Commencement: UMass grads met the challenges

View Photo Gallery
  • About 900 socially distanced students applaud UMass Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy from the floor of Warren T. McGuirk Stadium as he welcomed them to the school’s 151st commencement exercises on Friday. The noon event was the second of four ceremonies for undergraduates held at the venue Friday. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Madeleine Conway, foreground, of Manchester, graduating from the University of Massachusetts Amherst College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, looks to the sky as some graduates throw their caps into the air at the conclusion of the school's 151st commencement exercises held at Warren T. McGuirk Alumni Stadium on Friday, May 14, 2021. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Rachel Sweeney, center, of North Attleboro chats with friends before receiving her College of Humanities and Fine Arts degree at The University of Massachusetts Amherst's 151st commencement exercises held at Warren T. McGuirk Alumni Stadium on Friday, May 14, 2021. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • University of Massachusetts Amherst men’s ice hockey coach Greg Carvel delivers his address to about 900 undergraduates taking part in the noon commencement exercises held at Warren T. McGuirk Alumni Stadium on Friday, May 14, 2021. The noon ceremony was the second of four similar events on Friday. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Friends Gabby Goralzcyk, left, of Montgomery, Claudia Labelle of Connecticut and Devin Callaghan of Westfield wave to friends and family in the west stands of Warren T. McGuirk Alumni Stadium before the start of the University of Massachusetts Amherst's 151st commencement exercises held on Friday, May 14, 2021. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Joanna Buoniconti, center, of West Springfield was one of ten members of the University of Massachusetts Amherst class of 2021 honored as 21st Century Leaders at the school's 151st commencement on Friday, May 14, 2021. The Commonwealth Honors College student is joined on the stage at Warren T. McGuirk Stadium by Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy, left, and Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs John McCarthy. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Sarah Rose Stack of Agawam gives the student address at the University of Massachusetts Amherst's noon undergraduate commencement held at Warren T. McGuirk Alumni Stadium on Friday, May 14, 2021. The noon ceremony was the second of four similar events on Friday, each with its own student speaker. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • University of Massachusetts Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy applauds about 900 soon-to-be graduates during the second of four similar undergraduate commencement exercises held at Warren T. McGuirk Alumni Stadium on Friday, May 14, 2021. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • UMass men’s ice hockey coach Greg Carvel delivers his address to the noon commencement exercises Friday at McGuirk Stadium. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • University of Massachusetts Amherst graduates celebrate the end of their commencement exercises Friday at Warren T. McGuirk Alumni Stadium. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Madeleine Conway of Manchester, graduating from the University of Massachusetts Amherst College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, turns her tassle to the left at the conclusion of the school's 151st commencement exercises held at Warren T. McGuirk Alumni Stadium on Friday, May 14, 2021. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 5/14/2021 8:42:30 PM

AMHERST — It was a year marked by both a global pandemic and an ice hockey national championship, and both got plenty of references at the noon commencement ceremony for graduates of the University of Massachusetts Amherst on Friday — one of four held during the day as the traditional mass graduation ceremony was broken up into smaller events to accommodate pandemic safety protocols.

“This past year has reaffirmed for me how truly special our UMass Amherst community is,” said UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy. “How through all the interruptions, inconveniences, and absolute unfairness, our collective empathy still reigns.”

The noon ceremony, like the other three, was held outdoors at McGuirk Alumni Stadium in sunny weather, with the graduating students sitting in chairs on the field and loved ones watching from the stands. Graduating were students of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, the College of Humanities and Fine Arts, and the College of Education.

The pandemic made for a school year like no other for the students, and multiple speakers cited the challenges.

“You didn’t let distance stop you from learning. You didn’t let disconnection interfere with growth. And you didn’t let disappointment deter you from happiness,” the chancellor said.

Sarah Rose Stack of Agawam was the student speaker at the noon ceremony, which was the second of the day. She shared her experience growing up as one of three children of a single mother, and of having her first child with her partner during her UMass experience.

“I was determined to do what others said that I would not be able to do: I would graduate,” she said.

After finding out in 2006 that she was missing one requirement to graduate, she pivoted to focus on other things such as dancing professionally and raising her family. She returned to UMass last year to complete her degree, crediting the pandemic with giving her the time to do so, and she reminded those in attendance that “life isn’t one directional.”

“Life is a dance,” she said.

Rose Stack, who is looking to create a nonprofit dance and theater company, shared her perspective on life and learning.

“You are never at your destination. You’re never done learning. And you’re never too old to try something new,” she said.

The commencement speech was given by men’s hockey coach Greg Carvel, who this year led the university team to its first NCAA Division I ice hockey championship.

“A hockey coach giving your commencement speech is the cherry on top of a pandemic senior year. For this I am sorry,” the coach joked.

Carvel noted that past commencement speakers have included U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Gov. Charlie Baker and CNN anchor Jake Tapper.

“If all four of us were on the stage right now, I’d obviously stand out like a sore thumb,” Carvel said. “[The] reason being I’d be the only one with a UMass degree and the only national champion.”

In his speech, Carvel paid tribute to his late father-in-law, Edmund Gettier, an accomplished former professor of philosophy at UMass who came up with “The Gettier Problem,” a famous philosophical problem that is widely studied. And he described both himself and Gettier as common men “able to accomplish something uncommon for the betterment of our university.”

“We are not an elitist community,” Carvel said. “We are a community of common people striving to do exceptional things.”

Carvel also repeatedly quoted German author Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, and noted the similarity between some of Goethe’s quotes and how the hockey program is run. When asked how he planned to turn the program around when he took over five years ago, he answered simply, “relationships.” “Love does not dominate, it cultivates,” he said, quoting the author.

During his remarks, one female student repeatedly and enthusiastically swore in support of some of Carvel’s statements.

“I’m glad we brought this girl today,” Carvel said in appreciation after one such outburst.

After the conclusion of the ceremony, a number of students who were interviewed expressed appreciation for their time at UMass.

“I love it here,” said Gilberto Torres. “Great experience.”

Torres graduated with a degree in sociology and will attend the University of Connecticut for graduate school in its social work program. He also played running back on the UMass football team, and will be a grad transfer at UConn.

“It was a turbulent four years, but I feel very happy that the commencement actually happened,” said Ryan Pierre.

A double major in economics and psychology from Stoughton, Pierre said he felt proud of how the UMass community handled the pandemic. Pierre said he’s looking to go into pharmaceutical sales.

Edan Kamara got his degree in communications and anthropology. He described finals and ending classes as “anticlimactic,” noting that he did them in his room, but he said that he appreciated being able to have an in-person ceremony.

“This area also very much became like a second home,” said Kamara, who originally hails from Teaneck, New Jersey.

Kamara’s parents got to see him graduate on Friday, and his father, Vic Kamara, said that they loved getting to visit him in western Massachusetts.

“We just want him to make the most out of what he’s learned here and continue on the journey,” said Alyse Smerka, Kamara’s mother.

Kamara is their first child to graduate college.

Shannon McCann of Suffolk County in Long Island, New York, said that she “had a great experience, but I’m ready to graduate.”

McCann, who got her degree in political science and public health, described the last year as a tough one mentally and in general, but also noted that it “could have been worse.”

“I’m alive, I’m healthy and I’m graduating college,” she said.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.




Daily Hampshire Gazette Office

115 Conz Street
Northampton, MA 01061
413-584-5000

 

Copyright © 2020 by H.S. Gere & Sons, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy