Springfield College hosted its 136th undergraduate commencement ceremony on Sunday, May 15, at the MassMutual Center in Springfield. A long-time champion for social change and equality and sports icon Billie Jean King delivered the 2022 Springfield College Commencement address.
“Class of 2022, you are part of a very special historical legacy at Springfield College,” said King. “I love history, and when you take some time to realize the history you are part of at Springfield College, that is something very special.”
King’s appearance kicks off a year-long celebration at Springfield College of 50 Years of Title IX. The celebration commemorates the anniversary of the landmark federal law signed in 1972 that prohibits gender discrimination in educational programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance.
“Remember, you never understand inclusion until you have been excluded,” added King. “Class of 2022, don’t let others define who you are. Only you define you. Always remember to keep learning, and continue to learn how to learn. Don’t stop being a problem solver, and an innovator.”
During her impressive athletic career, King captured 39 Grand Slam singles, doubles and mixed doubles titles including a record 20 Wimbledon championships. Her historic win over Bobby Riggs in the 1973 Battle of the Sexes, is one of the greatest moments in sports history. Accomplishments that King has used as lessons throughout her life.
“Champions learn how to adjust, and that is what you have all done as members of the Class of 2022,” added King. “We are all stronger together, and I congratulate you all on this amazing accomplishment. Congratulations, and Go Pride.”
As part of her work off the court, King has created new inroads for all genders in sports and beyond during her legendary career and she continues to make her mark today. She is an advocate for LGBTQ rights and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom — the highest civilian honor in the United States — in 2009.
“Welcoming Billie Jean King to Springfield College to address our graduates speaks volumes to the commitment Springfield College has made to equity, inclusion, diversity, and to advancing opportunities for girls and women in sport,” said Dr. Mary-Beth A. Cooper, Springfield College president. “In honoring a pioneer, an advocate, an athlete, and a visionary, we also honor the incredible women and men who have made a difference through education and sport. There is no finer choice to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the passing of Title IX. Billie Jean King represents the best of all that Springfield College values, especially leadership in service to others."
Convening the ceremony was Springfield College Board of Trustees Chair William A. Burke, III, who introduced Cooper.
Springfield College student Lex Blake delivered the student address during the undergraduate ceremony.
“At Springfield College, we have stayed true to our mission during these challenging times,” said Blake. “We learned at Springfield College that all are encouraged to lead. The world needs Springfield College graduates in our community, people who live and work with intention. Class of 2022, continue to love, fight for equity, and provide service for all.”
At the undergraduate commencement, 695 bachelor’s degrees were awarded. Including the degrees awarded at the graduate ceremony, a total of 1,265 degrees were awarded over the two days. At the graduate commencement on Saturday, 570 degrees were awarded.