Caps at Bryant Commencement 2024
A sea of graduation caps at Bryant's 161st Commencement for undergraduates on May 18.
‘Walk tall’: At 2024 Commencement, grads step into their next big adventure
May 19, 2024, by Emma Bartlett, Stephen Kostrzewa, and Casey Nilsson
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Donning his cap and gown with regalia draped over his shoulders, Sociology major Pablo Ablanedo ’24 was ready to take on the world, come rain or high water, on a drizzly but buoyant Commencement day at Bryant on May 18.

“After four years of hard work, it feels great to be passing through the Archway,” said Ablanedo, an international student from Spain who served as a captain on the university’s men’s soccer team and now plans on pursuing a master’s degree. 

Bryant commencement
The Class of 2024 walks through the Archway, a Commencement tradition. 

Marching alongside 815 of his peers, Ablanedo headed toward a large white tent where thousands of families and friends waited to celebrate the Class of 2024’s accomplishments. The 161st Commencement was then convened by Board of Trustees Chair D. Ellen Wilson ’79.

In his Commencement address, Bryant President Ross Gittell, Ph.D., reflected on his shared experience with the Class of 2024. Both Gittell and the 2024 graduates came to Bryant in the thick of a global pandemic, unsure of where the university was headed next. Students and their families wondered if their collegiate experience would mirror their senior years of high school: virtual learning, cancelled proms, drive-through graduations. 

Bryant Commencement
A student greets Bryant President Ross Gittell, Ph.D., alongside Board Chair D. Ellen Wilson '79.

“Many of you did not even pack warm clothes, because you were anticipating taking classes on Zoom from your parents’ homes before the weather in New England turned cold,” Gittell said. But, as other universities shut their gates for extended periods of time during the 2020/2021 academic year, the Bryant campus remained open with precautions in place.  

“From navigating disruptions caused by the pandemic and overcoming the unique obstacles of college life during uncertain times, you have demonstrated resilience, adaptability, and exceptional strength of character,” said Gittell, lauding the class for their many achievements in academics, philanthropy, athletics, and student life.  

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Bryant commencement
Philanthropist Tsitsi Masiyiwa P’17 earned an honorary doctorate degree at the 161st Commencement.

CVS President and CEO Karen Lynch, who received an honorary doctorate degree alongside global philanthropist Tsitsi Masiyiwa P’17 and longtime Fidelity Investments executive David C. Weinstein, echoed Gittell’s remarks in her Commencement address, which validated – and sought power in – the unique experiences of the Class of 2024. Lynch, who led CVS’s response to the COVID-19 crisis, urged new graduates to sharpen and hone the resilience they’ve built; assess their impact on the world; protect their time and health; and make the time to nurture relationships.  

Bryant commencement
Karen Lynch, center, sits on the Commencement stage. 

“As you approach and contemplate the great ‘what now,’ walk tall,” she emphasized. “Because, ultimately, there is so much excitement and beauty in knowing that only time will tell what the future holds.” 

Communication major Diamand Khalil ’24, who delivered the Student Charge, worked to refine her speech up until the last minute, making final notes with a borrowed pen. Her moving, impassioned address honored her Lebanese heritage, her father who brought his family to America and encouraged her to enroll at Bryant before his untimely passing, and the university where she found a second home. 

That support, she said, has helped her to find her voice and to excel as a student and as a person. “In this home, I carry my dual identity like it is my pride and my joy because it is: I am a Lebanese American woman on the verge of becoming the best version of herself and the four beautiful years I have lived in this home helped make this transition possible.” 

Diamand Khalil
Communication major Diamand Khalil ’24 delivered the Student Charge at Bryant's Commencement.

Khalil closed her remarks by challenging her classmates to embody compassion and integrity as they set out to make their mark on the world. “In a world where they want you to think that your humanity is your weakness, make it your strength. Lead with kindness, lead with a conscience, lead with integrity, lead with dignity, lead with honesty, and lead with love,” she implored. 

Throughout the rest of the ceremony, scores of students and professors congratulated Khalil on her speech as they passed her seat in the front row, including Christopher Morse, Ph.D., professor and chair of Bryant’s Communication and Language Studies department.  

“I’m so proud of you,” he told her. 

After degrees were conferred and black and gold streamers rained down on the newly minted graduates, the crowd poured out of the Commencement tent to join family and friends on the Fisher Student Patio at the New Alumni Reception.  

 

Psychology major Brittney Lucero ’24, who performed with several of Bryant’s music groups and helped to mentor younger students as an orientation leader, shared that, post-Commencement, she will be working for Aflac as a benefits advisor. While she admitted to some graduation day jitters, she noted that her family and friends’ support over the past four years were instrumental to her success, and she was excited to have them there to celebrate. 

Family members beamed as their loved ones reaped the rewards of years of hard work, including Laura Roethlein, who stood under an umbrella with her son, Matthew Roethlein ’24, a Finance major who will be entering Bryant’s One-Year MBA program. 

Roethleins
Matthew Roethlein '24 poses with his father, Bryant Professor Christopher Roethlein, Ph.D., on the Commencement stage. 

“I have two sons graduating today, and I’m so proud of them both,” said his mom, with a beaming smile. An added bonus: Both Matthew and his twin brother, Nathan, a Team and Project Management major who will also be pursuing his MBA at Bryant, were handed their degrees by their father, Bryant Professor of Management, Christopher Roethlein, Ph.D., who had arranged to be part of the special moment. 

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