The Saturday morning sky was gloomy and gray, but inside the Tsongas Center in Lowell, Mass., it blazed bright Rivier blue as the university celebrated its 80th anniversary and the graduation of the Class of 2014.
A huge crowd of family and friends watched as 526 students who earned doctoral, master's, bachelor's and associate degrees and certificates from the Nashua university crossed the stage to receive diplomas.
Although the day belonged to the graduates, Rivier's core mission of educating students to serve others was highlighted throughout the ceremony.
"Rivier has taught us about dedication to service," said Magnolia Dixon, a history major who graduated magna cum laude. "We have the responsibility to share the privilege of education."
Dixon mentioned how she and other undergrads had benefited from working with some of Nashua's key community organizations such as the Boys & Girls Club, the Salvation Army and Girls Inc. She said it is time for graduates to take those lessons of service to a larger world stage where they've seen complicated social, economic and environmental problems arise.
"Although we've seen the world wounded . . We've been witness to people around the world rising up," said Dixon, who added that Rivier had prepared graduates to play a role in that rebound.
Carol Ann Becker, a graduate of Rivier's master's degree program in health care administration, also spoke about moving forward and putting lessons of leadership and service to work. She acknowledged it might not always be easy, but added she and her fellow graduates need to always be willing to try.
"When you're unsure, go back to your roots and values," she said.
In addition to the Class of 2014, Rivier also awarded an honorary degree to Sister Cecile Gamache, PM, whose financial expertise and decades of service to the university have helped build a foundation for the institution's future development and success.
James Brett, president of the New England Council, the region's oldest alliance of business and community organizations, also earned an honorary doctorate in humane letters for his years of work on public policy issues such as health care and education and for a lifetime of advocating for people with physical and intellectual disabilities.Brett, who also was tapped to deliver a commencement address, reached into his roots and values, and spoke about growing up in a large family with a brother who was mentally challenged."He led us to understand that each of us has a personal responsibility to care for the disabled," Brett told the graduates. But he added there was also much to be gained through such service."(My brother) was a gift and a blessing; he was a teacher," said Brett. "He was not going to be separate from us, he was one of us."