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Local College Students Graduate from Eastern Connecticut State University

WILLIMANTIC, CT (07/01/2020)– Hundreds of students graduated from Eastern Connecticut State University this spring 2020 semester. The University’s 130th annual Commencement Exercises occurred via YouTube on May 19 amid the COVID-19 pandemic on the same day the University had planned to hold its graduation ceremony at Hartford’s XL Center.

Among the graduates are:

  • Lucian Afragola of Killingworth, who graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Criminology.
  • Christina Brockett of Haddam, who graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology.
  • Elizabeth Forsythe of Killingworth, who graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science in Accounting.
  • Erin Avery of Higganum, who graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Communication.
  • Emily St. Lawrence of Higganum, who graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science in Communication.

The Class of 2020 was addressed via YouTube by Commencement speaker Mark Boxer, former executive vice president and chief information officer of Cigna. Boxer joined Eastern President Elsa Nunez and other university officials as well as Senior Class Vice President Emily Kerfoot on the same day the University had originally planned to hold its graduation ceremony at Hartford’s XL Center.

Boxer extolled the value of higher education, recounting his own journey and telling the graduates, “The knowledge you gained here at Eastern is the fuel that will propel you to make a truly meaningful impact.”

Calling his college education “the right choice,” Boxer said, “It became the springboard for everything good in my life – personally and professionally.” He urged the graduates to continue their quest for knowledge, noting that he had continued learning in some educational setting each year since he first graduated from college more than three decades ago.

In her charge to the graduates, President Nunez said, “Since you arrived four years ago for summer orientation, the faculty and I have been telling you that the liberal arts skills you learn at Eastern will serve you well throughout your careers and your personal lives.”

She cited critical thinking, professional communications, ethics, collaboration as competencies highly sought by U.S. employers. “Those same skills are critically needed today as we seek to get beyond COVID-19. I know each of you has the skills and the courage to find your place in this new world, where you will keep your head on your shoulders, keep your chin up, and make a unique contribution to society . . . Go forth now with confidence, compassion, and commitment. Come back and visit us when it is safe to do so. In the meantime, let us know if we can help you in any way. God Speed!”

Senior Class Vice President Kerfoot gave President Nunez the class gift, a check to establish a scholarship in the name of the Class of 2020. Kerfoot told her classmates, “As you sit with your family at home, watching this commencement, tell yourself you did it. You made it. Through all the challenges you have faced, you can be proud to be an Eastern alumnus. Be proud that you will go on in life knowing that you are going to accomplish such amazing things.

“It was a challenge, and the Class of 2020 met that challenge with courage and determination. We learned we are capable of more than we might have realized. Resilience – the ability to survive and thrive during adversity – is something we all can be proud of. As the famous physicist Albert Einstein once said, ‘It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.’ Let’s stick to it, Class of 2020!”

More than 40 percent of the Class of 2020 are the first in their families to earn a bachelor’s degree. Approximately 90 percent of Eastern students are from 162 of the state’s 169 towns, with more than 80 percent of graduates staying in Connecticut to launch their careers, contribute to their communities and raise their families. The University also draws students from 34 other states and 19 countries.

This year’s event was videotaped in Eastern’s otherwise empty Concert Hall in the Fine Arts Instructional Center, with each speaker taping their remarks separately in keeping with safety guidelines. Even as a virtual event, the graduation ceremony maintained an atmosphere of grace and dignity, with the stage a replica of the one used at the XL Center and “Pomp and Circumstance” and “America the Beautiful” played during the proceedings. At the end of the formal program, graduates watched as their names scrolled on the screen, sharing the celebration safely at home with their families.

Prior to Commencement, the university sent each graduate their diploma cover, two copies of the evening’s program, and their mortarboard and tassel to make their family’s festivities more complete.

People unable to view the graduation ceremony on May 19 may still watch it by visiting https://www.youtube.com/EasternConnecticutStateUniversityVideo.

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