More than 500 members of St. Lawrence University’s Class of 2021 took part in the University’s Commencement, which celebrated the ways members of the graduating class have made the Laurentian community better while working toward a path that will ensure they leave their mark on the world. The event was held Sunday, April 18, in Newell Field House.
To ensure the health and safety of attendees and in accordance with state guidance on large gatherings, graduates were assigned one of four ceremonies held throughout the day where they received their diploma covers as they walked across the stage while their names were read aloud. Family members and guests were not able to attend in person but were able to watch the event live online. All speeches and performances were pre-recorded.
“The Class of 2021 departs St. Lawrence in a year of devastation and difficulty. But unlike many classes before you, you graduate with a charge at Commencement to do the best things in the worst times and to hope beyond calamity,” President William L. Fox ’75 said in his remarks to the community. “The kind of person you are each becoming, based on the acceptance of these hard terms, must also understand the essential necessity of first making mental peace. I will never forget your poise and calm to see it through together.”
Several Laurentians were honored during the event, including Hamidou Sylla ’21, this year’s Joan Donovan Speech Contest winner. His speech centered on themes of overcoming obstacles and persevering together in order to facilitate much-needed change.
“My fellow graduates, we’ve weathered a global pandemic, we founded the Black Laurentian Initiative to address inequities and injustices in our society,” Sylla said. “On this journey, we’ve lost loved ones, we’ve mourned and grieved together. Yet one thing that has remained consistent these past four years is our ability to come together, to support one another, to learn and grow as a community, and to care about our relationships. That is the compassion that this world needs.”
Graduates and livestream listeners heard recorded remarks from honorary doctorate recipient Terry Fulmer, a nationally and internationally recognized expert in geriatrics and president of The John A. Hartford Foundation. Fulmer is a former member of St. Lawrence’s Parents Committee, which she served on while her son Sam, Class of 2012, attended the University. (Read more about Terry Fulmer’s career below.)
“As a nurse, I assure you that this pandemic will resolve and we will be much more prepared for whatever biology or nature brings us in the future. And it will be the leadership of your generation that carries us through,” Fulmer said. “It’s hard to imagine today, but good things will come from this tragedy as well as the tragedies of racism, violence, division, ageism, and fear that we’ve experienced in this era. But progress will come of it because of all of you.”
The Jeffery H. Boyd Class of ’78 Prize, an award that was established by the Board of Trustees in 2018 and recognizes the overall contributions exemplifying leadership on campus made during the college career of a graduating senior, was awarded by President Fox to Grace Harkins ’21. During Harkins’ senior year, she created an independent study looking at what colleges in general, including St. Lawrence, can do to promote student belonging. Through “The Belonging Project,” Harkins asked her peers to take part by filling out small sheets of paper about belonging. She then displayed those throughout the University’s Sullivan Student Center for all to see.
“[Grace] goes outside of her comfort zone to let other people shine,” Fox said. “Her summer research project explored what schools can do to be genuinely welcoming and supportive of each student, especially students who feel marginalized. Her dedication led to an impressive string of publications in national outlets and to the development of The Belonging Project.”
Diplomas and commemorative Commencement programs will be mailed to graduates at a later date after final grades have been submitted. Captioned recordings of each ceremony will be available soon.
About Terry Fulmer, Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters Recipient
Terry Fulmer is best known for the conceptualization and development of the national NICHE program and research on the topic of elder abuse and neglect, work that has been funded by the National Institute on Aging and the National Institute of Nursing Research. At The John A. Hartford Foundation, which is dedicated to improving the care of older adults by investing in aging experts and practice innovations that transform how that care is delivered, Fulmer serves as the chief strategist and was recently recognized for her leadership as one of the top 50 Influencers in Aging by PBS’s Next Avenue, the premier digital publication dedicated to covering issues for older Americans.
Fulmer is a Distinguished Practitioner of the National Academies of Practice. She is currently an attending nurse and senior nurse in the Yvonne L. Munn Center for Nursing Research at the Massachusetts General Hospital, and an attending nurse at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. Her clinical appointments have included the Beth Israel Hospital in Boston, the Massachusetts General Hospital, and the New York University (NYU) Langone Medical Center. Fulmer is a Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing, the Gerontological Society of America, and the New York Academy of Medicine where she served as vice-chair.
Fulmer is an elected member of several boards and has earned numerous awards for her work, as well as invitations for named lectureships and faculty appointments from several universities. She received her bachelor's degree from Skidmore College, her master's and doctoral degrees from Boston College, and her Geriatric Nurse Practitioner Post-Master’s Certificate from NYU.