Used with permission from the Lowell Sun Online
By SUSAN McMAHON
LOWELL The adjectives were flowing faster than the stream of students emerging from the Tsongas Arena.
"Good. Awesome. Excellent," said new graduate Briana Druyan, describing how it felt to be receiving her diploma. "I knew eventually it would come, but it seemed to take forever."
A sea of mortarboards flooded the floor of the arena yesterday as the 1,500 graduates from University of Massachusetts Lowell were recognized for their achievements and honored for their hard work at the 2002 commencement ceremony.
But smatterings of individuality poked through the black hats. Some were decorated with slogans like "Go NY," a cheer for the Yankees, or decorations, like a feathered halo.
The stands were filled with proud families and friends. The platform was filled with honored guests and speakers. And the floor was filled with happy students, waiting for their turn to be recognized.
Graduates of each class stood and acknowledged applause as their degrees were called; graduates received their diplomas after the commencement ceremony.
For graduates of each of the school's five colleges, college deans congratulated them on their successes and acknowledged the sacrifices it took to get to this point.
"We are expressing our deep sense of pride we have for the impressive achievement of each and every one of these candidates," said Chancellor William Hogan.
Commencement speaker Arthur Levine, president of the Teacher's College at Columbia University, said moments of celebration were what a graduation day was all about graduates, parents and friends.
But he also used his short commencement speech to remind graduates of some of the challenges facing them as well as the commitment that would be necessary to overcome such challenges.
The class of 2002 is a generation torn between doing well (or making money) and doing good (or making a social contribution), he said. The two do not have to be mutually exclusive, Levine said.
"Tomorrow's going to need people who will use the private sector to enrich their community and leave the world a better place than they found it," he told the graduates. "Please, please be the people who make that commitment, because no one else can."
He also encouraged them to hold on to their dreams, even in the face of low salaries. A woman who loved dance was a business major because she knew it would pay the bills. Levine wanted to encourage her to manage a dance troupe, or become a dance critic, or do anything to keep her dreams alive.
To hope for a bright future, to hope for a fulfilling career, are things that Levine encouraged students to grasp as they entered the world.
"I'm not talking about Pollyannish hope. I mean the kind of hope you need to get through every day and keep your dreams alive," he said. "Keep your hope. Keep your dreams. It's possible to do the things you want to do if you hold tight to those dreams."
Graduates yesterday were indeed filled with hope as they filtered out of the arena. A few cigars were smoked and some cell phones were flipped on as they took a moment to celebrate.
Ken Snow of Hudson, N.H. looked around expectantly for his family as he emerged from the arena. Next up: the job search.
"But it feels good. It was a relief to be done," he said.
Other graduates congregated with friends and family, taking pictures, grasping flowers, giddy with their accomplishments.
"It's nice," said Lowell resident Scott Miller, who earned his degree in information systems.
After transferring between schools, he was happy to finally hold the diploma in his hand.
"I figured it would come as soon as I stayed in one place long enough," he said.