Bloomfield College embraced 313 new alumni at the College’s 146th Commencement Ceremonies on Friday, May 17. This Commencement marked Richard A. Levao’s final as President.
“It is such a great honor for me to be here today for my sixteenth and last time as your president,” expressed President Levao in his opening remarks. President Levao received the status of President Emeritus during the ceremony.
The institution conferred recognition upon its distinguished retiring faculty during the program, with Dr. Mike Schiro, Dr. Marianne Flood, and Dr. Carolyn Tuella receiving Faculty Emeriti honors.
Honorary degree recipients Ras J. Baraka, the 40th Mayor of Newark, and Margaret H. Marshall, the 35th Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and the only woman to serve as Chief Justice, delivered moving and timely remarks, both weighing in on climate change, women’s rights, wealth distribution, and the important role this generation of graduates will play in our planet’s future.
“Today is a great day for you, but tomorrow begins the rest of your lives. It is a very scary time. What we need is not just brilliant people, we need courageous people,” said Mayor Baraka. “We need you to take everything you learned at Bloomfield College and use it, but we also need you to be courageous enough to make the world a better place, to speak to noisy crowds, to lead when it’s not popular, to hold the line and keep moving forward, especially at a time when people are trying to divide us. We need you in 2019, but most importantly, we need you in 2020, 2021, 2022…”
“What a mess my generation has left you, and you have to fix this before you are my age,” opened Chief Justice Marshall, while sharing stark data on animal extinction and income inequality. “I know you will bring your talents, creativity, and life experiences, to make an impact on our world. You will change the world, for the better, one step at a time. Congratulations.”
Class of 2019 Valedictorian, Curtis Gonzalez, a Creative Arts & Technology student, preceded the honorary degree recipient speeches, also articulating these concerns in his vulnerable and empowering speech.
“College can take a toll on our minds. And a lot of the time, it did. Many of us had to balance our studies while taking care of our families and working long shifts at our jobs just to provide. It is understandable that at some moments, we wanted to give up. But, what matters, is that we didn’t give up. As real as life got for us, we all somehow pushed through. We faced adversity to get where we are now because we knew that being strong would pay off. And that’s what’s most important here. We are strong. We are here together,” said Gonzalez. “Without hard work, determination, and perseverance, the degrees we receive today won’t be anything more than a fancy piece of paper. As you move on, remember everything you faced during your college years. Remember how you still worked your hardest in spite of the pain. Because in life, that’s what matters. Back up what your degree says. Apply your talent and what you’ve learned to make that piece of paper mean something.”
Following Commencement, in a sea of decorated caps, diplomas, balloons, flowers, and smiles, both graduates and guests continued the celebration on a very crowded Liberty Street.