Dear Loyola community,
I headed into the weekend a bit apprehensive. In my new job as interim provost, I now welcome students and families to 4 honors convocations and a hooding ceremony, play an important role in Baccalaureate Mass, and serve as emcee for two commencement ceremonies---all with my Spanish accent. Public speaking is one of my biggest fears. I wanted everything to be perfect — or as perfect as anything can be — for the enjoyment of our graduates and their families. And it was.
Thursday and Friday were a whirlwind, with convocation and hooding ceremonies for each college, followed by Baccalaureate Mass in the historic and beautiful Holy Name of Jesus Church. Our visitors also got a true taste of New Orleans … crawfish!
Looking out at all the faces of friends and families in attendance at these events, I could not help but think about all the hard work, faith, dedication, and patience that go into a student’s success from acceptance to graduation. I am always moved by the personal and academic growth our graduates have experienced along the way … and the pride and joy in friends and families’ faces when they succeed.
I tell my daughters: Commencement is an end, but it is also a beginning. Students complete their studies, a big achievement that will lead to bigger things. They leave Loyola having received an outstanding education rooted in Jesuit values and prepared for professional and personal success. They leave their friends, but not for long, because ahead of them are new beginnings with graduate school, new adventures, new jobs, new friends, new cities, and new careers. Their relationships with Loyola will continue through the deep friendships they have formed, connections with our close community, and long-lasting bonds to the university. For the rest of their lives, they will be Loyola alumni. Wherever they go, whatever they do, they are #Jesuiteducated. They can turn to a network of more than 40,000 Loyola alumni — and enjoy shared traditions and values with graduates of fellow AJCU institutions. Together, we are more than one million strong.
In his commencement speech Saturday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, the Rev. James Martin, S.J. reminded us of our Jesuit values and spotlighted the university’s great diversity. We are a diverse community, not only in terms of race, gender, and religion, but economically and geographically. More than one-fourth of the Class of 2018 are the first in their families to graduate from college, and Fr. Martin gave them a special and well-deserved shout-out for this great achievement.
In his talk, “Seven Things I Wish I Had Known at your Age,” Fr. Martin gave humorous and meaningful advice for finding fulfillment. And he voiced our collective feelings when he reminded graduates that they are each beautiful creations of God.
Each of you has unique strengths, aspirations, ideas, gifts, and talents. Fr. Martin reminded us all to look deep inside … and (as we say at Loyola) “seek what matters.”
Pulling off two commencement ceremonies at the Superdome in one day requires a tremendous amount of work and collaboration. I am so grateful to faculty and staff, for donning their regalia and leading the procession, and to so many staff volunteers who worked behind the scenes. Thank you too to our voice students who so beautifully sang the Star-Spangled Banner. Thank you especially to Angela Turnbull, our special events manager, who works hard throughout the year to make this event a success. Loyola, you did an outstanding job.
And graduates, we could not be more proud of you and your accomplishments. Go forth and set the world on fire!