‘Superhero’ College of Education graduates reminded of the power, responsibility of educators

‘Superhero’ College of Education graduates reminded of the power, responsibility of educators


With great power, the saying goes, comes great responsibility.

That was the message from Lamont O. Repollet, commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Education, to nearly 375 members of the Class of 2019 of the Rowan University College of Education during the college’s Commencement ceremony on Wednesday, May 15.

“Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world,” Repollet said in his Commencement address, quoting Nelson Mandela. “You’re afforded the opportunity on a daily basis to interact with our 1.4 million students in our state in whatever educational capacity that you have.

“This power is something you should not take for granted. You have the power to instill the love of education in a child. You also have the power to destroy the love of education in a child. So, please, as you go out into this world and you get around children on a daily basis, think about the reasons why you wanted to get into this profession.”

Repollet told the graduates, which included students earning bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees, that their responsibility is to impact the lives of their students so that they, too, can succeed.

“Make sure that when that child is sitting in the seat you’re sitting in now, they’ll think back and reflect on the time that a great educator said something encouraging to them, was supportive to them, and was there for them,” said Repollet. “And if they reflect about the work that you’ve done to help them get to the seats you’re sitting in, then you know you’ve used your power for good.

“So remember, superheroes—I say this to all new educators…you are superheroes—go out there now,” Repollet concluded. “And be great.”

During the ceremony, Dean Monika Shealey’s last as dean, Repollet accepted a Medal of Excellence for Distinguished Service for his work as an innovative educational leader and change agent.

Shealey, who joined the University six years ago as the University’s youngest dean and the first African American dean of the College of Education, will lead Rowan’s new Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, where she will serve as the inaugural senior vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion.

The work continues the path Shealey created in the college, where she worked to address issues of access and equity in public education.

“We have prepared all of you to be agents of change in P-12 schools, higher education institutions, and in communities,” Shealey told the graduates, who gathered on the University Green.

“I’d like to thank all of you—particularly the students—for the lessons you have taught me. I look forward to using those lessons to ensure that we have a more diverse, equitable and inclusive campus community.”

In celebrating the college, Shealey noted a number of accomplishments of faculty members, including their work and research locally, nationally and internationally.

“They are engaged in research in places as far away as Honduras, Africa, Spain and Guatemala, and as nearby as Glassboro’s schools,” Shealey said.

Associate Dean for Faculty and Student Affairs Corine Brown presented Shealey with an award to recognize and thank her for her leadership.

“Through your leadership, we are now a college with a firm focus on access, success and equity. We will forever be grateful,” Brown said. “As you always say to us, ‘Onward and upward.’”

Shealey reminded the audience that Rowan was founded as a normal school to educate South Jersey teachers.  It opened its doors on Sept. 4, 1923 with 236 female students studying in Bunce Hall, the site of the Commencement ceremony.

“Just as the College of Education is the cornerstone of Rowan University, you, as educators, are the cornerstone of our society,” Shealey said. “Education is the foundation of all professions. Without educators, there would be no engineers or doctors, nurses, lawyers, accountants, writers…the list is endless. Educators are people who shape the minds, the interests and the lives of children and their families.”