On what turned out to be a beautiful, sunny Sunday, the Dougherty Family College held commencement on May 23 for its third set of graduates, the Class of 2021. The event, held socially distanced on O’Shaughnessy field, also recognized graduates of the Class of 2020 whose in-person ceremony was postponed last year due to the pandemic.

“Our scholars had to endure a global pandemic, racial and social unrest in our state and nation, but through it all they persevered, they were determined, worked hard and earned their degrees,” said DFC Interim Dean Dr. Buffy Smith. “They’re here today as a testimony of all their hard work and labor, but they did not accomplish this major milestone alone. Oh no. They had a village.”

Smith recognized that the members of this village who helped them achieve this goal include all the scholars’ loved ones who supported and encouraged them, as well as staff, faculty, board members, partners and Friends of DFC.

Interim Dean of the Dougherty Family College Buffy Smith speaks to students during the Dougherty Family College commencement ceremony. Liam James Doyle/University of St. Thomas

Interim Dean of the Dougherty Family College Buffy Smith speaks to students during the Dougherty Family College commencement ceremony. Liam James Doyle/University of St. Thomas

“The dual pandemics of racism and COVID-19 have been very real in our community,” said St. Thomas President Dr. Julie Sullivan. In speaking to the students ahead of handing out diplomas, Sullivan acknowledged to the students that “Through it all, you worked with an unwavering commitment for justice and you demonstrated perseverance, resilience, kindness and grace, and probably discovered new capacities for all of those traits. And we couldn’t be more grateful to you and to your families, because you truly embody the meaning of ‘the common good.’”

Among the Class of 2021 candidates receiving their associates degree were 10 scholars who also received a Continuing Excellence Scholarship for full tuition to continue their studies at St. Thomas to obtain a bachelor’s degree. Made possible through the generous donations of the Ryan/Sterbenz Estate and Gene and Mary Frey, the scholarships were awarded to Roman Adhikari, Rashi Ambers-Winston, Lisan Hasnain, Asha Horsa, Janette Mendoza, Nataly Valencia Orozco, Aiesha Osman, Alonso Ruiz-Cota, Rose Say and Khadra Sharif.

Osman was the chosen commencement speaker, introduced to the crowd by Associate Dean of Students Dr. Doug Thompson.

Osman said, “I never realized I had a voice that could be used to make a positive impact. I realize that attending DFC was one of the most transformational experiences in my life. Not only did I gain a lot of knowledge, I have been able to apply the information beyond academia.  I developed leadership and communication skills – while also learning how to think critically and to use my own voice.”

She credits her amazing professors, faculty and fellow DFC students.

Commencement speaker Aiesha Osman speaks to her fellow students during the Dougherty Family College commencement ceremony. Liam James Doyle/University of St. Thomas

Commencement speaker Aiesha Osman addresses her fellow students during the Dougherty Family College commencement ceremony. Liam James Doyle/University of St. Thomas

“With all that was going on we still made the decision to attend class — and attending class online was not easy, but we have persevered through it all and here we are today,” Osman said. “I am proud of us and how far we have come I know we will continue to strive toward greatness.”

Sullivan said, “We celebrate all you have accomplished and all you have become, and we look forward with great anticipation to all that awaits you. We have great, great dreams for your future, as I know your family and friends and you do as well. For we are waiting for the world you will create and lead.”

Father Chris Collins, the incoming vice president for mission, who gave the invocation at the start of the ceremony, said, “We come together on this beautiful day to give thanks to the faculty staff and loved ones who have supported them and made this milestone in their lives possible. And so we ask you to especially bless these graduates as they commence in the next phases of their lives so that they might use the knowledge, skills and wisdom they have cultivated here to contribute to the common good of all of our brothers and sisters.”

 

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