For the members of the Goodwin College Class of 2016, a beautiful spring day, perfect for celebrating, was just one of the many rewards for their hard work and sacrifice in pursuing a college education. On Saturday, June 4, friends, family members, local and state officials, and other special guests made their way to the River Campus to celebrate Goodwin’s 17th Commencement exercises. Approximately 385 graduates walked in the annual ceremony that confirmed their academic success in a number of degree programs. In all, 602 certificates and degrees were awarded for the last three academic sessions.
In a new tradition this year, the ringing of the courtyard bell by valedictorian Amber Reyna signaled the beginning of the entrance procession. A program description explained: “The reverberations radiating out from campus symbolize our graduates’ spirit of possibility and the positive impact they will have, locally and throughout the world, in their chosen careers.”
The ceremony began with welcoming remarks from Goodwin president Mark Scheinberg, board of trustees president Dr. Maria Ellis, College provost Ann Clark, and U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal. In praising the work of the graduates to pursue educations that leads to fulfilling and rewarding careers, Blumenthal said, “Anyone who doubts the American Dream, come here to Goodwin College.”
This year’s honorary degree recipients represented the arts, volunteerism, education, medicine, and government leadership: Dr. Saud Anwar, critical care specialist, international affairs expert, and former South Windsor mayor; Dr. Walter Harrison, current president of the University of Hartford and board member for a number of community organizations; and actress and humanitarian Susan Saint James, known internationally for her work with Special Olympics.
Saint James’ remarks spoke to the many ways that Goodwin graduates will be able to make their mark in the world. Although originally known as a TV and film actress, today she is recognized primarily for her many years of work on behalf of the Special Olympics. “When you are my age,” she said to the graduates, “that thing that you do on the side, the thing you volunteer for, will be the thing you are remembered for.”
Following the presentation of the diplomas, the graduates and their families adjourned to the campus lawn — to the song “Best Day of My Life” by American Authors — to receive well wishes from their teachers and advisors. Notable among the celebration was the Davis family: Jenette Davis received her bachelor’s degree in Human Services (magna cum laude), daughter Destiny received her associate degree in Human Services (cum laude), and son Shane, a Goodwin graduate of 2015 in Human Services, sang the national anthem.
Honorary Degree Recipient Bios
Dr. Saud Anwar
Saud Anwar is a pulmonary and critical care physician specializing in lung diseases. He serves as Chair of the Department of Internal Medicine of Manchester Memorial and Rockville General Hospitals. Dr. Anwar has been involved in international and national humanitarian and peace initiatives, frequently consults for the FBI and Homeland Security, and has organized medical missions for disaster relief. Dr. Anwar has received citations for his service from the Governor of Connecticut, Attorney General, Secretary of State, and the Connecticut General Assembly. Dr. Anwar is an expert on international affairs. His interviews on national and international television and radio have included CNN, NBC 30, CTN, Fox-61, NPR, Geo TV-Forum, and the Voice of America-International. He is the former mayor of South Windsor, Connecticut.
Dr. Walter Harrison
Walter Harrison is president of the University of Hartford and serves on many boards in the Hartford area, including Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center, Connecticut Conference of Independent Colleges, World Business Capital, The Hartford Consortium for Higher Education, and the MetroHartford Alliance. He is a past president of Hartford Stage and was one of the founders of The Connecticut Science Center. Dr. Harrison is a recent recipient of the NCAA Gerald R. Ford Award for his work to improve the academic success of student-athletes. A native of Pittsburgh, he graduated from Trinity College in Hartford in 1968 and then earned a master’s degree from the University of Michigan in 1969. After three years serving as an officer in the United States Air Force, he earned a doctorate from the University of California, Davis.
Susan Saint James
Susan Saint James is best known for her TV roles in Name of the Game (Emmy Award), MacMillan & Wife, and Kate & Allie. She has been honored for her film and TV work with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Ms. Saint James began her involvement with the Special Olympics in 1972, serving on the board of CT Special Olympics since 1983 and as an executive member of the 1995 Special Olympics World Games. She continues as an advisor, cheerleader, and fundraiser for Special Olympics worldwide. She has been honored by many organizations including the Caritas Society, Knights of Columbus, and Rotary Clubs International, and is the proud recipient of five honorary doctorates from Connecticut colleges and universities. She is a board member of the Telluride Foundation, which provides support for the arts, education, athletics, and other causes. Her candid sharing about the loss of her son Teddy in a 2004 plane crash has been an inspiration to countless individuals. At the Women’s Conference in 2007, she was a featured speaker on “Beyond Courage: Overcoming the Unimaginable.”
Goodwin University is a nonprofit institution of higher education and is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), formerly known as the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). Goodwin University was founded in 1999, with the goal of serving a diverse student population with career-focused degree programs that lead to strong employment outcomes.