AMHERST, Mass. – At the undergraduate commencement ceremony at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, US Congressman Jim McGovern called on the Class of 2022 to believe in democracy in today’s perilous times. The chairman of the House Rules Committee, who was one of the last people to evacuate the House when the US Capitol was attacked by a violent mob on January 6, 2021, warned that without such a commitment “it is no longer safe to assume your right to vote will be pretty much the next time you want to use it.
Check out the full UMass Commencement 2022 website.
McGovern delivered the keynote address as about 20,000 family, friends and other guests cheered on a graduating class of about 7,000 in bright sunshine and warm temperatures at McGuirk Alumni Stadium.
McGovern, who represents Massachusetts’ 2nd District, said, “I won’t tell you what to believe, but I will tell you that you have been given an incredible gift: a world-class education. My question for you now is, what are you going to do with it? What are you going to do for democracy?
He said, “I ask you to remember that part of a meaningful life is being part of a community. And give back to this community. It will be tempting to let someone else do the work… to step back, give up and say “it’s not my problem”. But if democracy just means leaving it to someone else, then our country won’t work for you. It will work for fewer and fewer people. It will work for those willing to rig the system to overturn the election. I therefore ask each of you, all of you, not to renounce democracy.
UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy chaired the ceremony and Marty Meehan, President of UMass degrees conferred on graduates.
Subbaswamy said, “You did it! Whatever it takes! Social distancing. Masking. Zoom on the courses. Asymptomatic testing. Perhaps symptomatic tests. Vaccinate. Then more vaccinating. You have simultaneously navigated through a once-in-a-century global pandemic while successfully completing the rigorous requirements of your UMass degree. Your perseverance and ingenuity over the past two years is incredible.
The Chancellor observed: “So many of our national and global challenges are fueled by polarization – and the resulting walls, built between opposing viewpoints, undermine our ability to find common ground and forge solutions. To break down those walls, he cited the wisdom of the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who shared this advice from his father: “Don’t raise your voice, improve your argument.
The student lecturer was Emilie Przybylaa biology major from Ellicott City, Md. Przybyla plans to move to Boston after graduation and apply for physician assistant programs.
Przybyla spoke about the historic moments she and her classmates witnessed during their four years at UMass – the murder of George Floyd, the Me Too movement, and the deaths of legends such as Kobe Bryant and Ruth Bader Ginsburg . She also spoke, often humorously, about the impact of COVID-19 on college life, including living at home with her parents while doing remote learning. But she also mentioned the drama of the pandemic.
“We cherished those humorous moments because so many of us walked hand in hand with grief. We heard the stories: a classmate who didn’t know if he would be able to afford to finish school; a colleague whose family has collapsed; a friend whose father has passed away,” she said. “Some of us are saving places for people who couldn’t be here today. between us are saving a place for someone who should have been here today.
“Every graduate in this room here has faced challenges that we could never have imagined,” she said. “We faced pain, struggle and loss. But we have not and will not let these challenges bring us down. We defeated them, and today we honor that battle. Our diploma isn’t just a piece of paper to hang on the wall, it’s a testament to our resilience and success. He says, ‘I did. I did not let these obstacles bring me down and I will continue to overcome whatever life throws at me.
Three honorary degrees awarded
Jerome M. Paros, an internationally renowned innovator and leader in the field of geophysical measurements, was awarded an honorary doctorate of science. A member of the UMass Amherst Class of 1960, Paros holds more than 50 patents and is the author of numerous papers and articles on scientific instrumentation. Paros is the Founder, Chairman and President of Paroscientific, Inc., Quartz Seismic Sensors, Inc. and related companies that use the revolutionary quartz crystal resonator technology he developed to measure pressure, acceleration, temperature, weight and other parameters. Paros received his undergraduate degree in physics from UMass Amherst and his graduate degree in physics from Columbia University. A visionary philanthropist, he has supported science and education with endowments at several institutions, including the Paros Center for Atmospheric Research, endowed chairs and fellowships at UMass.
Justice Albie Sachs received an honorary doctorate of laws. Sachs is known for his efforts to extend democratic freedom to all South Africans. He began practicing law at age 21 and his human rights advocacy involved defending people accused under racist apartheid statutes and repressive security laws. Many were sentenced to death and Sachs was targeted by security police and placed in solitary confinement for 168 days without trial. His book, “The Jail Diary of Albie Sachs” was dramatized for the Royal Shakespeare Company and later broadcast by the BBC. During the 1980s, Sachs worked with exiled African National Congress (ANC) leader Oliver Tambo. He helped draft the ANC’s code of conduct and statutes. In 1990, he returned home and participated in the negotiations that led South Africa to become a constitutional democracy. In 1994, he was appointed by President Nelson Mandela to serve on the newly created Constitutional Court, where he helped abolish the death penalty, allow prisoners to vote and same-sex couples to marry. Sachs has written and lectured extensively on constitutionalism, human rights, and healing divided societies. He is internationally recognized for his work in favor of human rights. His many accolades include the prestigious Tang Prize in the Rules of Law in 2014, the Ford’s Theater Lincoln Medal in 2010 and the French Legion of Honor in 2021.
Receiving an honorary doctorate from the civil service was Marcellette G. Williams, the first woman to lead UMass Amherst as chancellor, assuming the position in 2001. In addition to stabilizing the campus through the trauma of 9/11, Williams led the campus through one of its pressured times. most difficult budgets, which involved program cuts and administrative reorganization. Throughout his tenure and while emphasizing the full mission of the university, Williams advocated for the importance of community collaboration, interdisciplinary understanding, and human empowerment. Its educational philosophy emphasized “living values” and the creation of a learning environment through the integration of knowledge and scholarship. She has taught and also consulted throughout Asia, Europe and Africa, served on numerous boards and held local, state, regional, national and international positions. She retired in 2019 after 50 years of distinguished service as an influential champion of higher education at two of America’s top land-grant universities – Michigan State University and UMass Amherst.
21st century leaders
Ten graduates have been honored as 21st Century Leaders for their far-reaching achievements, initiative and social awareness, and a number of them are Commonwealth Honors College (CHC) students. They are: J.asmine bogle from Queen Creek, Arizona, with a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering; Elodie Carel of Wayland, a CHC student who earned a degree in psychology and a bachelor’s degree with individual concentration in disability studies; Julia Pierre Renard from Southwick, a CHC student with a double degree in political science and environmental science; Zachary James Glanz from Sharon with a BA in Middle Eastern Studies with a minor in Chinese Language and Literature; Jacqueline Victoria Grundfast from Warwick, NY, a CHC student, receiving dual degrees: a bachelor’s degree with individual concentration in biomedical ethics and policy and a degree in psychology, in addition to a minor in business; Alanna Joachim de Groveland, a CHC student with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and a minor in engineering management from the Isenberg School of Management; Sarah Kaunfer from Wrentham, a CHC student with a bachelor’s degree in microbiology; Kanon Kobata from Saitama, Japan, with a bachelor’s degree in food science and a second bachelor’s degree in individual concentration in sustainable food business; Adam Maciej Lechowicz from Bridgewater, a CHC student, who earned a dual degree in computer science and political science; and Obinnaya Okereke of Marblehead with a bachelor’s degree in public health.
Jack Welch Scholars
Two senior graduates were recognized at the launch ceremony for their leadership and executive abilities as Jack Welch Scholars. Zachary Evan Carter from Northborough majored in operations and information management; and Raveena Dookhana Franklin CHC student, who earned a degree in biomedical engineering and minors in engineering management and math.