Approximately 1,090 students received their degrees this past weekend during Marymount University’s 72nd annual commencement ceremonies, held over the course of three days at the institution’s Converse Family Field on its Main Campus in Arlington.
Celebrating the Class of 2023, ceremonies organized by each of Marymount’s three Colleges were held from May 19-21 for students who qualified for graduation from the Fall 2022, Spring 2023 and Summer 2023 semesters, as well as students who graduated in Summer 2022 but were not eligible to participate in last year’s ceremonies.
The first ceremony was held on Friday for the College of Business, Innovation, Leadership and Technology (BILT), with 392 degrees conferred to students studying in fields that include business, design and art and technology and innovation. Dr. Irma Becerra, President of Marymount University, congratulated the institution’s newest alumni and spoke on the importance that courageous leadership can have in their future careers.
“Courageous leaders are those who put their principles first and are willing to take risks and make difficult decisions, especially in the face of uncertainty and adversity,” President Becerra explained. “Change is difficult for most, and many hesitate to take a new path because it requires stepping out of their comfort zone and confronting uncertainty or unfamiliarity. But change is inevitable – and when you embrace challenges and learn from failures, you can move forward and lead from a place of courage. That is what I wish for all of you, Class of 2023.”
During his welcoming remarks to graduates, Marymount University Provost and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Hesham El-Rewini encouraged graduates to stop and reflect on their incredible achievement, despite the oncoming ‘whirlwind of celebrations and job applications.’
“I’m sure many of you feel like you still remember your first day on campus as though it just happened. But in reality, a lot has taken place since then. You’ve all done so much,” Dr. El-Rewini said. “Think back, reflect on those moments, let them sink in. Every one of you can look in the mirror and tell yourself, ‘I’ve accomplished something really great.’”
Dr. El-Rewini also announced the inaugural recipient of the MU Distinguished Professor honor, which was awarded to Dr. Diane Murphy, Director of Marymount’s School of Technology and Innovation.
Serving as guest speaker for the College of BILT ceremony was Michael K. Powell, former Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from 2001 to 2005 and the son of the late General Colin Powell, who was also an honorary alumnus of Marymount and a commencement speaker at the University in 2006. In his current role as President and CEO of NCTA – The Internet & Television Association, he leads one of the largest trade associations in Washington, D.C., representing the communications and content industries.
“Life is more random than you have been taught to expect. You’re not in full control of what will happen to you. You may not be able to make your own luck, but you’re not just dust in the wind,” Powell told the commencement audience. “My dad used to say, ‘opportunity knocks for everyone, but not everyone has their bags packed when the door opens.’ You should be prepared to seize the moment when that door does swing open.”
On Saturday, 260 students received degrees during the Commencement ceremony for the College of Sciences and Humanities, consisting of Saints who studied majors in the humanities, science, mathematics and engineering and social and behavioral sciences. Inspiring these graduates was guest speaker Dr. Edward Bersoff, Chair of the University’s Board of Trustees and a leader in government contracting for more than 50 years. Deeply involved in business, community and professional activities, he was the first Chairman of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, a past Chairman of the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce and a former Director of the Greater Washington Board of Trade. He also was a founder and first Chairman of the Northern Virginia Technology Council, and was appointed by Virginia’s governor to serve on the Board of the Virginia 529 College Savings Plan.
“I know that as fresh college graduates, it seems a bit early to think about your purpose,” Dr. Bersoff told the members of Marymount’s Class of 2023. “But it’s not enough to say that you want to study science, economics or psychology. Why do you want to engage in those pursuits? How will you use what you have learned to improve your life, or more importantly the lives of others? Purpose, purpose, purpose – that is the cornerstone of your existence and your future success as a contributing member of society.”
The third and final Commencement ceremony of the weekend was for the College of Health and Education, as 438 undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students earned degrees on Sunday in fields such as Nursing, Health Sciences, Counseling and Education. Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a well-respected expert on the value of testing and treatment of deadly viruses and the daughter of Dr. Bersoff, gave these new graduates her words of wisdom as the invited guest speaker for the ceremony. She worked on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic as she conducted research on vaccine delivery and created strategies to reach underserved communities. She is also an influential scholar, with her pioneering research helping advance the national and global response to HIV/AIDS.
“You are entering your profession with so much opportunity ahead. The public is paying close attention to all we do, and all we say. Never in our history have our voices been so mightily important,” Dr. Walensky said during her speech. “You and I are fortunate to be living in such an exciting time, where great work and meaningful change for people of all communities and of all backgrounds can happen not by accident but because of your devotion – because you use your voice and it rings clear. Keep your voice strong, consistent, compassionate – be courageous, and never give up.”
To watch livestreams of each of the three Class of 2023 commencement ceremonies, click here.