'Go set the world aflame' BC graduates told

CHESTNUT HILL — Despite chilly temperatures which had attendees wrapped in blankets and students shivering as they anxiously awaited their diplomas, the joy among the graduates, parents and speakers was evident at Boston College’s May 23 commencement.

The formal ceremony began with the playing of “Pomp and Circumstance” shortly after 9:30 a.m. at Alumni Stadium.

Implementing a tradition inaugurated this year, students participated in a lengthy procession that began in front of Gasson Hall on Linden Lane on Main Campus. The Class of 2005 made their way through Middle Campus, before descending the steps by Higgins Hall, and finally entering the stadium from both sides. Students donned black caps and gowns, holding their hoods at their side as they took one final walk through the campus as undergraduates.

"It looked really professional to see the students all walking in together," said Crystal Chambers, a student in the Carroll School of Management class of 2006. "I am looking forward to this new tradition for when I graduate, it was great to watch."

In previous years the ceremony began with students already seated on the field. Boston College decided to add this procession to the ceremony to create a new commencement tradition for the school.

"Last year the University convened a traditions committee involving students, faculty and administration to find ways to bring the rich 142 year history of Boston College to life in a contemporary manner," said Boston College spokesman Jack Dunn.

One of the suggestions was for the freshmen, in their first week of school, to process down Linden Lane before gathering for an academic convocation where they would hear a speaker who wrote the book they had read that summer, he added.

"We decided that we would make this a tradition starting this year, where seniors would also process down Linden Lane, thereby replicating as seniors what they had done as freshmen," said Dunn.

The images of students entering the field — smiling, seeking out their parents in the crowd and even talking on their cell phones — were projected on huge video monitors on either side of the stadium’s end zone. The procession took about a half-hour as students stepped out of line to smile and wave to family and friends.

The ceremony began with a prayer and a blessing for the class of 2005 given by Father Paul F. Harman, SJ, rector of the Boston College Jesuit Community.

Honorary degrees were awarded to six individuals who, “exemplify the university’s Jesuit, Catholic tradition of service to the human family”:

-- Archbishop of Boston Seán P. O'Malley;

-- Romeo Dallaire, a retired commander of the United Nation's Assistance Mission to Rwanda and Uganda;

-- Sister Janet Eisner, SND, president of Emmanuel College;

-- Norman C. Francis, president of Xavier University of Louisiana, the nation's only historically black Catholic university;

-- Sara Martinez Tucker, president of the Hispanic Scholarship Fund; and

-- Dr. Paul Farmer, a physician whose treatments for tuberculosis and AIDS have helped hundreds of thousands of patients in impoverished countries.

Farmer, whose work with the poor was profiled in the Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “Mountains Beyond Mountains,” by Tracy Kidder, delivered the commencement address. Farmer’s humorous remarks elicited frequent laughter from the audience.

He opened his remarks by asking the audience “Is it just me, or are you cold?”

Farmer smoothly interwove humor into his speech as he began to talk about human rights, Haiti and Rwanda. He offered students wisdom through his stories and advice. He told the students that one should take action against the world’s suffering and injustice, pointing to examples ranging from Archimedes, Thomas Clarkson and Aristotle to fellow honorary degree recipient, Dallaire.

"Go set the world aflame," he urged the students, quoting Jesuit founder St. Ignatius.

Chris Fallon of Methuen, a graduate of the School of Arts and Sciences said he and his fellow graduates enjoyed Farmer’s address.

"He warmed up the crowd really well with his jokes, but then was able to strike a chord with a more serious message. His words helped to remind us that we are so fortunate and we need to use our strengths to help others," he said.

Following Farmer’s speech, the students stood up according to their academic department and program to place on their hoods and officially become graduates of Boston College. A student representative from each school program was called to the stage to have their hood placed over their shoulders and to move the tassel on their caps.

Archbishop O’Malley delivered the closing benediction. He asked for God’s blessing as the graduates go on to become future leaders.

"We offer you thanks for the support and encouragement provided by the graduate's families and all who have helped them to realize the achievements that are recognized this day. We thank you too for the dedicated administration, faculty and staff of Boston College who have guided these young people in learning and in maturing so that they can contribute to the good of society," he said.

He then prayed for the calling of the students to fulfill the religious tradition of the university. “We pray that these men and women will be faithful to the Jesuit tradition of service, that they will be a sign of God’s love to all people, and that they will indeed always excel in all their good works.”

At the conclusion of the ceremony students and well wishers moved to various locations about campus for individual school diploma ceremonies. Approximately 3,300 graduates received degrees in undergraduate programs as well as graduate programs in education, law, management, nursing and social work.

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