Ursinus College Celebrates Class of 2022
For the first time in three years, Ursinus College’s most revered tradition returned to the front lawn outside the Philip and Muriel Berman Museum of Art. During a commencement ceremony attended by hundreds of family members, friends, and loved ones, members of the class of 2022 gathered to celebrate and close the door on their Ursinus quest.
“These past four years also came with many challenges, but we weathered the storm; we kept our eyes on that thin light shining through the clouds, and now the sun is shining ever brighter today,” said Jalen Everette ’22, this year’s student commencement speaker and the student government president. “We lived through one of the most volatile political and social landscapes ever. We were pushed to our extremes mentally and physically, but we made it. As a campus community, we helped each other through these tough times and that is what makes us Ursinus.”
As the graduates reflected on challenges of a college experience interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, each embraced their resiliency, adaptability, and strength, Everette said.
Katie Merz, a Brooklyn artist who during the pandemic transformed the smokestack outside of the facilities building into a mural titled Live the Questions, addressed the graduates as keynote speaker. To create the 120-foot piece, Merz spoke to members of the Ursinus community—especially students—to become intimately familiar with the college. She turned their stories, passions, and ideas into various illustrative shapes and iconography in her unique style, and the mural became a symbol of the Ursinus experience.
She said the project gave her “a glimmer of what you offer your students. Even higher than the smokestack is the bar this [college] sets—academically, culturally, and individually. Ursinus’s legacy is the resulting immense personal growth of all of you 2022 graduates during your short time here.”
“All these diverse connections with you students threaded the heart of my drawing to the heart of the Ursinus,” said Merz, who was bestowed an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters. “There lies your creation. Our creation. A creation that reflects the future; a story written not by one person for a few people, but a collection of stories written by us all.”
During the ceremony, an Honorary Doctor of Divinity was bestowed upon Vai Sikahema, a longtime sports and news broadcaster for NBC10 in Philadelphia and General Authority Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Sikahema addressed the graduates during the baccalaureate ceremony on Friday, May 13.
The commencement ceremony also included recognition of three faculty with annual faculty awards: Associate Dean for Civic Learning and Assistant Professor of Philosophy and the Humanities Christian Rice (the H. Lloyd Jones Jr. Award for Distinguished Advising and Mentoring); Assistant Professor of Health and Exercise Physiology Stephen Kolwicz (the Lindback Distinguished Teaching Award); and Professor of English Nzadi Keita (the Laughlin Award for Professional Achievement).
Board of Trustees Chair Nina Stryker ’78, P’19 presented President Jill Leauber Marsteller ’78, P’18 with a special citation honoring her years of service to the college. Marsteller, who is retiring later this summer, was an adjunct instructor, staff member, and senior vice president for advancement before becoming the college’s 18th—and first female—president in September 2021.
In her remarks to the graduates, Marsteller evoked her mantra—grace, grateful, and greatness—and said, “Look within and listen to and trust that small voice inside of you … There is something distinct and special in all of you—as unique as your fingerprint. Even if you face a moment of doubt, just remind yourself it is there and it will appear when it is ready. It could make all the difference at some poignant moment in your life.”
“You are the class that has changed my life,” Marsteller said. “And my memories of you will continue to be a constant reminder whether here in the den, or out in the global wilderness, that every single day has been and will be a great day to be a Bear.”