May 18 was a joy-filled day at Georgian Court University that celebrated goals accomplished and new journeys begun for nearly 450 undergraduates and more than 180 graduate students during the Commencement 2022 Ceremonies.
The day began with a Baccalaureate Mass in the morning, with readings by graduating student lectors Meesha Samuels, Emily Salisbury, and Emily Humphries and a homily from Rev. Msgr. Joseph Rosie, pastor of St. James Parish, Red Bank, and Episcopal vicar for Monmouth County, as well as a GCU trustee. In the afternoon, the university’s 111th Commencement was divided into two celebrations, with undergraduates crossing the stage first, followed later in the day by graduate students.
In his remarks, GCU President Joseph R. Marbach observed that the new graduates were joining the ranks of alumni known for scholarship, advocacy and innovation, and expressed confidence that they, too, would be “changemakers, truth seekers, and challengers of the status quo.” He remarked on the Class of 2022’s diversity in academic discipline, age, and background, noting that together, “You are Georgian Court.”
A ceremony that’s been observed for more than a hundred years had its notable firsts: the first cohort of five students to receive a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) in School Psychology, and the nearly 40 percent of undergraduates who were the first in their families to graduate from college.
“Mistakes” Can Shape a Journey
Commencement 2022 speakers encouraged the graduates to embrace life’s journeys and realize that what may seem at first as mistakes can lead to fulfilling endings.
“To be happy, you have to create your own path, cherish the victories, and learn from your mistakes,” said keynote speaker Robert C. Garrett, CEO of Hackensack Meridian Health, adding that in 40 years as a health care executive, he’s learned more from mistakes than successes. ”When you get discouraged, stop and remind yourself of how far you have come.”
Mr. Garrett, who was awarded an honorary Doctor of Health degree, described how, years ago, he had a dream to open a new medical school that took a new, prevention-focused approach. It would have been easy for him to become discouraged. “People told me it was too hard to start from scratch to reinvent medical education,” he said. “But I could not get this thought out of my head: If our mission is to transform health care, we must start at the beginning in how we train doctors.” It took 10 years to achieve his goal, but today, Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine graduates are completing residencies across the nation, including at the acclaimed Mayo Clinic.
And then there’s Yasmin Amaro-Garcia ’22, the Commencement 2022 undergraduate student speaker, immediate past vice president of the Student Government Association (SGA) Executive Board and first in her family to attend college. As a child growing up in Lakewood, she mistook Georgian Court’s Mansion for a castle.
“What I once took to be a site of royalty was actually a university where I could pursue my and my family’s dreams of a collegiate career,” said Ms. Amaro-Garcia, who received a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree. “Although it may not be the kind of castle where a princess and her fairy godmother may live, it is the kind where dreams come true, and we are all living proof of that today . . . we can all look back on this day and know that we worked hard for this and that our next chapter started here, in this castle of dreams.”
Christine Clark ’13, ’15, ’22, the graduate student speaker, a school psychologist, and adjunct faculty member at Georgian Court, told the audience she’s a psychologist today because of a mistake she made entering the university as an undergraduate.
“Starting college, I never wanted to be a psychologist. I accidentally checked off ‘psychology’ on admissions paperwork and never changed it to a different major,” said Dr. Clark, who completed her Psy.D. in School Psychology and is a member of the program’s first cohort. She “fell in love” with psychology from the first class. Her graduate school journey brought new challenges, such as learning how to conduct research, balancing a job with her own education, and preparing the dissertation. She told her classmates they’re all on a new journey now. “The happiness we feel right now is the realization that our graduation tonight is not the end, yet the beginning of the next leg of our journey. It’s our happiness tonight that will motivate us and drive us to continue forward and onward to our next goal,” said Dr. Clark.
High-achieving students selected by faculty to receive subject area awards and those earning academic honors were recognized as they received their diplomas. Recipients of three prestigious annual awards were announced during the Commencement 2022 Undergraduate Ceremony:
The Kingdon Gould Jr. Award was presented to Faith Bennett, who was chosen by classmates as the class member who contributed the most to the general welfare of Georgian Court University.
Story contributed by freelance writer Sheila Noonan. Photos by Russ DeSantis.
More photos coming soon!