Grads empowered to move into the world and use their voice to effect change

The essence of spring ushered in a new wave of graduates during Carlow University's commencement May 11, where more than 400 students received bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees.

President Suzanne K. Mellon, PhD, saluted their accomplishments, acknowledging them as part of the more than 16,000 sons and daughters of Carlow University.

Commencement day began with a baccalaureate Mass at St. Paul Cathedral, Oakland, celebrated by Father Mark A. Thomas, university chaplain. He reminded those in attendance to use the gifts they've been given and the education they received to help others and extend mercy and compassion.

"A person of faith who is fully engrossed in doing God's work has found the pearl of great price," Father Thomas said. "God has empowered us through his mighty presence in us."

Commencement was held in Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum and nearly filled to capacity.

Elevating the courageous seven Sisters of Mercy who founded the university nearly 90 years ago, Mellon told graduates that this risk taking and entrepreneurial spirit has striking relevance in our time of rapid change, turbulence, and political and civil unrest.

"You're entering a world that will need strong leaders," she said, before offering four take-away messages: keep learning with the lens and strength of character and values Carlow University is built upon; make a difference in the world that improves the lives of those around you; be risk-takers, like the Sisters of Mercy who founded the university; and be kind, compassionate and caring.

"The world is surely in need of that more than ever," Mellon said.

Student speaker Yazmin Bennett-Kelly '19, BA in English and secondary education and recipient of the 2019 Joseph G. Smith Award, drew from the university's hallmark investment in social justice by recalling the time in her life when she saw only hopelessness, gender wage gaps and mass incarceration, only to realize that she could, in fact, make a difference through the type of values and mission espoused by Carlow University.

"Carlow's values of discovery and service resonated with me," Bennett-Kelly said.

Today she sees activists who serve as change-makers, offering people power and hope. And she implored the graduates to work together to promote the much-needed change in the world and to depart with a sense of urgency to use their power and voice to plant life-giving seeds.

"Never underestimate the power of your voice," Bennett-Kelly said. 

By Elizabeth Fazzini