Courtesy of Liz Friden
By John Connolly
Under a blazing sun and a few clouds, the Catholic University of America held its 129th Commencement Ceremony on the east steps of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. A total of 1,627 degrees were given from twelve academic schools, including seven honorary degrees.
The academic procession began at 9:30 AM led by Philosophy professor Thérèse-Anne Druart, who carried the University Mace. Undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral students, as well as members of the CUA faculty and the Board of Trustees processed from McMahon Hall across to the University Mall. Roughly 16,000 seats had been set up for them and their families.
“We’ve been preparing for about three months,” said Steve Kreider, the Director of the Office of Campus Activities, who oversaw the ceremony. Kreider led a team of nearly 50 student and 30 staff volunteers who worked the event. PJ Connolly, a rising senior who served as a student volunteer, felt that his involvement with commencement had benefits.
“It’s a lot of work, but it’s very rewarding,” Connolly said. “It’s a great way to see your friends who are graduating and their families on this special day.”
The weather proved favorable for the outside ceremony, with temperatures in the mid-70s and few clouds. Last year’s commencement was altered due to rainy weather, causing the main ceremony to occur in the Upper Church of the Basilica.
Following the invocation by the University Chancellor, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, honorary degrees were given. Toufic Baaklini, President of In Defense of Christians, Dina Katabi of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Maria Suarez Hamm a family advocate, Rafat Mahood, founder of Mahood Investment Corporation, and José Gomez, Archbishop of Los Angeles, all received honorary doctorates. Archbishop Gomez delivered the commencement address, which focused on building a “new American story.” This speech was in line with his views on immigration reform and his Catholic faith.
“My prayer to you is that you will write a story that is filled with goodness, love, and sacrifice; with prayer and giving thanks for simple gifts. I pray that you will always seek to know what is right- and have the courage to do it,” Gomez said.
University President John Garvey offered parting words to the graduates. Speaking on leaving the familiar surroundings of the CUA community, Garvey encouraged graduates to embrace strangers. “Don’t turn people away because they look different from your old friends,” said Garvey, who urged the audience to practice hospitality.
Graduates showed their excitement when their schools were announced. Graduates of the Nursing School threw confetti and twirled their stethoscopes as they heard the name of their school. Of the over 1,600 degrees earned, 696 were given to undergraduate students. The university gave degrees to 675 master’s students and 120 doctoral students.
Graduate of the School of Music, Quoc Tran left some parting advice for incoming freshmen.
“Pave your own path. There are specific courses that you need to take and do, but make sure that you stay true to yourself and do what you love because that what is going to make you get the most out of your education here.”
Following the main commencement ceremony, each of the academic schools held diploma distribution ceremonies across Catholic University’s campus. The Columbus School of Law will hold its commencement ceremony on Friday, May 25, in the Upper Church of the Basilica.
Editor in Chief Liz Friden contributed to this story