Wesleyan University President Michael Roth speaking Tuesday at the Eastern Connecticut State University Commencement at the XL Center in Hartford.
Willimantic, Conn. -- 1,230 undergraduates and 88 graduate students heard the roars and cheers of thousands of their family members and friends as they celebrated their achievements at Eastern Connecticut State University's 122nd Commencement exercises at the XL Center in Hartford on May 15.
Michael S. Roth, president of Wesleyan University, delivered the Commencement address. He told the graduates he hoped they had learned three things at Eastern: "What you love to do, how to get better at it and how to share that with others . . . I hope that at Eastern you have found something that stirs your soul, that draws what is best from you, that is an activity without which you feel impoverished, denied, not fully human."
Eastern President Elsa M. Nunez congratulates a graduate in the XL Center.
Roth also told the Class of 2012, "The habits of mind developed in liberal arts environments like Eastern's . . . will empower you to see opportunity where others see only obstacles."
Noting the social, political and economic divisiveness that exists in our society today, Roth concluded that universities "must continue to strive to be places where young people discover and cultivate their independence and must themselves resist the trends of inequality that are tearing at the fabric of our country."
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 seniors celebrate their graduation day.
Eastern President Elsa M. Núñez told the graduates not to sit on the sidelines. "The challenges we face today as a nation and international community are ours to face and ours to solve."The point I would make is not that everything is bad but that we can make things better. I say we, because it always takes a team of people to get the job done . . . There is no other country in the world that places its future so firmly in the hands of the people. 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 the leaders of the future, and the future starts now!"
Barnard Scholar Winner Kate Harner, of Oxford, enjoys the Commencement ceremony.
From the Governor's Foot Guard Color Guard in attendance to the plaintive sound of the bagpipes of St. Patrick's Pipe Band, Eastern's graduation ceremonies were marked by dignity, grace and elegance. Eastern also conferred an honorary degree on Roth.
"Graduates of the Class of 2012, you have participated and helped create a vibrant community, and you have learned and grown in ways I'm sure few of you could have imagined," said Zac Zeitlin, a member of the Board of Regents for Higher Education. "I want you to leave here tonight with conviction that what you've learned will help you tremendously in your careers and in your personal lives."
Audriana White 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. "We're all here in part because we've successfully absorbed Eastern's six core values that have prepared us for our significant life goals: Academic excellence, engagement, inclusion, integrity, empowerment and social responsibility . . . Each year we gave back. We showed appreciation to our Willimantic community in so many ways and it has been such a terrific feeling . . . With Eastern's core values firmly in place as we set forth in our life's journey, all I can say to you all is 'ready, set, fly.'"
Senior Class President Benjamin Foran presented President Nunez with the class gift, a scholarship funded by donations from 222 seniors. Foran encouraged the graduates to continue donating so that the scholarship would grow, telling his classmates, "For many of us graduating tonight, college was a time for self-discovery, immense change and personal growth. Eastern has given us all incredible opportunities, which have allowed us to flourish and succeed . . . Because of your commitment to give back to our University, we are able to pass on experiences and opportunities that we have enjoyed to future students for years to come, so that they too may benefit from the University that has given us so much."