Shouts, claps and the occasional air horn swirled around Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center as nearly 1,600 Thomas Jefferson University students received their degrees over two sunny days.
“You have a choice,” says Jefferson President Dr. Stephen K. Klasko at the 195th Commencement. “You can feel that you’re a victim of circumstance, or you can lead your own life. I would ask you to be bold and take action. Action is the single best antidote to apathy, cynicism and despair.”
Dr. Mark L. Tykocinski, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, also urged new graduates to approach the future with optimism.
“You’re fortunate to be launching your professional careers at a remarkable moment in the human journey,” says Dr. Tykocinski, the Anthony F. and Gertrude M. DePalma Dean of the Sidney Kimmel Medical College. “A time when our understanding of the world around us shines in technicolor. A time when the incredible becomes credible.”
The ceremonies included graduates from the College of Architecture and the Built Environment, College of Pharmacy, College of Population Health, College of Rehabilitation Sciences, College of Health Professions, School of Continuing and Professional Studies, Kanbar College of Design, Engineering and Commerce, Sidney Kimmel Medical College and College of Life Sciences; as well as undergraduates and graduates from the College of Nursing.
Earlier this month, over 750 Jefferson undergraduates earned their degrees at the Mann Center for the Performing Arts, and in a special separate ceremony, the University recognized three rowers competing in the Dad Vail Regatta.
At the May 21 and 22 Commencements, students wearing graduation caps decorated with messages like, “Believe there is good in the world,” “Done with this BS” and “Oh, the places you’ll go and the lives you’ll save,” cheered their classmates as they walked across the stage at the Kimmel’s Verizon Hall. A handful of graduates from the Sidney Kimmel Medical College brought their children with them as they shook hands with Drs. Klasko and Tykocinski, and screams of, “That’s my sister (or mom or brother)!” often rained down from the audience.
Some of the loudest applause went to Matthew “Nick” Gomberg, an MS in user experience and interaction design graduate who’s blind. At Jefferson, he supported faculty in teaching classes about accessibility and worked with program director Neil Harner—who guided him to receive his degree—to develop an actual course in accessible design.
Throughout the uplifting ceremonies, deans from each of the Jefferson schools and colleges offered words of encouragement to the class of 2019. For example, College of Nursing Dean Dr. Marie Ann Marino urged them to bring energy to everything they do in their careers. “People want to be on teams where there’s enthusiasm,” she stresses. “Be the person others seek to work with.”
In addition, the University conferred five honorary degrees to trailblazers in their respective fields, including Dr. Robin Smith, global thought leader in regenerative medicine; Derreck Kayongo, entrepreneur and human rights innovator; Dr. Walter Ricciardi, renowned public health expert; John Sculley, former CEO of Pepsi and Apple; and Carol Ammon, founder of Endo Pharmaceuticals.
“The University degree you’re receiving is more than a destination achievement—it’s your passport to the future,” Sculley says. “You will discover later in life that your University experience is the beginning of a lifelong journey, and your journey ahead will be the real reward. My advice to you: Choose a purpose-driven life.”