Congratulations, Class of 2012!
Parents, faculty, administrators, and, especially, graduates celebrated Rowan's 88th annual undergraduate Commencement May 11 on the University Green in front of Bunce Hall.
Gathering beneath perfect azure skies, full sun and a crisp spring breeze, members of Rowan's newest class sat alongside graduates who took part in the formal processional and ceremony 50, 60, even 70 years before them.
Highlights of the morning ceremony included an address by two-time Rowan alumnus and former speaker of the New Jersey Assembly John "Jack" Collins, and the presentation of the 2012 Distinguished Alumnus Award to David Girgenti '93, founder of the online philanthropic site Wish Upon A Hero.
Addressing the sea of graduates, Rowan Interim President Dr. Ali A. Houshmand said with this milestone they join a rarified group: just seven percent of people worldwide hold a college degree.
"For 93 percent of people in the world, the privilege of pulling an academic all-nighter is just a dream," Dr. Houshmand said.
But with that privilege now comes responsibility.
"Now you will have to pay rent, do housekeeping, pay taxes, make deadlines, and wake up at 6 a.m. to go to work," he said.
He urged graduates to nurture democracy at home and abroad, to reach out to the less fortunate, to solve problems, to give to good causes, and to cherish family and friends.
"You have the potential for greatness," Dr. Houshmand said. "You will bring that potential everywhere!"
Collins, who earned two degrees at then-Glassboro State College, met his wife here, was a basketball star who scored more than 1,000 points and led his team to three conference titles, became head basketball coach for the college, earned a law degree, became an assemblyman and, eventually, speaker of the Assembly, said every graduate has the opportunity to become a success.
But it is up to them to determine what being a success is.
"Success is an internal thing, something you feel good about," Collins said.
Quoting both William Shakespeare and Oscar Wilde, he stressed that success, by definition, is an individual thing.
"To your own self be true," he said.
Delivering closing remarks, class President Stephanie Ackerman challenged graduates to step out of their comfort zones, as they've had to do in college, to take chances and reap big rewards.
"Stay positive and keep your spirits high," she said. "And if you fail, and most of us will at some point, it's ok. Let others' doubts be your motivation."
She told her classmates they've already overcome obstacles just to earn their degree and those obstacles, as much as the studying and tests, were part of their education.
"You've worked hard to make it to your seat today so never lose that drive," she said. "Class of 2012, let's show the world what we can do!"