“I challenge you to go forward thanking all the people who made a difference in your life, and for you to make a difference in everybody else’s life.”
Francis Kirley laid out a small prescription for Elms College graduates during its 91st commencement Saturday. He was the main commencement speaker as 405 people received degrees and certificates at ceremonies at the MassMutual Center in Springfield.
The administration conferred 296 bachelor’s degrees, 88 master’s degrees and 15 Doctors of Nursing Practice degrees as well as 2 associate degrees and four certificates of advanced graduate studies.
The college’s administration conferred honorary doctorate degrees on Kirley and Maureen Ann Kervick, SSJ during the ceremony.
Kervick, formerly known as Sister James Marie, was born in Springfield. Along with her work at Elms where she also served as dean of students and campus minister from 2002 to 2009, she was a teacher at Sacred Heart School in Holyoke, and also in Pawtucket, R.I.
A registered nurse, she also served as administrator of Mont Marie Infirmary and worked for Health Care for the Homeless in Springfield.
Elms President Harry E. Dumay said Sister Maureen lived by the Sisters of St. Joseph, Maxim 11: “Respect others and value highly the good in them and grow in justice and goodness together.”
“Sister Maureen Kervick and Fran Kirley found it in their heart to care for somebody else. By those standards we applaud their success,” Dumay said. “Class of 2022 by the standard of caring for someone else, we at Elms College believe that you have all you need to go out in the world and be successful.”
The small dose of decency Kirley asked of graduating students had a huge impact on his life and he said it could change all of theirs as well. As the co-founder and CEO of Nexion, a large chain of rehabilitation facilities in the south and southwest, and a former member of the Elms College Board of Trustees. Kirley said he did not get where he is today on his own. There was a long line of people who deserve his thanks, he said.
“During the past two years, we all learned of the importance of how culture and core values impacted our company. Many of you are going into fields where you will have the opportunity to have a very real and very immediate impact on people’s lives. Others may have behind-the-scenes roles providing structure and stability. Regardless of your future career, honor those who helped you get here by helping others succeed. You may never know the impact you have on someone’s life, but I can promise you that even the smallest action can make a big difference to someone else.”
Class of 2022 co-Valedictorian Madeline Care offered up her family’s home-spun bit of philosophy that, as a teenager, aggravated her to no end.
“Throughout my life, my family gave me the same piece of advice, ‘Do your best and leave the rest.’” she told her classmates. “I would respond with a small nod or maybe an eye roll.”
Be it a soccer game or a new job, perhaps a college exam, the advice was always the same, “Do your best and leave the rest,” she said. Only as she contemplated an exam that could determine the trajectory of her whole future life did the deeper meaning of that simple phrase sink in. It meant performing to the best of your ability and you have done all you can. Forces outside of your control will have an effect on the outcome of whatever you are anxious about, and that does not reflect on your value as a person.
“Doing my ‘best’ did not simply mean getting an ‘A’ on a test. Instead, it meant performing as well as I was able, despite my fears and anxieties. I could only worry about trying my hardest, not about the things out of my control.”
“The coming months will be filled with momentous changes such as starting a career, going on to obtain a higher degree, traveling or moving away from home. With these major transitions, we are bound to feel as nervous as we are excited. But who isn’t a little scared? I definitely am, so don’t feel that you are alone. Just like me, you may be asking yourself what if I am not prepared for my next step? What if I am not good enough? I am here to tell you that you are. In the face of the unknown, the only thing that we can do is give our endeavors our all and not sweat about circumstances that we cannot control.”
Co-Valedictorian Abbegale Connelly found that she had wrung most life out of her by the time she stood to receive her diploma as she nearly subsumed her being for the sake of her education.
“I am not sad to be graduating. I quite literally cannot wait,” she said. “College was not everything I thought it would be. Every semester I put my schooling before everything. I put living on hold and decided to just exist, just survive.”
Then she committed the ultimate act of release. She jumped out of an airplane.
“I had to go skydiving just to feel life rush back into me,” she told her classmates. “I was working so hard to become a nurse that I accepted putting myself on auto-pilot and just making it through. I had to jump out of an airplane just to feel alive. And when you go skydiving, they pull the parachute at about 10,000 feet and then you float down. You are level with the cloud, it is really quiet and you can see the earth for miles and miles. You just think that all that stuff down there on earth is so small.”
Connelly quoted Oscar Wilde, who said,” If you know what you want to be, a nurse, a teacher, a politician, a lawyer, then you inevitably become it — and that is your punishment. But, if you never know, then you can do anything. We are not nouns, we are verbs. We are meant to be moving and living and not standing still.”
“I think you can be imprisoned if you think of yourself as a noun and you base all your worth on becoming this noun. So, become a doctor, social worker or farmer, but find life in moving, listening, jumping, dancing and talking. In life, it is important to create your own timeline. Do what you want, care about your mental health. Don’t live the life anyone prescribes for you because they will not have to reap the consequences.”
#Elms #College #confers #degrees #certificates #91st #commencement