Amid the Nationwide Nursing Shortage, the University Graduated More than 900 Nurses

Four people smiling wearing academic regalia
Honorary degree recipients Amaka Ubaka, Bill and Joyce Cummings, and Regis President Antoinette Hays

Empowered and inspired by their Regis education to serve as leaders and advocates for a more just and compassionate global society, members of the Class of 2023 celebrated their accomplishments with an inspirational commencement ceremony at the Leader Bank Pavilion in Boston featuring WHDH’s Amaka Ubaka who delivered the commencement address and received an honorary degree, along with philanthropists Bill and Joyce Cummings.

More than 1,300 students graduated with degrees ranging from associate to doctoral levels. With area and nationwide healthcare organizations struggling to fill nursing vacancies, Regis graduated 901 nurses. The 93rd commencement included graduates from the Lawrence Public Schools partnership, the university’s first speech-language pathology graduates, and online students from 45 states across the country, Canada, and Guam. Of the undergraduate students, 36 percent are first-generation students.

During the ceremony, honorary degrees were presented to 7NEWS Today in New England anchor Ubaka, for excellence in the field of journalism and for inspiring the next generation of leaders and service to the community; and Bill and Joyce Cummings, founders of Cummings Foundation, Inc., for their tremendous contributions to Regis and to numerous communities in Greater Boston and beyond.

Ubaka delivered the commencement address urging graduates to embrace their “rebel hearts,” a term used by the late singer Harry Belafonte to encourage individuals to stand up for what they believe in, even if it goes against the norm.

"Whether it's through volunteering, activism, or pursuing a career that aligns with your values and passions, each of you has the power to create positive change. Remember that life is a journey, not a destination. There will be ups and downs, twists and turns, and unexpected surprises along the way. Embrace the journey and don't be too hard on yourself if things don't always go as you planned in your head.” said Ubaka. “As you move forward, remember that your unique experiences and perspectives are what make you special. Embrace your rebel heart, pursue your passions, and don't be afraid to take risks.”

Ubaka, whose father is an immigrant from Nigeria, acknowledged the first-generation students in the audience. “For those making family history today, take a moment to feel pride in yourself—and imagine the pride that those who love you feel, those who sacrificed for you, who have been rooting for you, praying for you, sending positive thoughts with every step you took to make it here today. I’m proud of you and inspired by your commitment to writing a new future for yourselves and the generations of students who will come after you.”

Regis College President Antoinette M. Hays, PhD, RN highlighted Regis students’ resilience, recognizing that many of the graduates began their coursework at Regis amid the disruption of the global pandemic.

“We knew that in accepting each of you to Regis, you possessed the fortitude and ambition to thrive amid the unprecedented obstacles you faced,” said President Hays. “Your persistence has served you well at Regis and has prepared you for the personal and professional challenges you may encounter in life.”

“It is now up to you to take what you have learned and leave this ceremony committed to bettering the world around us with your knowledge and compassion. Regis College will always be watching over you from high on the hilltop. As the journey continues for each of you, I am confident in the future because you are in it,” said President Hays.

Scholastica Egwakhide, undergraduate student speaker and president of the class of 2023, reflected on her classmates’ incredible strength, courage, and perseverance as they navigated the pandemic together. “We have supported each other through challenging times, offering words of encouragement, virtual hugs, and a listening ear. We have continued to pursue our dreams and aspirations despite the obstacles in our path.”

“Let us continue to support each other and strive for excellence in our respective fields. Let us be agents of positive change in our communities and in the world. Let us carry with us the memories of our college years, the friendships we have made, the resilience we have built, and the mission and charism of Regis and the sisters of Saint Joseph of Boston,” said Egwakhide.

Egwakhide graduated with a bachelor of arts in public health. In her time at Regis, she demonstrated a remarkable dedication to her studies and a passion for making a positive impact in her community. She dedicated her time to fostering a welcoming and inclusive environment for all students. In addition to serving as class president, she was also the vice president of the Regis African Student Association, a Pride Guide, and Resident Assistant.

Graduate student speaker Lise McKenzie addressed her fellow candidates for graduation. McKenzie began her journey at Regis during the heart of the pandemic. By the end of her first virtual classroom session, she said that there were no doubts in her mind that she had found her academic family in the doctoral in higher education leadership program. “We were part of a team and we were going to get through this together,” she said.

“Being a part of the Regis community means we answer the call to serve and lead. Whether that service and or leadership takes place in our churches, in our hospitals or elsewhere in our communities, Regis has provided us the tools we need to break glass ceilings, build chairs to bring to the table, and make our voices heard. Regis imparted upon us the importance of embracing diversity, equity, and inclusion in our daily lives,” said McKenzie.

McKenzie was recently recognized for the Doctor of Education Award for Overall Excellence. She is the co-founder of Healthy Girls and Women Institute, a practice that provides mental health, emotional support and life coaching services. With more than 20 years of service in human services, McKenzie has answered a call to support the emotional growth, mental stability, and personal development of individuals through the development of the skills that are needed to lead healthy lives.

Over 5,000 friends and family members attended the ceremony, bringing their support and enthusiasm in celebration of the graduates’ achievements. An additional 1,000 people viewed the ceremony via live-stream.