Rivier University celebrated its 84th Commencement on May 11, awarding 594 degrees to doctoral, post-master’s, master’s, bachelor’s, and associate degree graduates. The ceremony highlighted the importance of diversity and opportunity as fuel for individual achievement and community impact.
Sister Paula Marie Buley, IHM, Rivier’s President, offered well wishes to the graduates. “Congratulations to all our graduates of the class of 2019,” said Sister Paula. “Your accomplishment today is a foundation for purpose and success in your endeavors tomorrow.”
An honorary doctorate was conferred upon Brother Paul Demers, S.C., posthumously, in recognition of his devotion to the pursuit of human and spiritual connection through community building and service to others. Brother Paul served as Associate Professor of Religious Studies and the University Chaplain for 30 years; he passed away on March 29, 2019, after a courageous battle with cancer.
The University also honored Rebekah Splaine Salwasser with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree. Ms. Salwasser is the Executive Director of the Red Sox Foundation, and a former NCAA Division I and professional soccer player with the Boston Breakers. A fierce advocate for education and for sport as the means through which youth can realize their greater potential, Ms. Salwasser’s experience highlights the integration of academic and athletic success which shapes her distinguished career and life of service.
Ms. Salwasser’s Commencement speech addressed the value of diversity in all aspects of life and the positive aspects of sport on academic and professional achievement. “I loved to play because sport is a neutralizer,” said Salwasser. “When you’re in the middle of a game, there’s no popular or rich kids, there’s no cliques or teacher’s pets … in the moment of play, none of that matters. It’s about the output of each participant, regardless of size, color and wealth. The values and competencies I learned on the field directly correlate with my success in my career, and are what I tend to focus on when looking for the next generation of talent to hire.” Those values and competencies include reliability, the skills to problem-solve and communicate effectively, and the ability to work with others toward a common goal.
Student speaker Rebeca Cruz, B.S. in Nursing, magna cum laude, commented on the opportunity of education and the importance of community. “I grew up around the phrase, ‘Dime con quien andas, y yo te dire quien eres.’ [‘Tell me who you walk with and I will tell you who you are.’] said Cruz. “We made the choice to walk with Rivier, which has led us to become who we are in this moment. We are a part of the history of Sisters who founded this school in 1933 to provide daughters of mill workers the opportunity to receive an education. We are a part of a supportive community that strives for diversity, global engagement, career development, and student success.”
Chunhua Chi, a native of China, received her M.S. in Computer Science and spoke on behalf of graduate students. Her comments addressed the transformative power of diversity and inclusivity in the educational experience. “Rivier’s community is very diverse, allowing us to experience and learn from different cultures, and to gain different perspectives from each other,” Chi shared. “Each class offered new dialogue, new perspectives, and new ideas.”
Advancing community engagement and acknowledging the contributions of sport to academic, personal, and career success, construction of a new Athletics Pavilion and renovations on Raider Diamond are underway. In addition, the University broke ground last month on a 35,000-square-foot Science and Innovation Center to enhance its resources in STEM education and facilitate collaborative research among students, faculty, and community partners.
Offering an education grounded in the liberal arts and Catholic tradition, the University prepares students for the 21st-century workforce. Rivier’s mission to transform hearts and minds to serve the world is demonstrated through its academic programs in nursing, public health, education, counseling, psychology, business, natural and computer sciences, and the humanities. New for fall 2019, the University will offer majors in human services, sport management, and cybersecurity management.