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Bentley University Class of 2024 Celebrates Resilience, Achievement as Graduation Marks Culmination of a Historic Four Years

May 18, 2024 3:09 PM EDT

New Balance President and CEO Joe Preston Tells Bentley Graduates to 'Be the Leader Who Keeps People Connected'

WALTHAM, Mass., May 18, 2024 /PRNewswire/ -- Nearly 900 undergraduates of the Class of 2024 celebrated their send-off from Bentley University in a very different way than their 2020 arrival amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The 105th undergraduate commencement ceremony was marked by maskless smiles, long embraces, celebratory high-fives and groups of friends and family posing arm-in-arm for photos. Keynote speaker Joe Preston, president and CEO of New Balance, addressed a crowd of approximately 7,500 who attended the event on the Bentley football field on May 18. A livestream was available for those unable to attend in person. 

"Class of 2024, making it to commencement is never certain, but you have jumped more hurdles, complied with more protocols and dealt with more ambiguities than is to be expected in four years of college; and that accomplishment deserves recognition today," Bentley President E. LaBrent Chrite said as he welcomed graduates. 

Acknowledging current global events, he said, "Often, it's hard not to be pessimistic and even downtrodden. It's near impossible to not feel some level of grief. Yet, it's days like today that offer us a momentary pause from the ways of the world where we can come together as a community and celebrate accomplishment. Honor excellence. Recognize achievement. And, I hope, lift our gaze toward a brighter future that will be, in no small part, defined by those of you who sit before us today." 

Chrite expressed confidence in graduates as they begin their next chapter. "You graduate from this institution with the necessary skills, abilities, fluencies and worldview that will enable you to overcome the challenges you will face — and the mindset to consider, from multiple points of view, what exactly led to the challenge in the first place. 

"Your Bentley education has readied you to live a life of purpose, to have an impact, to be a force that changes the world for the better," Chrite continued. "The challenges today are enormous. My expectation of each of you are equally great." 

During his remarks to graduates, Preston said, "Years from now, society is going to be most curious about the Class of 2024: how you handled the adversity, how you've grown and how your contributions are impacting the world. What you have endured and accomplished says a lot about your potential — certainly as a business leader and most importantly as a person." 

Recognizing the technical skills that graduates have acquired, Preston also emphasized the importance of soft skills, including the ability to make connections. 

"You have seen how interconnected the world is … We have also seen over the last four years the effects of isolation on mental health worldwide," he said, challenging graduates to build relationships. "Be the one — be the leader in your group, in your community — that keeps people connected. And, when you don't hear from someone in a while, reach out. Sometimes sounds of silence can be a cry for help. Nothing in the human experience is more important than relationships. And nothing in a relationship is more powerful than being with each other." 

The ability to lead, Preston said, comes from lived experiences and a personal commitment to learn, explore, discover — and always remain curious. "Over the last four years, you have been strengthening your leadership competencies. You've demonstrated resilience, you've operated surrounded by ambiguity, you were adaptive when necessary and you were results-oriented. And, results do matter. There was a goal. You achieved it. You are here today." 

Preston shared leadership lessons that he has learned over the years, including the belief that effective leaders engage in a "continuous cycle of listening and learning" and named crucial characteristics of strong leaders: "They are authentic. They have strong values and character. They operate with humility. They demonstrate strength through resilience, and they also demonstrate strength through acts of kindness." 

He noted the positive impact of technology on innovation but reminded graduates not to forget about human connections and remaining present in the moment. "For each of you as you go forward, leverage technology as a tool but never stop learning, thinking and staying curious." 

Preston applauded graduates as a generation that shows empathy and passion. Acknowledging experiences that graduates had to forgo during the pandemic, he said "Take nothing for granted … find joy in the moments you have, both big and small. 

"Let your experiences inform you, but never let one thing define you," he continued. "Be proud of your past, and always be ready for change that accompanies any growth." 

During the ceremony, Senior Class Cabinet President and Double Falcon Sanay Jhaveri '24, MSF '24 addressed his peers, reflecting on the uncertainty of the pandemic as they arrived on campus in fall 2020. 

"Today, when we all walk across this stage and cap off our final moments as students at Bentley University, we aren't just doing it for the people we've become now, but also for the people we were four years ago," he said. "We wondered how we would sustain ourselves here. Personally, at the time, I didn't know whether I would make connections with anyone on this campus. However, the situation encouraged me to make even deeper bonds with the people I started Bentley with, and today, I get to walk with them across this stage." 

