As spring rain fell across campus, a buoyant community of students, alumni, faculty, staff, family, and friends gathered beneath the Commencement tent on May 20 in support of Bryant University’s undergraduate Class of 2023.
This very community provided safe harbor as the class navigated the “tsunami” of the COVID-19 pandemic, which struck during the spring semester of their first year, reflected student charge Meghan Seligman ’23. But the Class of 2023 persevered in the face of great challenges, Seligman told the audience, and achieved extraordinary feats during their time in Smithfield.
“We have spent countless hours studying, researching, engaging in intellectual discourse, problem-solving, creating, and striving to be the best possible versions of our intellectual selves,” said Seligman, a Biology major. “We have grown as individuals, as a community, and as outstanding citizens about to have a professional and personal impact on the world.”
In his address to the class, Bryant University President Ross Gittell, Ph.D., praised their strength and accomplishments.
“You arrived on campus in the fall of 2019 for a seemingly typical college experience, but your college experience has been anything but ordinary. Instead, you can all tell a story of resilience and unity,” he stated.
Throughout their time at the university, the Class of 2023 rose to the occasion with courage, compassion, and tenacity, said Gittell.
“You supported and advocated for each other and pursued your passions with vigor and dedication,” he noted. “Through the unity of that shared experience, that positive, ‘we’re in it together’ mentality, you did not let COVID deny you a strong college education and experience. You endured, you innovated, you cared about each other, and I will always be proud of you for that.”
The Class of 2023, Gittell said, exemplified the best of Bryant, from their passion to their ability to problem-solve to their desire to boldly innovate, and pointed to their many successes — including organizing the inaugural Tupper Classic mock trial competition and the first Northeast Student Government Summit, raising more than $153,000 for cancer research through this year’s Derby Days drive, conducting significant academic research, completing strategic projects for major corporations, and playing a key role in Bryant’s first NCAA basketball tournament appearance — as ample evidence.
“Your class will be remembered for notable accomplishments at a time of great uncertainty,” he reminded them.
As the graduating students prepare for the next chapter of their lives, Gittell encouraged them to sustain the legacy of success they began during their college careers.
“Continue to be ambitious in your plans and actions both for yourselves and to help others. Continue to think critically, use your analytical training, empathize and be humble – for these are the essential traits of Bryant grads and great leaders,” he advocated. “You are the changemakers of tomorrow, and you have the power to shape a better future, not only for yourself but for others.”
Following his address, Gittell conferred three honorary degrees to Carmen Sylvester ’89 ’23H, president and CEO of Alltrust Credit Union; William Piccerelli ’64 P’88 ’23H, a partner at Marcum; and Rhode Island Governor Daniel McKee ’23H, who stressed that the graduates would always have a home at Bryant and in Rhode Island. He also challenged the class of 2023 to seek inspiration in those around them and to inspire others, as well.
“You are right on time,” McKee said. “The world needs you right now to lead.”
Marissa Crean ’81, president of the Bryant Alumni Leadership Council, welcomed the Class of 2023 into the ranks of the university’s 50,000-strong alumni network and advised them to share what they had learned with the next generation of Bryant students through mentorship.
“I can tell you with complete confidence that Bryant has prepared you for success in your lives and your careers,” she told the students.
The graduates, themselves, felt ready to take on the world, too.
“It’s very exciting,” said Emma Garrity ’23, a Psychology major who will pursue graduate school in the fall. “Of course it’s sad, but I feel like Bryant has prepared me for life after college.”
Gabriela Martin ’23 shared the same sentiments. A Marketing major who finished her degree in the fall and now works as a marketing coordinator in Woonsocket, Martin returned to campus for the ceremony and expressed her excitement to come back to her Bryant home and see the friends and faculty who were part of her college journey.
Zachary Zambarano ’23, a double major in Accounting and Politics and Law who served as president of student government for the 2022-2023 academic year, also remarked on his connection to faculty and staff.
“They’re really dedicated, they're masters in their field, and they really pushed us to be better and strive for excellence in whatever we do,” said Zambarano, who will join the tax staff at Citrin Cooperman after graduation.
The crisp day inspired a touch of nostalgia in the graduates, as well.
“It feels good,” adds Megan Lawlor ’23, who earned her degree in Health Sciences and accepted a job at a recruiting and staffing firm in Massachusetts. “It was a long time coming and came too quickly.”
To watch a recording of the undergraduate ceremony, visit commencement.bryant.edu