WORCESTER – Clark University awarded 490 bachelor’s degrees, 501 master’s degrees, and 10 doctorates, and conferred three honorary degrees during the University’s 117th Commencement ceremonies.
Graduates were urged to ask the hard questions, drive change, and even occasionally stir some trouble. Among the graduates were:
- Srinithya Varma Kakarlapudi, of Marlborough, graduated with a Master of Science in Information Technology. Kakarlapudi is a member of the Alpha Epsilon Lambda honor society.
- Maria Izabella DaSilva Mendes, of Marlborough, graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Management.
The weekend’s events marked President David Fithian’s first Clark Commencement ceremony since he himself graduated from the University in 1987. In his remarks, Fithian praised the persistence shown by this year’s graduating class in transcending the many disruptions posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“When you began your Clark journey, you could not have imagined what your junior and senior years would entail. Your grace, resilience, and adaptability throughout has been remarkable,” Fithian told the Class of 2021. “While I certainly would never have wished this experience on you, I do believe you may nevertheless extract from it a strength of spirit and resolve that is remarkable, and that may reinforce your own sense of what you are capable of overcoming.”
President Fithian said the Clark degrees that the students earned represented more than the culmination of formal study. They were also a “gateway to a life of learning.”
“Every opportunity to question, whatever the motivation – curiosity, confusion, uncertainty, defiance – is an opportunity to hear something you may not have heard before,” he said.
“At the end of each day, ask yourself, in the quiet of your own counsel, what did I learn today? And then do it again tomorrow and the next day.”
James McGovern, United States Representative for the Massachusetts 2nd Congressional District, delivered the Commencement address and urged graduates to speak up for what they believe in, even when it’s hard to do so. McGovern recalled the accomplishment of his friend, the late Congressman John Lewis, to lead 600 peaceful protesters on a 50-mile march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965 to bring attention to Alabama’s discriminatory voting policies. Despite being beaten and barely escaping with his life, Lewis marched again a few weeks later. Subsequent demonstrations captured the awareness of the nation, and just four months later, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act.
McGovern stressed that issues like climate change, gun violence, racial injustice, and inequality will never improve unless like-minded people come together to demand change. He urged the Class of 2021 to become the “biggest class of troublemakers that Clark University has ever graduated” in service to a better nation and world.
“When the historians pick up their pens to write the story of this century, I know you’ll give them something to write about. That you’ll challenge convention. That you’ll change our world.”
Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degrees were conferred on McGovern; Liberat Mfumukeko, MBA ’94, former secretary-general of the East African Community; and Naomi Oreskes, the Henry Charles Lea Professor of the History of Science and affiliated professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Harvard University.
In his concluding remarks to the graduates, President Fithian told the graduates, “Take pride in who you are and what you are capable of. You have unlimited potential to do good, be compassionate, and shape those around you.”
Founded in 1887, Clark University is a liberal arts-based research university that prepares its students to meet tomorrow’s most daunting challenges and embrace its greatest opportunities. Through 33 undergraduate majors, more than 30 advanced degree programs, and nationally recognized community partnerships, Clark fuses rigorous scholarship with authentic world and workplace experiences that empower our students to pursue lives and careers of meaning and consequence.