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“You Have Not Backed Down Yet”

May 14, 2019

Congressman Joseph Kennedy III addressed the Lasell College community at Commencement on Saturday, May 11, as the ceremony's keynote speaker and honorary degree recipient.

"Instead of advice, I stand here with a challenge: embrace change ..." he said. "Don't fear it, don't run from it, and don't back down. You have come of age in one of the most tumultuous periods in our nation's history and you have not backed down yet."

Congressman Joseph Kennedy III at Lasell College Commencement

Kennedy was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters by the College. The College awarded 421 bachelor's degrees and 198 master's degrees - an all-time record. Alongside the graduates were members of the Class of 1969, who joined the processional as part of their 50th reunion weekend.

Lasell College Class of 1969 at 2019 Commencement

Kennedy's remarks were preceded by those from President Michael B. Alexander, undergraduate student speaker Rebecca Van Spall-Hood, and graduate student speaker Alexis Smith.

"Commencement by the very word, meaning a beginning, invites us to look forward," said President Alexander. "But I ask you to take one moment to look back at how you have grown together, at the lives you have shared, and recognize what your Lasell experience has done for you."

President Michael B. Alexander addresses the audience at Lasell College's Commencement in 2019

Van Spall-Hood similarly asked her peers to reflect on their academic and personal journeys.

"Let us reflect on our leadership as it reaches a pivotal moment today ... Though those choices looked different for everyone, I would argue that in every one of us there is a leader, and in every one of us there is opportunity to become a better leader than we were yesterday," she said.

Undergraduate Student Speaker Rebecca Van Spall-Hood addresses fellow graduates at Lasell College Commencement in 2019

Smith urged her colleagues to remain present and resilient, especially when things don't go as planned.

"If your plans don't work, make new ones. If you feel you're at a loss, change your perspective to see it as open space to create possibilities," she said. "Achievers reject rejection ... see failure as temporary ... and bounce back. The Lasell College motto is Repulsae Nescia, Ignorant of Defeat," she said. "So as a Lasell College graduate, you are part of over 150 years of ... a legacy that resists, opposes, and conquers defeat. Walk in your legacy!"

Graduate Student Speaker Alexis Smith addresses colleagues at Lasell College Commencement in 2019

Additional accolades presented at the ceremony included the Joan Howe Weber '51 Professional Development Grant to Assistant Professor of History Laura Commins and Assistant Professor of Mathematics Elyssa Miller. The Thomas E.J. de Witt Awards for Excellence in Educational Leadership were awarded to Professor and Program Director of Fashion Lynn Blake and Assistant Director of Student Activities Sarah Richardson. 

Professor Lynn Blake receives the Thomas E.J. de Witt Award for Excellence in Educational Leadership
Assistant Director of Student Activities Sarah Richardson receives the Thomas E.J. de Witt Award for Excellence in Educational Leadership

Photos by John Gillooly/Professional Event Images