An Inspirational Commencement

Commencements at the University of Rhode Island are always well executed, fun, and inspirational.  I have heard from many people that our 2016 commencement ceremonies were truly exceptional, and I agree.  The campus was in fantastic shape, the weather was delightful (despite several days of discouraging forecasts), the ceremonies went smoothly, our graduates and their families were all in high spirits, and the speakers were all simultaneously engaging, challenging, and inspiring. 

The University of Rhode Island, as is its custom, celebrated the achievements and contributions of an extraordinary group of distinguished individuals by presenting them with honorary doctorates: Judge Frank Caprio, Dr. Christopher DiMaio, Associate Justice Sonya Sotomayor, Dr. Richard Tapia, and Melanie Will-Cole.  They honored all of us here by their presence and participation in the 2016 Commencement.  Certainly the commencement addresses given by Dr. Tapia and Justice Sotomayor were major highlights of our weekend, indeed of our academic year. Justice Sotomayor was extremely generous with her time, posing for innumerable photos, talking with everyone who greeted her, and sharing in the joy of a very special day.

Our student speakers – Lindsay McLennan and Caitie Runyon – were simply splendid, as were our student vocalists Danielle Grilli, Christopher Davey, and Felicia Baker, and, as usual the Commencement Ensemble. 

I especially want to thank all those who worked so tirelessly, and with great devotion, to make our weekend great: the Commencement Committee, our officers and staff in Public Safety, all the officers who assisted, the staff of Facilities and Grounds, business operations, dining services/catering, and communications.  Professor Rachel DiCioccio and her crews of Marshals were thoroughly prepared and indispensible.  Several private-sector contractors worked very hard to complete projects (such as the sidewalk in front of Keaney and the Green Hall steps) in time for our ceremonies. Thank you all.

Multiple people, including visitors and long-serving URI personnel, remarked that they had discerned or experienced a special “spirit” at commencement this year.  I have thought a bit about that sentiment, and have come to believe that they perhaps sensed the spirit of community that is becoming a characteristic of the University of Rhode Island.  I think, and continue to hope, that we are becoming a community that truly cares about each other, where we work together towards common goals built on shared values, a community where we share in the joys and accomplishments of others, and where each of us values and respects those who share this special place.

I hope that in our future commencements, and in all of our shared endeavors, that this spirit of community, so well exemplified by all involved this year, will be evident to everyone who comes to join us or to visit.