A total of 786 undergraduate and 446 graduate students received degrees this past weekend at Endicott College’s 78th Commencement Ceremony. But the milestone came with bittersweet celebration.
The College community was deeply saddened to announce the passing of college president Dr. Richard E. Wylie on May 12, 2018. It was the first commencement ceremony, since assuming the presidency in 1987, that Dr. Wylie did not address the crowd. But those in attendance could feel him there in spirit. His wish for Commencement day was that the community celebrate Endicott’s graduates and their families. And, after a moment of silence honoring the inspiring visionary that Dr. Wylie was for so very many, that is just what they did, with blue and green ribbons close to their hearts in honor of “Doc.”
This was the second year that the College’s undergraduate and Van Loan School commencement ceremonies were held on separate days. The Van Loan School at Endicott College’s commencement ceremony was held on Thursday, May 17, 2018 at Hempstead Stadium on campus.
Dr. Katie Barnes, Interim President, acknowledged the graduates for their dedication, “As adult students, whether you are graduating with an associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree, you have demonstrated your commitment, dedication, and desire to strengthen your knowledge. Your journey has forced you to balance family, friends, children, academic studies, and above all else, work. I am sure the balance was not easy at times, but it will open greater doors of opportunity, and ultimately more career choices.”
Dr. Oneeka Williams, the Van Loan commencement speaker, is an acclaimed urologist and author of children's books that promote STEM especially among girls and minorities. She said in part of her speech, “I learned to be a slingshot. I learned that I had multiple opportunities to take a shot. Just keep picking up and aiming….Don’t be discouraged. The growth and power builds in the tension as you pull your slingshot back.”
Before concluding, Williams, who received an honorary degree along with distinguished administrator Dr. Keith D. Miller, encouraged students using this same metaphor, “Van Loan Class of 2018, stand up, pull back your slingshot and release it to your family, your place of work, your community, your country, the world. They are all waiting for you.”
J.J. Alberts (Master of Education in Athletic Administration) then addressed the crowd with the first of two student speeches, “No matter what profession you are in or aspire to be in, each of our degrees will help us become better people, both personally and professionally.”
Julie Windegaard (Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies) followed by telling her inspiring journey across the world, “By graduating today, you are showing that you can succeed at anything you aim to obtain. This is a wonderful accomplishment.” She also wowed her fellow graduates when she proudly waved the Norwegian flag and acknowledged Norway’s national day.
The Undergraduate College Commencement took place Saturday, May 19, 2018 at Hempstead Stadium. Barnes addressed a crowded field of hopefuls, “You came from all over the world, from 32 states and six continents. You came for different reasons. But you all came here today to be recognized for your accomplishments and to celebrate.”
Demos Parneros, CEO, Barnes & Noble, was the commencement speaker for the undergraduate ceremony. He encouraged the soon-to-be graduates to give back and stressed the importance of philanthropy. “As you move forward in your lives and in your careers, remember that success is not simply measured by how well you do--it is also measured by how you help others do well.”
He highlighted the power of making mistakes, “Why do I believe making mistakes is so important?” said Parneros, “Because mistakes are part of the learning process. They are the heart of progress and the soul of innovation,” he said, “Look at any great innovation – from the airplane to the automobile to medicine to digital technology. They are all products of endless mistakes, countless setbacks, years of frustration.”
Student speaker James Dwyer, Class of 2018, took a moment to remember and honor Craig R. Sampson III, an Endicott College student of the Class of 2018 who passed away in 2016 as a passenger in a tragic car accident. Dwyers shared, “I am grateful to be a part of a family that cares so much for each other.”
Dwyer led the crowd in chanting, “Great day to be a Gull” in honor of Dr. Wylie and then held a moment of silence. He followed by saying, “We should also remember to thank Dr. Wylie for everything he has done. He has been an influential person in each of our Endicott experiences. His commitment and vision has helped fill Endicott with driven individuals who have taken this institution to unbelievable heights.”
He finished with, “Though we will not be shaking his hand today, we are extremely grateful that he took the time to get to know each of us. Maybe you remember his barbecues where he would sit and talk to us. Or maybe you remember him offering you a ride to your next destination. Over the past week, we have had the opportunity to share our favorite Doc stories on paper and as I read through the memories, I was reminded of how unique this school is. We are lucky to be at a place where our president is so connected to each of us. We will miss you Dr. Wylie.”