Governnor Malloy Speaking Sunday to Eastern Graduates at Commencement at the XL Center in Hartford.
Willimantic, Conn. -- 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. In all, 1,077 undergraduates and 102 graduates earned their degrees.
Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy delivered the Commencement address. Malloy reminded the graduates that the ceremony proved they each, through hard work and effort, could overcome adversity and achieve. 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 ask 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."
Eastern President Elsa Nunez with Karl Lamonthe of Voluntown
Approximately half the Eastern 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 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!"
LaShawna Jarrett of Bloomfield waves to family member who called her from the bleachers in the XL Center.
From the Governor's Foot Guard in attendance, 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.
Dazmon Harris, second from right, from Hartford, is congratulated by his friends, Eddie Brown, left, from Hartford, Class of 2012; Levar Mitchell, second from right, from Hartford, Class of 2012; and Akeem Popley-Bailey, left, from Hartford, Class of 2013.
Connecticut State University System (CSUS) Acting Chancellor Louise Feroe told the graduates, "We need your insights, your point of view, your lives to build the future - so I implore you: step up; shape events; influence outcomes; engage colleagues; drive agendas; go after things. We have seen what you can do, so keep at it."
Ninsis Batista from Norwich enjoys reading her hard-earned diploma.
"Get involved, and strive for excellence in everything you do, large and small," said CSUS Vice Chairman Richard Balducci. "Looking at all of you today, one cannot help but be encouraged. You have the attitude. You have the education. You have the experience, practically applied."
Tim Talley, center, from Columbus, Ohio, is congratulated by, left to right, his brother Josh, sister-in-law Rosanna, and parents Bernadette and Richard Talley.
Olivia Grace Puckett of Columbia delivered the Senior Class address. She encouraged the graduates to thank their parents and Eastern's faculty and staff for arriving at this point in their lives, and to think about all that has transpired in the past four years. "We are the generation facing and creating a remarkable shift in the world. We participated in our first presidential election, witnessing the historical inauguration of President Barack Obama. The Class of 2011 will continue creating a dynamic future for the world.
Julianne Bass, of Mansfield, with brother Andrew; sister Charissa; and mother, Karen.
Albert Vertefeuille, a member of the Board of Governors of the Connecticut Department of Higher Education and a 1960 Eastern graduate, told the class, "Your degree is a sign of your willingness to devote your time and energy to achieving a goal. The degree you are receiving this morning does not relieve you of your responsibility to continue to grow, no matter what your age or path in life. The overall aim of this fine state university is to encourage you to explore new ideas, to think critically, to distinguish between the significant and shallow, to make informed and responsible decisions and to contribute your talents back to your communities."
A jubilant Kassandrea Scozzafava of Bantan expresses her joy.
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 the class, "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."