Eastern Connecticut State University's annual graduation ceremony was held at the XL Center in Hartford on May 16, with more than 12,000 family members and friends cheering on their sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, as 1,180 undergraduates and 58 graduate students received their diplomas.
Former Washington Post Publisher Donald Graham told the graduates at Eastern's 127th Commencement exercises to "treasure this college. Eastern has given you a wonderful education...once you are making a living, give something back so that you can help Eastern continue to be great in the future." The commencement speaker received an honorary degree from Eastern in a special hooding ceremony during the graduation exercises.
Eastern President Elsa Nunez told the graduates she was confident they would impact the world in three ways; first as professionals in the workforce, equipped with "...a highly desired set of skills," sought by the majority of American employers, "analytical thinking, teamwork and communication skills, the broad intellectual and social competencies available through a liberal arts education."
Nunez also urged the graduates to give back to their communities, quoting Children's Defense Fund founder Marian Wright Edelman, who once said, "Service is the rent we pay for being. It is the very purpose of life and not something you do in your spare time."
Lastly, Nunez encouraged the Eastern seniors to "...exercise your duties and rights as American citizens. Our nation remains a beacon of freedom and a guiding light for other nations to follow, not because of our military might or our economic power, but because of the political, religious and personal freedoms we enjoy." Noting those freedoms must be protected, Eastern's president went on to say, "Being a citizen of this great nation is clearly an investment of time, but it is the only way we can protect the freedoms we hold dear. Never abdicate your responsibilities as a citizen to someone else. Be willing to question the status quo. And stand up for the values you believe in."
More than 40 percent of 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 163 of the state's 169 towns. Approximately 85 percent of graduates stay in Connecticut to launch their careers, contribute to their communities and raise their families.
From the Governor's Foot Guard Color Guard in attendance, to the plaintive sound of the bagpipes of the St. Patrick's Pipe Band and the pre-event music of the Thread City Brass Quintet, this year's graduation ceremonies again reflected Eastern's Commencement traditions.