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Marymount Graduates: Prepared To Do Great Things

Monday, May 20, 2013
“Build and grow an America that will be a shining city on a hill again…” Chuck Todd

For more photos, see the Commencement Flickr gallery.

On Sunday, May 19, more than 450 undergraduates and 350 graduate students walked across the stage at D.A.R. Constitution Hall to receive their degrees at Marymount University’s 62nd Commencement Ceremonies.

Chuck Todd, political director and chief White House correspondent for NBC News, gave the Commencement Address at the undergraduate ceremony and was awarded the honorary degree Doctor of Humane Letters in recognition of his distinguished career in journalism and the personal and professional integrity for which he is known.

A neighbor of Marymount, Todd began his remarks by noting, “For the entire four years of this class of 2013, we’ve only trusted Marymount students to watch our children. I do want to thank the Marymount community for being great neighbors and producing great young adults. …That’s why I’m so enthusiastic about helping you celebrate the end of one chapter in your life and the beginning of another.”

Turning serious, he observed, “You’ve lived through two decades of political paralysis that has become polarization; you’ve seen what greed can do to a financial system; the instability around the world is not exactly comforting; And we’re in the second decade of the 21st century, and yet our society and culture seems stuck in the last century.

“This is your challenge. Help lead us out of this mess. Build and grow an America that will be a shining city on a hill again; be willing to tackle big problems instead of using politics as an excuse to avoid them; If you’re a Democrat, go hug a Republican; if you’re a conservative, go hug a liberal or at least retweet them.”

Chuck Todd’s Advice to Graduates
To help them meet the challenges and opportunities ahead, Chuck Todd first advised: “Love what you do. …Trust me: when you feel that way about a job, it isn’t work.” He also emphasized the need to pay attention to details, saying, “The little things matter.”

He also urged the graduates to “find a way to simply say yes. … I learned this early in life from my late father. He used to say, don’t give me “yeah buts. …The folks who figure out how to say yes, they get the cool assignments; they get the promotions; and they even get the experience of failing, which often ends up giving you the experience you need later in life for a bigger success.”

Todd then advised, “Take your risks early in life. …This is the time of your life that you are best equipped to take those risks.

Finally, he stressed the importance of family, pointing out, “One can get consumed by work but when the chips are down, the folks who are there when it’s not convenient are your family. … So cherish this moment with them, and understand if they are shedding more tears than you are.”

Prepared to Do Great Things in the World and for the World
Thomas Eric Jefferson (B.A. in Psychology) of Forest, Va, was selected by the Class of 2013 to speak on its behalf. He remarked, “None of us will leave Marymount the same person we were when we first arrived. …it’s not that we all changed, but that we all grew.”
Alyce Sustko (M.A. in Literature and Language) of Manassas, VA, who gave the graduate student address to her class, agreed. She said, “We all had opportunities to leave our comfort zones, and we became more well-rounded people as a result. She stressed, “The most important lesson was…not what to think, but how to think. Sustko urged her fellow graduates, “Use your powers for good. Whatever you do, wherever you go – go out there and make us proud.”

Dr. Bill Combs, assistant professor of Management, who gave the Commencement Address at the afternoon ceremony, echoed Chuck Todd’s remarks and acknowledged that his generation has left today’s graduates with great challenges. As they set forth to meet these challenges, he advised them to stay true to the highest ethical standards. Dr. Combs quoted Warren Buffet who said, “If you lose money for the firm, I will be understanding. If you lose reputation, I will be ruthless.”

He called for the graduates to be leaders and problem solvers, and to create an alternative, better future. And as they work toward that future, he emphasized the importance of keeping a sense of wonder and a work/life balance.

Marymount President Matthew D. Shank gave the charge to the graduates. He noted, “Our students come from all over the world. They come together at Marymount to grow and make a positive difference in the world.” He referenced the many ways that Marymount students find common ground, including their intellectual curiosity, commitment to service, and global perspective. And he urged the graduates to achieve more, serve others, and explore new cultures. In conclusion, he told them, “Together, we can do great things in the world and for the world. I firmly believe this.”

