On Monday, May 18, 2015, family and friends, along with Board of Trusties members, faculty and honorees, gathered together in the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center to celebrate the 135th Emerson College Commencement with the prospective graduates of the class of 2015. The 986 graduating seniors were a mix of Fall 2014, Spring 2015 and Summer 2015 students receiving degrees in the fields of Performing Arts, Visual and Media Arts, Writing, Literature and Publishing, Interdisciplinary Studies, Communication Sciences and Disorders, Communication Studies, Journalism and Marketing Communication.
The students, board members, faculty and honorees were led through the crowd by a bagpiper as they played the traditional bagpipe marches to begin the ceremony before Jeffrey Greenhawt, Chair of the Board of Trustees, proceeded with the call to order.
During the early stages of the ceremony, three professors were recognized for their dedication to the school by receiving Emeritus/Emerita Status. These professors included Mary Ellen Adams, an assistant professor in the Department of the Performing Arts, Flora Gonzales, a professor in the Department of Writing, Literature and Publishing, and Murray Schwartz, a professor in the Institute for Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies.
Along with the undergraduate students receiving their degrees were also a group of individuals that were being recognized by the college by receiving honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters degrees. This group included Cheri Blauwet, MD, Anne Hawley, MA, Natasha Trethewey, MFA and commencement speaker Robin Roberts, BA.
After the announcement and the acceptance of the honorary degrees, Roberts began her commencement address. While Roberts kept the address short, there was no lacking of heart and enthusiasm in her speech. She kept the focus of her speech on the graduates themselves rather than politics or religion or a number of other topics that she could have included. The speech did include Roberts using her own experiences that she gained as a platform to relate to the graduation class.
“Like you, I was so excited,” said Roberts. “And like some of you, maybe right now, I was fearful too. Because I didn’t have a job waiting for me and I was eager to start my career, but to start your career, you need a j-o-b.”
Throughout her speech, Roberts was charming and humorous. She related to the students in a way that made it effortless and easy as she summarized her career and what it had taken to get there. From working at a local country radio station in Louisiana to a low paying, part-time weekend sports journalist, she was someone that all the students could learn from about how dedication and hard work can allow you to achieve the goals that you set for yourself. Her experiences and the stories that she brought demonstrated that goals are obtainable. Roberts’ speech was uplifting and fun, bringing an encouraging attitude to the commencement that lingered throughout the rest of the proceedings.
Following Robert’s speech was Zachary Ehrlich’s, a writing for film and television major, senior class commencement address. Like Roberts, Ehrlich kept a slightly humorous tone throughout his speech, while also reminiscing about his years at Emerson and what the future holds for the class of 2015. The speech embodied just what it means to be an Emersonian and just how we plan to make our mark on the world, for both the graduating class and the graduates that will come in future generations.
“Now, we leave Emerson to begin our lives as professional creators of meaning, to become part of the great machine that generates capital C in culture,” said Ehrlich.
Following Ehrlich’s speech, the recipients of the Dean’s Award and the President’s Citation were honored. The Dean’s Award recipient was Julianna Buck, a marketing communications major. The President’s Citation recipient was Nyla Wissa, a theater major.
After the awards had been presented, it was finally time for the graduating class of 2015 to take that walk across the stage that would end their undergraduate career at Emerson. The students were led out by department and were announced by members of the Emerson community, including Amelia Broome, Eric Weiss, Marie Rimshaw, Stephen Terrell and Anne Doyle.
The conclusion of Emerson’s 2015 Commencement was brought about by the Presidential Valedictory Address, given by President Lee Pelton. In his speech, President Pelton welcomed the newly graduated class into the world. He also reminisced over the past four years that he had spent with the students, for their first year had also been his. From the different changes that had been seen in the students around him to the changing of the world to the various championships that the city of Boston had been included in, it was a speech that tied the commencement together and ended it on a note that hoped for successful and great achievements in the class of 2015’s future and their various interests.
Good luck, class of 2015!