At Commencement, Close to 700 Graduates Reminded to Embrace Who They Are and The ‘Golden Moments’

Tuesday, May 21, 2019
Students at the 2019 Commencement ceremony

The years spent in college are ones of change, of learning new things, of taking new chances, and of earning new perspectives on life as well as new skills for the resume.

Saturday’s commencement ceremony was a chance to showcase the varied transformations that have taken place for the close to 700 students during their tenure at Rockhurst University. By reflecting on their own experiences, the two commencement speakers — undergraduate student representative Veronica Clay and graduate student speaker Elhonei Alemu — found some words of wisdom for their fellow graduates.

Clay said for a while after enrolling at Rockhurst, she felt a little like an outsider — because she was a transfer student, because she was a first-generation student, because she was a student of color. Quickly, she said, she found a community of faculty, staff and fellow students ready to embrace her and encourage her to use her gifts until what had made her feel self-conscious instead gave her power.

“I began embracing my idiosyncrasies, my grown-man laugh and the fact that I do a happy dance before I eat, and the complexity of my story, because it is mine alone and nobody else can tell it for me,” she said.

Clay advised students to embrace the outsider, embrace the power of being an outsider, and to use their privilege as college graduates to make the world a better place for all.

Alemu said she knew that she had chosen the right path when she stepped on campus for the first time as part of the Master of Occupational Therapy program at Rockhurst. And as someone who had already earned an undergraduate degree, she knew the type of work she would have to put in to succeed. When the stress would wear on her, she said, she found motivation and inspiration in the work she was doing and the people who were working around her. Every research project, every service opportunity, every study session with her cohort or meeting with her faculty gave her strength.

“And as you walk along your next journey to success, I want to encourage you to continue looking for those golden moments of reassurance and inspiration that will keep you going until you reach the end, again,” she said.

Also during the ceremony, the University named the winners of its Senior Class Gold Medal, awarded to the graduating student with the highest cumulative grade point average among the class. This year, there was a five-way tie for the honor — Veronica Clay, Alec Garcia, Kaci German, Elizabeth Lynch, and Madeline Russell.

Find photos from the commencement ceremony and the Hawk Walk celebration here.