On Friday, May 19, 2017, Bloomfield College embraced 333 new alumni at the College’s 144th Commencement Ceremonies, marking the largest graduating class in the College’s history.
Distinguished guests, families, and friends joined the College community on campus, as students received Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees from Bloomfield College.
The institution conferred recognition upon its distinguished retiring faculty during the program, with John Hinchcliffe, Martha LaBare, and Dr. Erica G. Polakoff receiving Professor Emeritus honors.
“We are here today to celebrate, to express joy, and to praise,” Richard A. Levao, College President, said in his opening remarks.
Honorary degree recipients included U.S. Senator Cory A. Booker, award-winning ABC 7 News anchor Lori Stokes, and Dr. Melissa Nobles, Kenan Sahin Dean of the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
“Find ways in ordinary moments to be there to help, serve, and love other people,” advised Senator Booker. “More than that big speech you might give, more than that big fight you might take on, more than our race, and more than our religion, it is our actions, what we do day in and day out, that define the truth of who we are.”
“We may not be able to change the world, but we can make a world of change to the people around us,” observed the Senator. “Just a smile, just a kind act, just a note of encouragement can transform the spirit of another person on their journey.”
The Senator brought up his mentor, Frank Hutchins, with whom he had fought housing injustices in Newark. Sen. Booker went on to say, in later years, as Hutchins’ sight deteriorated, he always told Booker, “I see you.” According to Booker, Hutchins’ last words to him were “I see you. I love you.”
The senator repeated those words to the Class of 2017 as cheers built.
“I have the awesome responsibility of following Senator Booker,” quipped Dr. Nobles, whose speech focused on the role of technology in our lives today. “I am confident your degrees from Bloomfield College have prepared you for the ‘new’ future.”
Dr. Nobles closed her remarks with a quote from Oscar Wilde.
“I am so honored to receive an honorary degree from Bloomfield College because of what this institution stands for,” expressed Lori Stokes, as she took the podium. “This college stays true to its mission and commitment to see to it that graduates are in a position to have social and economic mobility.”
Stokes shared with the crowd a personal story, regarding her daughter who was graduating from Georgetown the next day. Stokes said that her daughter was upset her grandfather, Stokes’ father who passed away in 2015, would not be present at her college graduation.
“Class of 2017, if you have lost anyone in your life, know that they are watching you to today, they are here with you,” said Stokes.
The day also featured remarks from other notable speakers, Chair of the Board of Trustees, William H. Turner, III, President of the Alumni Association John Murdock ’73, and Class of 2017 Valedictorian Lidia Wrobel, a graduate of Nutley High School.
“Graduating from Bloomfield College is not something to be taken for granted. It is an accomplishment that did not come easily, trust me I know,” expressed Wrobel. “There were times when I wanted to give up. I do not discuss this often, but I started to suffer from anxiety and panic attacks. I even had to miss an entire semester. But the guidance, love, and support that I received during that difficult time from my Bloomfield College family encouraged me to keep moving forward.”
Wrobel, who lives in Essex County, earned a degree in psychology. She hopes to work in human resources.
“There are two reasons why I am here today. Hard work and willingness to ask for help,” continued Wrobel. “I believe that is all you need to be successful. You don’t have to be a genius to succeed in life. You just need to work hard, set realistic goals, and be vulnerable enough to seek guidance from those around you. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. In fact, I believe it is one of the greatest strengths a person can possess.”
Following Commencement, in a sea of decorated caps, maroon diplomas, balloons, flowers, and smiles, both graduates and guests continued the celebration on a very crowded Liberty Street.