the agility to create a workaround for whatever life throws at you.”
Graduate & Professional Programs student speaker Helen Driscoll, MSN '21 also celebrated all that graduates have accomplished and overcome during the pandemic. She quoted Florence Nightingale, saying, “How very little can be done under the spirit of fear,” and added that while each of them have experienced the fear and anxiety of COVID, they completed the academic year by putting fear aside. “We have the strength and courage to do so much more,” Driscoll said.
Despite a unique and challenging senior year, speakers also reminded graduates that the sum of their Emmanuel experience was so much more. Undergraduate student speaker Jacob Henriques ’21 encouraged students to remember the College’s Centennial celebrations of 2019 and 2018 victory parades with the Boston Red Sox and the New England Patriots.
Dorice Griffith, Assistant Dean of Student Learning & Success, urged graduates to “really soak in this experience and let the memories fill you up,” and recalled all she has been through with members of the Class of 2021, from class traditions to letters of recommendation and more. “We have come full circle together,” she said, recognizing that for some students, she may have been the first person they sat down with at Orientation to register for courses.
“The pandemic took away our face-to-face time,” Griffith said, “but the pandemic is just another one of our forever bonds.”
While the ceremony provided many opportunities for reflection, speakers addressed the need for graduates to assess how the Emmanuel experience has shaped their values and how they’ll use those in creating lives of purpose in a tumultuous world, with Griffith noting that the change the world is seeking may come from one of the individuals present at Commencement.
“Out of all your possessions that can be taken away from you in your life—your house, your job, your car, your wealth,” Henriques said, “Your education stays with you forever, and no one can say you did not earn it.”
“College is the one true point in your life that you can hit the reset button on who you want to be,” he continued. “So, go out, follow your heart, trust your gut, and push your button."
Emmanuel College president Sr. Janet Eisner, SNDdeN also lauded the Class of 2021’s commitment to change. "Create a life that is true to your authentic self. Hopefully, during your time here, that life has become clearer to you."