The Bishop Ireton Award – The recipient is selected by the graduating class for having had the greatest influence of good on his or her companions

Aaron Walsh, B. A. in Economics in Society – from Hyattsville, MD
Active on campus, Aaron was captain of the men’s basketball team, a resident assistant on the university’s Global Thinkers hall, a student worker with Campus Safety, and a conference center assistant. He also taught a fitness class on campus and interned in the athletic director’s office. Aaron is a member of Omicron Delta Epsilon, the international economics honor society; the Black Student Alliance; the African-Caribbean Student Association; and the Economics Club. Fellow students describe Aaron as hardworking, friendly, compassionate, a team motivator, and a role model. One noted, “He is a student leader, as well as a student athlete, who embodies the type of MU student others aspire to be.”

The Mother Butler Gold Medal – The recipient is selected by the faculty for having shown the greatest devotion to the ideals of Marymount.

Marissa McGrath
, B.A. in Fashion Merchandising – from Strasburg, VA
Marissa was head coordinator for HalloweenFest and the Special Olympics Basketball Tournament on campus. When asked to reflect on the Special Olympics event, she remarked, "When you give, you receive. Knowing that we have contributed to their happiness makes us all feel good. It brings us together with a shared purpose.” A member of the Campus Ministry Leadership team, Marissa was also active with Marymount’s Grate Patrol – providing food boxes and hot coffee to DC street people once a month. In addition, she participated in Alternative Spring Break – going to Lima, Peru, sophomore year to mentor children, plant trees, and help lay the foundation of a church. The following year, she helped the community of Banica in the Dominican Republic. Last summer, Marissa volunteered with Missionaries of the Poor in Jamaica. With Marymount’s Fashion Club, she has also helped with fundraisers for charities providing flood relief and helping those with Cystic Fibrosis, Juvenile Diabetes, and AIDS. Marissa says, “Volunteering has been such a large part of my life that I have been debating about how exactly to fit it into what I want to do with my fashion merchandising major. As I continue to search, I have found several companies that use their profits toward a certain charity. Whatever I do, I want to continue my passion for mission work -- continuing to work with the Missionaries of the Poor, as well as doing volunteer work in my own community.”

The Sister Majella Berg Service Award – presented to the graduating student who has made the most significant contribution in the area of community service.

Two recipients this year:
- Edwin Rivera, B.B.A. – from Alexandria, VA; and
- Marissa McGrath (see above under Mother Butler Gold Medal)

Edwin Rivera’s presence has been felt across the campus and in the broader community. He was captain of the men’s soccer team, a student ambassador, a senior advisor to the Latino Student Association, and an active participant in Campus Ministry activities, including Alternative Spring Break. As a freshman, he was treasurer of Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) and helped lead a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program for international students. His sophomore year, Edwin was treasurer of the Latino Student Association and was MU’s representative in the DC Latino Student Partnership. On campus, he helped coordinate a program that introduced fifth graders of diverse backgrounds to the possibility of college and the exciting opportunities before them. Edwin is a member of Sigma Alpha Pi, the national society of leadership and success, and a membership committee intern with the Association of Latino Professionals in Finance and Accounting. He has a public accounting job lined up after graduation and will soon begin a master’s degree program in preparation, ultimately, for the CPA exam. In addition, Edwin says, “I plan to give back to my community by using soccer and my life experiences to coach and mentor at-risk youth.”
PHOTO 1 - Chuck Todd, receives the honorary degree Doctor of Humane Letters from President Matthew D. Shank (right) and Joseph Maurelli, chair of Marymount's Board of Trustees. Photo by Leslie Kossoff
PHOTO 2 - Thomas Eric Jefferson gave the Address for his class at the undergraduate ceremony.
PHOTO 3 - President Shank congratulates Edwin Rivera, who received the Majella Berg Service Award. Photo by Leslie Kossoff
PHOTO 4 - Alyce Sustko gave the Address for her class at the afternoon graduate ceremony.
PHOTO 5 - Andrew Somuah and Chelsea Sutherland celebrate along with fellow graduates.