Graduates at Eastern Connecticut State University's 121st Commencement Exercises heard the roars and cheers of thousands of their family members and friends as they celebrated their accomplishments at the XL Center in Hartford on May 22. In all, 1,077 undergraduates and 102 graduate students earned degrees.
Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy delivered the Commencement address, telling the graduates that the ceremony proved that through hard work and effort, each could overcome adversity and achieve success. He told the students they should believe in progress and in the future. "We're a forward-thinking people. We internalize this concept -- and then we get to work. This class stands as a testament to that mindset."
Malloy asked the graduates for their help in rebuilding the state of Connecticut. "As the saying goes, 'a rising tide raises all boats.' I need you to be that tide that sweeps across the state. Find a way to reach back and make stronger our society and our communities. If you do that, Connecticut will continue to be the great state that it is. Our nation will be stronger. We will all be better for it."
Approximately half the graduates were the first in their families to earn a bachelor's degree. As Connecticut's only public liberal arts university, Eastern draws students from 165 of the state's 169 towns; approximately 90 percent of graduates stay in Connecticut to launch their careers, contribute to their communities and raise their families.
Eastern President Elsa M. Núñez told the graduates not to sit on the sidelines. "As you go out into the workforce and forge your own way, build your professional careers on the values you have been taught. You are now the next generation of citizen leaders in our state and in our nation. Together, you can be the force of change that can keep our country strong. It is your time. You are tomorrow's leaders, and tomorrow starts now!"
From the Governor's Foot Guard, to the plaintive sound of the bagpipes of St. Patrick's Pipe Band, to Eastern's "Make a Wish" tradition, in which graduating seniors toss a penny into a wishing well, Eastern's graduation ceremonies were marked by dignity, grace and elegance. Eastern also conferred an honorary degree on Anthony J. Brandenburg, chief judge of the Intertribal Court of Southern California. Brandenburg is a member of Eastern's Class of 1975. In 2010, he was named recipient of the University's Distinguished Alumnus Award.
Senior Class President Sarah Potrikus presented President Núñez with the class gift, a scholarship in the name of the Class of 2011, funded by donations from the graduating class. She encouraged the class to continue donating so that the scholarship would grow, telling her fellow graduates, "Leave today knowing that every one of you made a difference to Eastern, whether as an All-American athlete, a community service volunteer, a student leader or an academic scholar.
The accomplishments held by this class, both professional and personal, set even higher standards for future students than those who graduated before us."