Keynote speaker Timothy Shriver.
Springfield College hosted its 130th undergraduate commencement ceremony on Sunday, May 15, at the MassMutual Center in Springfield. Timothy Shriver, chairman of the Special Olympics, delivered the commencement address to graduating students.
“Let me share one special message with you Class of 2016, and that is thank you,” said Shriver, who was joined by members of the Special Olympics of Greater Springfield team athletes and coaches at the ceremony. “Thank you on behalf of almost five million Special Olympic athletes around the world who compete in roughly 90,000 games each year run mostly by volunteers. And thank you on behalf of all the Special Olympics athletes in this great state of Massachusetts.”
Springfield College has a long-standing relationship with the Special Olympics hosting the Special Olympics Massachusetts Qualifying Volleyball Tournament the previous five years at Blake Arena. Students in the Springfield College Sport Management and Recreation Department run the event.
“We continue to strive at the Special Olympics in large part because the students at Springfield College continue to live the Humanics philosophy,” said Shriver. “We saw it before this ceremony when the students of Springfield College made sure they stopped to take photos with the Special Olympic athletes who are in attendance today. You can tell, the students truly live the Humanics philosophy.”
Shriver has served as an advocate at the national and international levels to accumulate support for issues of concern to the Special Olympics Community. He has done the same thing in the film world, co-producing Disney Studios’ The Loretta Claiborne Story, and serving as executive producer of the films The Ringer and Front of the Class. In this pursuit, Shriver also wrote a book detailing his experiences working with individuals with intellectual disabilities, and how they have inspired him, titled Fully Alive: Discovering What Matters Most.
Prior to becoming part of the Special Olympics team, Shriver co-founded, and still serves as chair for, the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, a leading research organization dedicated to the field of social and emotional learning.
“Graduates, the curriculum now shifts, it is unity or division,” added Shriver. “The subject is not what you need to know, but why you are here. Don’t wait to take the course of why you are here. You will not pass it with the obvious answers. Your purpose isn’t money or toys, or beauty or power. They all help, but they will not answer your why. That’s the big question, why are you here. For unity or division?”
Shriver has earned numerous awards for his labor, including the Medal of the City of Athens, Greece; the U.S. Surgeon General’s Medallion; the Quincy Jones Humanitarian Award; and the Children’s Hospital Health System’s Friend of Children Award. He also was recognized, in 2011, by The Huffington Post as one of the top 100 Game Changers.
“The syllabus is now your life,” said Shriver. “Every sunrise is a quiz. Every person you meet is a new reading. Please try not to judge that reading by the cover. Every moment of sadness is the opportunity to go back and talk to the professor. I ask you again, as you take this course, choose unity. When in doubt, think back to the Special Olympics athlete. Remember the message, winning is not about who you beat in that race, but how you run and who you take with you.”
Joining Shriver on stage was long-time Springfield College Trustee Douglass L. Coupe, who received an honorary Doctor of Humanics degree, from the College. Coupe has served more than 20 years as a Trustee of Springfield College, including chair of the Board from 2011 through 2015, and secretary of the Board from 2008 through 2011. He also has worked on two Springfield College presidential search committees.
Retired president and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Houston Clark Baker received the 2016 Springfield College Humanics Achievement Award as part of the undergraduate Commencement ceremony. Clark has led Houston’s YMCAs through tremendous growth, increasing the budget from $67 to $118 million and expanding the Y’s capacity from 28 centers to 37. That evolution led to the YMCA of Greater Houston serving 650,000 people annually to now reaching more than 1,000,000 people per year. Baker’s dedication to the YMCA has strengthened communities, brought people together, and spread good throughout the YMCA movement and beyond.
The Springfield College Humanics Achievement Award recognizes an individual or group who has exhibited courage in the face of adversity, demonstrated leadership in service to others, advanced diversity and inclusion, served as a champion for the oppressed, furthered education in spirit, mind, and body, or contributed significantly to the understanding of the universe.
Convening the ceremony was Springfield College Board of Trustees chair, Gregory C. Toczydlowski, who introduced the 13th president of Springfield College, Mary-Beth Cooper.
“To the Class of 2016, I say congratulations and thank you,” said Cooper. “You have made us proud in more ways than we can count. Please remember to stay connected to us and to each other. Through the Springfield College network, great things can be accomplished. All the best as you continue your journeys.”
Springfield College School of Professional and Continuing Studies student, Jacqueline Ortiz Miller, was the student speaker at the undergraduate ceremony.
On Saturday, May 14, the College held its graduate commencement ceremony where 646 master’s degrees, eight certificates of advanced graduate study, seven doctor of philosophy degrees, 38 doctoral of physical therapy degrees, and five doctor of psychology degrees were awarded. At the undergraduate commencement on Sunday, 915 bachelor’s degrees were awarded for a two-day total of 1619 degrees.