At Commencement 2016, a Look Forward With the U.S. Secretary of Energy

For the second year in a row, the University’s commencement included something more than thousands of black-capped graduates.

The 140th Commencement of Boston College was held this morning at 10 a.m. in Alumni Stadium. 2177 undergraduates and 1089 graduates received diplomas. 237 law students will graduate Friday. The ceremony featured U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest J. Moniz, BC ’66, as the speaker.

Events at the commencement ceremony touched on several issues of social justice that have been in conversation on campus this past year: members of Eradicate Racism held a sign that expressed disappointment in BC’s actions toward racial diversity, and the speech given by the Commencement speaker focused on the need for environmental change.

This morning, a student was reported missing after she failed to show up at her graduation ceremony. She was found Monday evening near the Chestnut Hill Mall.

An academic procession of graduates and undergraduates receiving bachelor, master’s, and doctoral degrees began at 9:15 a.m. Genevieve Foley, BC ’66, the chief marshall of the University Commencement, led the procession. Foley held the ceremonial mace, which symbolizes the University’s authority to grant degrees. Rev. Francis R. Herman, S.J., the chief marshall of the procession, walked with Foley.

Following Foley and Herman were the graduates and undergraduates from each of the various colleges in the University—the Carroll School of Management, the Lynch School of Education, the Connell School of Nursing, and the Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences. The graduating students were adorned in black caps and gowns. Some graduates took cell phone videos while others proceeded with smiling faces, waving to family and friends in the stands.


“Today is a day for gratitude and celebration.”

-University President Rev. William P. Leahy, S.J.


Students from 58 countries comprise the class of 2016, and the flags of each of the countries lined the Stadium. The names of these countries were announced as the graduates proceeded to their seats.

Faculty members and members of the Board of Trustees then walked to their seats. They were followed by Moniz, the Commencement speaker, who was escorted by John F. Fish, chair of the Board of Trustees, and University President Rev. William P. Leahy, S.J.

Once the procession ended, everyone stood for the singing of the national anthem and the invocation by Rev. Charles Gallagher, S.J. Leahy then gave his opening remarks.

“Today is a day for gratitude and celebration,” he said.

See our full gallery of photos from Commencement here.

Leahy highlighted the accomplishments of students in academic, social, and religious areas on campus. He thanked the parents and faculty for their part in the development of the class of 2016.

He then pointed out some of the major events the class of 2016 had experienced in its four years at BC, including the Marathon Monday bombings as freshmen, the construction of Stokes Hall, and the record snowfall in 2015.

Leahy then turned to the state of the world. He commented on the economic inequality and racial tensions that continue to exist in today’s society.

During the ceremony, members of Eradicate Boston College Racism held up a sign in silent protest of existing racial issues on campus. The sign was titled “Boston College Racism Report Card” and gave BC failing grades in racial equity, accountability, safety, its Jesuit mission, and its institutional commitment. The final grade the group gave the University was an A+ in denial.

Attention was also brought to Eradicate last year when an anonymous donor funded the flying of a plane at Commencement with the banner “Eradicate #BostonCollegeRacism.”

“[The class of 2016’s] four years at Boston College has been marked with little progress and failed commitments from BC administrators,” a spokesperson from Eradicate said in a press release.

The spokesperson pointed out in the press release that other universities like Yale and Brown have allocated funds toward action plans to address institutional racism on campus.

Leahy concluded his opening remarks with a final message of hope for the class of 2016.

“I believe you, the members of the class of 2016, will do your part to engage and resolve the troubling issues of our day. May you be beacons of hope and light like the towers of Gasson Hall,” Leahy said.

Following the opening remarks, the candidates for honorary degrees were individually awarded by Leahy and Fish.

After the honorary degrees were awarded, Moniz gave his Commencement address.

Moniz spoke about change and the persistent challenges the graduates would face in the future.

“The emphasis is on addressing and embracing change at personal, community, national, and global scales and how a BC education has certainly taught me, and I believe, prepared you, for the challenges and opportunities of change,” Moniz said.

Moniz spoke about his past and the changes he has experienced in the last 50 years of his life. Moniz is from Fall River, Mass. and his life is a classic American story, he said. He had immigrant grandparents and parents without high school educations, but who nevertheless had a passion for education.

Moniz gave a brief timeline of his career path, made up of many changes, including his time as a physicist through his involvement in national security issues as secretary of energy.

“My call is to all of you to embrace change … that will lead to personal fulfillment and will help move our fellow citizens, our country, and our world forward,” he said.

Moniz then touched on global issues that he said will be pressing in the next 50 years. These issues include global warming, climate change, and clean energy solutions. Terrorism and extreme weather are linked to climate change, according to Moniz. He related the Boston Marathon bombings and massive snowfall in 2015 to a changing global climate. He also linked climate change and a struggling population of poor people across the world.

“The Jesuit tradition of advancing education and social justice brings these two threads together,” he said.

Moniz cited Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si, in reference to the duty people face to help the poor and to be stewards of the Earth.

“Mother Earth is speaking more and more loudly, even though some choose to cover their ears and [pretend they] cannot hear,” Moniz said.

Moniz also mentioned climate refugees as another pressing issue that will become more prevalent in years to come. A few weeks prior to commencement, Climate Justice at Boston College had held a sleep-out in front of Leahy’s house to raise awareness for this issue and to call for the University to divest from fossil fuels. In the past few years, the group has been vocal on campus about the need for BC to become more active in the fight against climate change. The University has not announced a plan to divest or addressed Climate Justice’s concerns in any formal way.

After Moniz concluded his speech, the deans from each of the colleges awarded bachelor, master’s, and doctoral degrees to a graduate from each department as a degree for the class.

The ceremony concluded with “For Boston” playing as people exited the stadium.

Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Editor

About Chris Russo 89 Articles
Chris is the associate news editor for The Heights. He is from Manhattan, N.Y. and can talk about his love for New York City for hours. You can follow him on Twitter @chris_heights.