In a ceremony celebrating academic excellence, determination, faculty and alumni mentorship, and the lasting impact of a liberal arts education, more than 550 St. Lawrence University graduates took part in the University’s Commencement ceremony held on Sunday, May 21 in Newell Fieldhouse.
In her remarks to the Class of 2023, President Kathryn A. Morris commended the newest members of the St. Lawrence alumni network for their perseverance and willingness to immerse themselves in every facet of campus.
Sharing examples of their robust academic pursuits, leadership as athletes and scholars, and resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic, she highlighted the many ways the Class of 2023 has left its mark on St. Lawrence, reminding them that wherever their next journey begins, they are well prepared to lead a future of impact.
“Graduates, individually and as a class, you have much to be proud of. You’ve succeeded in the classroom, completed independent projects, collaborated with faculty on research, scholarship and creative activities, studied abroad and studied away, completed internships, completed community-based learning, served as leaders on campus, and were successful in your athletic endeavors. And now, you are ready to take on the future,” she said.
“The fact that you were successful here in all the ways I described—and that you did that in far from ideal circumstances due to the pandemic that affected your college years, is a testament to the fact that you are ready.”
As a first-generation college student and mentor to many during her 18 years at the University, Ana Estevez, professor of biology and psychology and co-department chair of biology, was selected by President Morris to address the graduating class, marking a new St. Lawrence tradition.
“We know it is the composite of all of your experiences, inside and outside of the classroom, that made you the person about to walk across this stage to receive your degree,” said Estevez. “As you leave campus to pursue your next endeavors, my wish for you is that you continue to enjoy learning. That you continue to work with others in pursuit of meaningful goals. And that you remember the role that mentors played in your success. Perhaps, someday, you will get the same chance that I did to pay it forward.”
Estevez was joined on stage by honorary degree recipient Gina Kingsbury ’04. A three-time Olympic gold medalist and advocate for female athletes, Kingsbury encouraged the Class of 2023 to be authentic, grow, and go forward from St. Lawrence as leaders.
“The ability to be true to yourself is one of the greatest powers you have,” said Kingsbury. “My hope for you is to always stay curious, be driven by marginal gains, and that your pursuit of ‘becoming’ is richly filled by becoming better in all aspects of your life.”
Jacqueline Boutilier ’22 of Baldwinsville, New York received the Trustee Academic Achievement Award, which recognizes the graduate with the highest cumulative grade-point average (GPA). Boutilier, whose final GPA was 4.0 out of a possible 4.0, majored in history and minored in religious studies. The award was announced for the first time during Sunday’s ceremony.
Senior Class President Grace Wagshul, a psychology major and education minor who is a member of both the Psi Chi honor society for psychology and the Chi Alpha Sigma student-athlete honor society, reflected on how learning at St. Lawrence—from the First-Year Program to senior seminars and honors projects, were “never just about the facts” but also about open-mindedness and thinking critically and creatively.
“In a world that is in need of better communication, better understanding, appreciation of, and respect for differences, we are positioned to be part of the solution,” she said. “Our courses here at SLU, and our conversations over meals, in the classrooms and dorms, have taught us about the importance of having tough conversations, about being able to be good listeners, and of being able to disagree with respect for what our peers believe.”
The Joan Donovan Speech Contest award went to Brian Uceta ’23, a performance and communication arts major and first-generation and higher education opportunity program (HEOP) student from New York City. He spoke to attendees about perseverance, seizing opportunity, and celebrating victories, no matter how large or small.
“A college education means different things to different people. To some, it is merely a stepping stone into a successful career that was outlined for them since their conception. To others, it is so much more. It is moving up the social class, it is getting your family out of their circumstances, it is the thing that will guarantee a ticket to what we are told is the 'American dream,’” said Uceta. “As I look around and see the faces in the crowd who resonate with my story, I know I have never been alone. We have never been alone. To my first-generation, Caribbeans, children of immigrant parents, international students, Black students, non-native English speakers, HEOP students, mi gente de la Republica Dominicana, I see you. We are here, we always have been. As I have said before, and I will say it again, we may be lower in number, but we have never been lower in impact.”
The Jeffery H. Boyd Class of ’78 Prize, an award established by the Board of Trustees in 2018 to recognize the overall contributions and exemplary leadership of a graduating senior, was awarded to Charles Reinhardt ’23 who was described as “a creative, kind, fair-minded, and humble St. Lawrence student leader, who has excelled academically, athletically, and socially.”
The computer science major from Spring Park, Minnesota, provided leadership through a wide variety of activities and organizations across campus, including as a Community Assistant; department ambassador at Admissions events; First-Year Program Orientation Leader; Member and Captain of the Nordic Ski Team; Member of Phi Beta Kappa and the Mathematics honorary society, Pi Mu Epsilon; and peer mentor at the Peterson Quantitative Resource Center.
With one of the highest cumulative grade point averages in the Class of 2023, in the words of his professors, he is “the epitome of a well-rounded Laurentian, with demonstrated seriousness of purpose and intellectual promise.”
Making a Difference
During the ceremony, Dr. Andrew Williams, received the North Country Citation in recognition of his support of the local community and lower-income residents, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Williams is a full-time practicing physician, Chief Medical Officer for the Community Health Center of the North Country, Associate Chief Medical Officer for St. Lawrence Health, and Assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of Rochester School of Medicine.
The Commencement ceremony was followed by the United States Army Reserve Officer Training Corps Commissioning recognizing Kevin Quinn ’23 and Brennan McGowan ’23 as second lieutenants.
Diplomas and commemorative Commencement programs will be mailed to graduates at a later date after final grades have been submitted. Captioned recordings of the ceremony will be available soon.