Follow your passion. Live your life. And think about sleeping on the floor. Speakers at the 2013 commencement of the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey encouraged students to boldly venture into the next chapter of their life.
The school’s record number of 1,313 graduating undergraduate students were split in morning and afternoon ceremonies to accommodate the students.
At the morning event, Herman Saatkamp, Stockton’s president, said Saturday was just the start of a life-long path.
“Here is an important message to our graduates: having a college degree is not enough,” Saatkamp said. “Having a college degree gets you a long way because you have the ability to continue to learn and the likelihood of living well.”
Lynn Abraham, one of the class’s two valedictorians, reminded students of the importance of stories. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Speech-Language Pathology on Saturday, and it was stories that first attracted her to the field.
“Graduates, what moments at Stockton will you remember?” she said. “As you graduate today, treasure your college stories and learn from the stories of others, but more importantly, use them to teach, persuade, inspire, and grow in your personal and professional endeavors.”
The keynote speaker was Kristen Grimm, founder and president of the public relations firm Spitfire Strategies. She told students that they have degrees, but the real adventure of life is before them.
“Make a bucket list before you get to thirty… and just embrace sleeping on the floor,” she said.
Grimm said opportunities can come, and challenged students to make good, socially beneficial decisions when they are in a position of power.
The school’s 140 masters and doctoral students graduated in a separate ceremony Friday night.
Rosas Delgado, the student speaker, quoted early 20th century civil rights leader Booker T. Washington in her speech, saying, “‘I have learned that success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has had to overcome while trying to succeed.’”
Delgado was born in Lima, Peru and arrived at Stockton via an arduous path that involved the death of her mother and relocation to the United States. It wasn’t easy, she said.
“I look back at my life, as most of us are, and the journey that it took for me to get to where I am today.”
The keynote speaker, John G. Emge, executive director of the Atlantic and Cape May Counties United Way of Greater Philadelphia and South Jersey, said his father was a big inspiration. His father tried to help almost everyone he met, and was “courteous, considerate and almost chivalrous.”
U.S. Rep. John Lewis, a civil rights-era veteran and the classes other valedictorian, Linwood Donelson, were scheduled to speak at the afternoon service.