RIC undergraduate commencement – 2010 Exuberant grads celebrate day in the sun

RIC President Nancy Carriuolo presents diplomas.
“Will this period be remembered as the Great Recession or the Recession That Made Us Great?”

That was the question posed by Governor Donald Carcieri to the class of 2010 at their baccalaureate commencement on Saturday, May 22, on the campus quad. By the expressions on the faces of these graduates, clearly this was a time for greatness.

The soon-to-be graduates marched in black robes past a crowd of onlookers with a look of fearlessness and exuberance in their eyes. RIC awarded 1,260 undergraduates degrees to January, May and August 2010 graduates.

Graduates list

Photo gallery

Words of wisdom from RIC's 2010 commencement speakers

Gov. Carcieri

"Each one of you has a unique talent. Find it."
– Donald Carcieri, governor of the State of Rhode Island

"It's not about how much you earn but by how much you give."
– Judge Frank Caprio, chair of the Board of Governors for Higher Education

"We're becoming a society of commentators. Do your part to change that."
– David Cicilline, mayor of Providence

"Be what you want to be."
– Charles Lombardi, mayor of North Providence

"Each class has its own character. You are not a class that sits on the
sidelines and watches. The torch is passed to you."

– RIC President Nancy Carriuolo

"Fifty years may seem like a long time to many of you, but it seems like a
blink of the eye from our perspective."

– Joseph Aguiar, Golden Anniversary Class of 1960

"I am humbled by receiving this degree for something I love doing."
John Palumbo, Sr., president and publisher of Rhode Island Monthly Communications, and 2010 Doctor of Public Service Honorary Degree Recipient

"You have learned the art of the possible."
– Gordon Fox, Speaker of the House, 2010 Doctor of Laws Honorary Degree Recipient and Commencement Speaker

"Remember these moments because you worked for them."
– Kervin Leonidas, Class of 2010 President

“You aren’t graduates who need lessons in hardship,” said Judge Frank Caprio, who brought greetings from the Board of Governors for Higher Education. “Many of you are the sons and daughters of immigrants; and being the son of immigrants myself, I know the deep sacrifices you made to get here today.”

At least 50 percent of RIC’s grads are the first in their families to earn a college degree and many earn their degree while working a full-time job or raising families.

“It was very hard to get here,” said Dolores Medina, a general science major. “I hold a full-time job. I’m a single mother of three sons. I attended classes after work. But I did it.”

Alicia Roberts, an anthropology and English-creative writing major, said that though she was happy to be here at the ceremony, “the ceremony is less significant than what we all went through to get here.”

Dignitaries and leaders who spoke at the ceremony were aware of the kinds of battles these graduates had won. Their addresses were less lofty platitudes and more in the line of marching orders – rousing and daring.

Charles Lombardi, mayor of North Providence, charged the graduating class to never accept the word “can’t.” “It took me three tries before I became mayor,” he said.

Commencement speaker, Gordon Fox, who is Speaker of the House of Representatives and a member of RIC’s class of ’85, told the tale of his own battle, a story similar to many first-generation immigrants.

His father, Fox said, was an extremely intelligent and well-read man, but his life dictated that he forego college to earn a living to support the family.

Gordon Fox
“My father spent his days polishing jewelry at a factory,” Fox said, “but he made it clear to me that it was imperative that I go to college.”

Tragically, in Fox’s first year at a private college, his father died and Fox had to drop out of school, unable to afford the tuition. He went to work selling vacuum cleaners, among other odd jobs.

“I felt defeated,” he said. "I was afraid that history was repeating itself."

But one day he happened upon a tiny advertisement in the newspaper, with a coupon to send away for a free RIC catalog. He sent for the catalog, enrolled at RIC as a political science and history major and was able to begin again.

“RIC saved my life,” he said.

Fox became the first member of his family to earn a college degree. He also received a full scholarship to the Northeastern University School of Law and has held a distinguished career in public service ever since.

John Palumbo
As the son of a Cape Verdean mother, Fox holds the highest position ever achieved by a minority in the Rhode Island General Assembly – Speaker of the House. This is also the highest legislative rank ever for a graduate of Rhode Island College.

“As daunting and perilous as these economic times are,” Fox said, “I know RIC’s grads are up to the challenge. How do I know? Because, like them, I am RIC.”

Fox was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree at the ceremony. John Palumbo, Sr., owner, president and publisher of Rhode Island Monthly Communications, was awarded an honorary Doctor of Public Service degree.

Farewell remarks were given by 2010 class president Kervin Leonidas, who presented a $10,000 gift in honor of the late Vice President Ivy Locke to fund the building of the Locke Terrace at the RIC Recreation Center.

Kervin Leonidas

Eileen Deering Rafferty
Joseph Aguiar and Joseph Menard, members of the Golden Anniversary class of 1960, presented RIC President Nancy Carriuolo with a check for a new Endowed Scholarship Fund for Education to be used to assist RIC students who are going into teaching.

The most senior alumnus in attendance was Eileen Deering Rafferty from the Class of 1942. Dignitaries at the ceremony included U.S. congressman James Langevin (D-RI, RIC class of 1990); General Treasurer Frank Caprio; Providence Mayor David Cicilline; Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian; Cranston Mayor Allan Fung; members of the Board of Governors for Higher Education: Michael Ryan, Daniel Ryan and Solomon Solomon; Higher Education Commissioner Raymond DePasquale; and Associate Commissioner Susan LaPanne.