RIC’s 2017 Graduates Encouraged to Live by the “Four L’s” at 163rd Commencement


Rhode Island College celebrated its 163rd baccalaureate commencement ceremonies on May 13, attended by R.I. Gov. Gina Raimondo, R.I. Board of Education Chair Barbara Cottam, U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, U.S. Rep. James Langevin, Ambassador of Timor-Leste Domingos Sarmento Alves, and Mayors Jorge Elorza, James Diossa, Scott Avedisian and Charles Lombardi.

RIC conferred 1,765 undergraduate degrees during the ceremony, with 690 students graduating with honors: 104 summa cum laude, 207 magna cum laude and 379 cum laude.

Presiding over his first commencement ceremony, RIC President Frank D. Sánchez offered the grads a few words of encouragement.

“Your learning has just begun because your degree is not a finish line; it is a door of endless possibilities and today you are walking through it,’’ he said. “It is up to you to see what is beyond that threshold.’’

Gov. Raimondo told the grads that they can achieve greatness.

“The same talent, brains and resilience that got you here today is going to be the combination of skills that will make you successful in the future,’’ Raimondo said. Whenever I come across a teacher or nurse from RIC, I know he or she is a good teacher or nurse. You all have what it takes.’’

International advocate for social justice and academic thought leader Sonia Nieto accepted an honorary doctorate in education and delivered the commencement address. She urged RIC’s grads to change the world by employing the “four L’s.’’

“As you go through life: love, learn, live and laugh,’’ she said. “Be curious, keep an open mind…and work with others, especially those whose ideas, experiences and identities may be different from yours. This is an essential way to keep learning.’’

A national voice for multicultural education, teacher education and the education of students of culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, Nieto has written dozens of book chapters and journal articles on these subjects. “Use your education for the uplift and benefit of others as well as yourself,’’ she told graduates.

At the advanced degrees ceremony, Acting Commissioner of Postsecondary Education Brenda Dann-Messier ’73 struck a similar tone in her remarks, crediting RIC for her involvement in civil, student and women’s rights.

“The faculty members at RIC understood the incredible power of bringing history alive through personal experience and recognized my passion for social justice issues,’’ said Dann-Messier.

As a RIC graduate student, she said one professor urged her to go to the Urban Educational Center of Rhode Island College, which had been established after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“As a result of that visit I worked in South Providence on and off for 30 years and found my calling in adult education and college access programs,’’ she said. “Under the exemplary leadership of President Sánchez, I believe that tradition of faculty engagement and experiential learning will continue to flourish at Rhode Island College.’’

RIC also awarded presidential medals to Prime Minister Rui Maria de Araújo, and Minister of Planning and Strategic Development Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão, both of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste. Presidential medals are bestowed upon individuals of special distinction with the college community, and Dr. Araújo and Mr. Gusmão were honored for their courage and continued efforts to advance democracy in their country and around the world. Ambassador of Timor Leste Domingos Sarmento Alves accepted the medals on their behalf.

Representing the RIC Class of 1967, Eugene Simone presented a monetary gift to RIC on behalf of the Golden Anniversary Class. A plaque bearing the class year will be placed at the Mount Pleasant Avenue entrance to campus.

A webcast of the 2017 commencement ceremonies can be viewed online at www.ric.edu.