The annual March Through the Arches, undergraduate and graduate commencement ceremonies bring the St. Thomas community together to recognize the accomplishments of the Class of 2019. Sights and Sounds highlight some of the many thoughts, experiences and memories from the year’s biggest celebration of Tommies.Thousands of family, friends and St. Thomas community members gathered on a gorgeous Saturday to celebrate the commencement of the Class of 2019, 1,400 undergraduate students strong.
“Graduates, the entire St. Thomas community shares your pride on this special day. This is my favorite day of the year!” President Julie Sullivan said. “It is the day we celebrate all you have accomplished and all you have become, as well as look forward with great excitement and anticipation to the next leg of your journeys. Like the thousands of Tommies before you making their marks on the world, you will as well. We are confident that you have completed your studies well prepared for your future journeys and committed to advancing the common good. Today we wish you much happiness and the heartiest ‘Godspeed!’ And we promise a warm ‘welcome home’ whenever you return to your alma mater.”
Student speaker Abby Heller spoke to classmates about power and change.
“We need to start by acknowledging our power and privilege. Fewer than 8 percent of the world has access to a bachelor’s degree. … How will we use this power, and how will we use this privilege?” Heller asked classmates, going on to quote St. Catherine of Sienna. “‘Be who God has meant you to be and set the world on fire.’ I love this quote. Each of us is unique, and powerful and amazing. But also dangerous. Fire’s dangerous. … With fire we can burn the wrong thing, and that’s when people get hurt. … When we set the world on fire, we have to be smart about it.”
The Rev. Gregory Boyle, S.J., founder of Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles, delivered the commencement address and spoke about those who live on the margins.
“What Martin Luther King says about church could well be said about your time at St. Thomas: ‘It’s not the place you come to, it’s the place you come from,'” Boyle said. “You go from here to imagine a circle a circle of compassion, and imagine no one outside that circle. You go from St. Thomas to dismantle those barriers that exclude. That lands you at the margins; that’s the only way they ever get erased. … You stand with the widow, orphan and stranger, because God tells us we have a special care for them. These are the folks who know what it is to be cut off. … They happen to be our trustworthy guides to lead the rest of us to the kinship of God.”
“Tommies forever,” Boyle concluded. “God bless you, Class of 2019.”
Many people reflected on commencement day, what it means to complete their undergraduate education and go forward into the world as alumni.
“I’ve really loved my time here at St. Thomas. I’ve grown like never before and it has prepared me well for the next chapter of my life.” – Henry Koler, who will be attending Stanford Law School in the fall.
“We made it! It’s still a little surreal. I’m from out of state [in Illinois], so it’s been really nice to build a family and a home away from home here in the physics department.” – Michael Peters, who will be attending graduate school for physics and plans to be a high school teacher
“It’s amazing. All the late nights and homework paid off. … It’s joy, definitely joy I’m feeling today. It’s really a dedication to my parents. They’ve always supported me and this is like a thank you to them. … I’m only here today because of you.” – Taro Vue, who will continue working at his current job at Delcorp after graduating
“I’m just excited today. I can’t believe how fast four years go by. Today is a lot of hard working paying off.” – Brianna Byrnes, who will soon begin work at U.S. Bancorp
“I’m definitely contemplative this morning. I’m a little nervous, but very happy to start writing the next chapter of my life. … Overall it’s nothing but good memories here.” – Zachary Branum, who will be going to teach in Point Hope, Alaska
“I’m so excited. I was able to bring both my grandparents to campus for the first time today, and I’m their first grandchild to graduate. So it’s pretty special for all of us.” – Kaitlyn Janson, who will be going to graduate school for marriage and family counseling
“It’s all hitting me now this morning. When I put on my robe and cap it was like, ‘Woah. This is happening.'” – Kori Remer
“We’re very proud. He’s moving on to the next stage of his life, getting ready to take the MCAT. He wants to be a hand surgeon, so this wouldn’t be his last commencement ceremony.” – Steve Tri, godfather of electrical engineering major Jason Tri
“It hasn’t really set in yet, even. … I’m proud of what I’ve done here and happy to be moving on to the next stage of life.” – Marketing major Teagan Thostenson