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Regis commencement calls students to civic engagement and serviceMay 11, 2014
Weston, MA. “Merely having ability is not enough, without translating that into action,” Regis College commencement speaker and former Speaker of the New Hampshire House of Representatives Donna Sytek ’66 told more than 700 Regis College graduates at its 84th commencement Saturday morning. “I urge all of you to engage in the civic life of your community,” she said. “If you don’t like the status quo, step in, do something, and work to change it.”
Regis College commencement speaker and former Speaker of the New Hampshire House of Representatives Donna Sytek ’66
She was not the only speaker to exhort graduates to “reach beyond the comfortable and familiar… to embrace opportunities to improve yourself and to improve the world.” So, too, did Regis College President Antoinette Hays, RN, PhD.
Regis College President Antoinette Hays, RN, PhD
Citing French economist Thomas Piketty’s recent provocative book Capital in the Twenty-First Century, Dr. Hays said that today’s graduates are especially well prepared by their Regis education to combat the world’s growing income inequality and skewed distribution of wealth. Their experience – education, leadership and service – is “a recipe for fighting inequality,” she said. “You are entering the vanguard of those whose education commits them to taking calculated and informed risks and working as change agents” in a world that needs better distribution of education, health care, and opportunities for women and young people.
Sytek’s own odyssey illustrates the underlying theme of engagement and commitment. As a young woman, she overcame timidity and an attitude of “I couldn’t possibly do that” to run for state representative as a Republican, winning by a scant 17 votes, and, despite her shaky beginning, serving with distinction for 23 years. She went from being tremulous and light-headed before having to make a speech to the leadership of several major legislative committees and eventually became the first female Speaker of the New Hampshire House of Representatives. When she retired for health reasons, she had left her imprint on New Hampshire courts and the justice system, substance abuse treatment, access to public data and a range of women’s issues. She continues to this day on several non-profit and government boards.
Also receiving an honorary doctor of law degree was banking industry giant Marshall Sloane, honored for his commitment to the neighborhoods and businesses of greater Boston, growing companies and supporting community services, especially in the areas of social service, health care and education.
Banking industry giant Marshall Sloane
Among the happy celebrants in the audience was Shawna Sullivan of North Andover, there to watch her mother, Linda Sullivan receive her Master of Science in Nursing. “She’s been talking about getting her master’s degree for 25 years, and she’s been working on it for four and a half years,” said daughter Shawna. “It proves it doesn’t matter how old you are. Learning is a lifetime activity,” she added.
Regis graduated more than 700 students under the large tent on the Great Lawn of the campus, across all degree programs from the Associate of Science to the Bachelor’s to the Master’s to the Doctorate of Nursing Practice.
About 2000 graduate students and undergraduates are enrolled at the small university and historical liberal arts college twelve 12 miles outside Boston. Founded and sponsored by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Boston, Regis has provided cutting-edge higher education to the region and the nation since 1927.