Even the heat of the sun couldn’t match the warmth of the hearts at Rentschler Field in Pratt & Whitney Stadium when the Goodwin University graduates of 2020 and 2021 celebrated their academic achievements on June 5. For the 2020 grads, the recognition had been long deferred as COVID-19 restrictions prevented the University from hosting a live gathering last year.
The 330 graduates entered the stadium in a procession that also included faculty, trustees, and dignitaries led by Mark E. Scheinberg, Goodwin’s founder and president, and Danielle S. Wilken, provost and dean of faulty. This marked Wilken’s final Commencement at Goodwin as she moves on to her new position as president of the University of Bridgeport.
As befitted this unique and special occasion, the honorary degree recipients were impressive, and the selected student speakers were joyous. Former Ambassador to the United Nation Andrew Young recalled his ties to the Hartford area when his wife took her first job as a schoolteacher in the 1950s at the Arsenal School. He encouraged the graduates to be “savers,” to invest their resources, however limited, into business, advising, “That’s how you work your way out of poverty.”
“The lessons you’ve learned here at Goodwin University will follow you wherever you go, almost anywhere on the face of the earth,” he added.
Legendary entertainer Smokey Robinson looked back on his career that has spanned many decades, many challenges, and many victories, including his advocacy for civil rights. “My dream came true. I am living my most impossible dream right now,” he said. “Your job is to make the world better.” Continuing a common theme of the event, Robinson emphasized the critical need for the students to take care of each other.
Representing Goodwin’s graduate students, community activist Elizabeth Giannetta-Ramos (Master’s in Organizational Leadership) related her experiences as a Hartford teenager establishing an organization that created safe spaces for youth, today known as COMPASS and operating on a $3 million budget. Despite some initial fears about returning to school to pursue a master’s degree, she was won over by Goodwin’s passionate professors, unmatched support, and “do-something-about-it” spirit.
Undergraduate speaker Mary Owen (Dental Hygiene) looked at her assembled classmates in the audience and opened her remarks with, “I feel that I’m at the ocean right now, looking at a tidal wave coming right at me… you are powerful!” Having already earned a bachelor’s degree in speech therapy, she related how working with a particular patient with limited healthcare access as well as a disability inspired her to pursue another degree so that she could provide greater support and also act as a health advocate. Goodwin, she offered, provided a setting for her to focus on the individual. “At Goodwin, we learn to treat each person like a person… whether you’re a co-worker, if you’re in a healthcare field, a stranger… be kind… notice and recognize their needs.”
As President Scheinberg wrapped up the ceremony, he reflected on the challenges that had to be overcome in creating the event: “I don’t care that it’s too hot, I don’t care that [the ceremony] took too long.. I don’t care about anything but that today happened — in spite of it all. We love you!”
Images from Commencement can be found at:
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.