Though he acknowledged his struggle to find motivation during high school, Jhaveri said, "Bentley has molded me into the person I always knew I could be ... Bentley taught us all about the importance of networking; it taught us to excel in academics and be a leader. However, something Bentley teaches that isn't mentioned so often is the importance of perseverance and growth. Each of us has faced our own journey here, and we can say we've passed with flying colors because we're all gathered here today. That's what perseverance and growth do. They push you to keep going, to be the best possible version of yourself. They reinforce your ability to achieve greatness, success and prosperity in life … this isn't the end, it's the beginning of the rest of our lives." 

The commencement ceremony concluded a week of Class of 2024 festivities, including a champagne toast at the President's house and an awards ceremony. Smaller celebrations for different campus groups and programs were also held, including a Rainbow Graduation ceremony for graduating LGBTQ+ seniors and a cording ceremony to celebrate students who are the first in their family to graduate from college. 

PROCTOR & GAMBLE EXECUTIVE KARAN DYSON ENCOURAGES GRADUATE STUDENTS TO 'BREAK DOWN WALLS OF FEAR'

On Friday, May 17, the university also honored PhD and graduate students in the 49th annual commencement ceremony for Bentley's McCallum Graduate School of Business, which saw a crowd of approximately 2,500 gathered inside the Bentley Arena. President Chrite greeted the graduates with congratulations and expressed the optimism he has for graduates as they use their advanced degrees to become "engaged, high-integrity, empathetic and talented leaders" with the power to positively change in the world. 

At the graduate ceremony, the university awarded 211 Master of Business Administration degrees and 284 Master of Science degrees in subjects including AccountingBusiness Analytics and Human Factors in Information Design. Six graduates were awarded PhDs — three in Business and three in Accounting — and were presented with diplomas and hoods from their faculty advisers. 

During the ceremony, keynote speaker Karan Dyson, vice president, Global Grooming Process and Engineering at Procter & Gamble, told graduates, "On the other side of this graduation wall, the world is waiting on you all to rise as leaders — not just average leaders but transformational leaders." 

That kind of leadership, Dyson said, is informed by resilience. "First, it will require creating your life map and owning it. You have to know where you are going, otherwise life will take you to where you land … Resist just following what others have done because their plan may not encompass the magnitude of greatness that you desire for yourself and your life." 

Dyson said that assessing fear early can help avoid self-doubt and imposter syndrome — something she sees often while serving as a mentor. To emphasize the potential impact of outside barriers, she reflected on a personal story of how people cautioned her against taking a career opportunity to lead an engineering organization in China.   

"I was actually relieved as they shared their concerns, because I could quickly assess that these were not my fears nor concerns that would prevent me from embracing the opportunity," she told the graduates. "Was I afraid? Heck yeah, I was scared. But I committed to myself that when fear seeps in, I will run towards it because I know what lies beneath the fear is an opportunity for me to learn and grow exponentially." 

As for life's inevitable curveballs, she said, "Expect them and plan for them. Every good plan has a backup plan. It doesn't mean that you aren't slowed down from the setbacks or that your path doesn't require a modification, just don't abandon your plan, don't abandon your goals, don't abandon your aspirations and don't abandon your dreams." 

Referencing successful inventors — like Thomas Edison, Steve Jobs and the Wright brothers — who experienced early failures, Dyson said, "I want you to clearly see and believe that on the other side of failure there is success … Celebrating your achievements and milestones is a secret weapon that you can use to help motivate and build your own confidence." 

She concluded, "I give you permission to boldly step into this next chapter of your life; to dream big, to break down walls of fear and doubt. And when you are knocked down, pop back up and allow the resiliency muscle that you have created to kick in … You are ready." 

Graduate student speaker and Double Falcon Aleshia Green '19, MSF '24 began by talking candidly about her uncertainty to pursue a master's degree. "I learned that my hesitation didn't stem from those practical considerations I had previously questioned; rather it was my own fear of failure and not being good enough to achieve that was holding me back. My mother encouraged me to take a leap of faith to take a chance on myself — and that's just what I did." 

She encouraged her classmates to take chances as they follow their life goals and reminded them of their preparedness. "You are more than ready; you are more than good enough and you are well-equipped with the necessary tools along with the knowledge and confidence to make it all happen. Today I challenge you to dream, to leap, to fly, to believe in yourself. Pass the glass ceilings that will cease to exist, you'll never know if the opportunity is missed. Be brave, be fearless. Never be afraid to fly because you might even soar. So, here's to the dreamers and believers." 

ABOUT THE GRADUATES 

The Class of 2024 includes 867 undergraduate students representing 34 states and territories and 40 countries. The degrees include 855 Bachelor of Science degrees and 12 Bachelor of Arts degrees. The class also includes 501 graduate students representing 27 states and territories and 29 countries. They include 284 Master of Science degrees, 211 Master of Business Administration degrees and six PhDs. Fifty-eight students earned their bachelor's and master's degrees, and nine students earned both MBA and MS degrees this academic year.

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SOURCE BENTLEY UNIVERSITY



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