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President Chrite delivers the commencement address from behind the podium
Photo by Jamison Wexler

Esteemed honoree Joe Preston; members of the Board of Trustees; faculty and staff; distinguished guests; families and friends: on behalf of the entire Bentley community, thank you for joining us for this very special day — the 105th Undergraduate Commencement Exercises at Bentley University. We are honored to have you here with us.  

And to the Class of 2024, congratulations! This day – your day — is here! I am thrilled to welcome you to your commencement. For this class, in particular, this day is long-awaited and duly earned. For many of you, it will be the first time you’ve had the opportunity to walk across the stage, receive a diploma, toss your cap into the air (I don’t know if that's a thing here but feel free to start a new tradition if you want), and celebrate with your family and friends as a graduate.  

The COVID-19 pandemic robbed us all of too many treasures and experiences, not to mention loved ones. We missed weddings and birthdays, family reunions and holiday gatherings. This class has a unique addition to that list — missing your high school graduation. Over about twelve years of your childhood academic career, the promise and excitement of high school graduation loomed large. But in your case, almost overnight, plans changed and the world around you got a lot smaller, a little scarier, and filled with hand sanitizer, masks and Clorox wipes.  

It is not my intention to spend my time today stirring up memories of an incredibly difficult period in your life. But I do want to recognize that the end of your high school and childhood life, and the start of your college and adult life — already an enormous transition — was unmistakably more difficult, more complicated and more uncertain than we’ve seen in generations. 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. Congratulations.

I’m conscious also that your college years have been bookended by tumult. Vitriol and violence on a global scale has brought discord, incivility and cynicism into our daily lives. War, terrorism and needless bloodshed in Ukraine, East Africa, the Middle East and our own hemisphere — Haiti — have upended geopolitics. The stories and images from these regions invoke a difficult daily mixture of anger and heartache, fear and mourning. 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.  

Headshot of Bentley President E. LaBrent Chrite
Class of 2024, 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

Each of you is here because you made the decision to pursue higher education at Bentley. You selected the hard work and the intensive curriculum this university offers. In many ways, your education here can be defined, as Mike Rose posited in his book, “Lives on the Boundary,” as an invitation, an attempt to bring people into a kind of conversation, into a set of ideas, into ways of thinking, conversing, reading and writing that are new to you. 

One of the hallmarks of a truly dominant intellectual paradigm is that people have difficulty even imagining an alternative point of view. Our minds rush from stimulus to response, not leaving time for that critical space in between, where we can consider other perspectives. So carefully thought out in our own minds are the facts and figures, the argument and the solution – so how could anyone disagree? I encourage you to imagine something better, a world where different opinions are debated civilly, leading not to anger but to learning and growth.  

The world is increasingly complex; the challenges of our time are monumental; the technologies you will be expected to master are powerful and ubiquitous. There are not many certainties in the world, but of this I am sure: 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 academic pursuit has no doubt included trial and error, failure and success. Remember that, and account for continued learning and growing as you set out toward your new life beyond Bentley. You will make more mistakes and fall flat on your face on more than one occasion. But you will also pick yourself up, get moving in the right direction, and blaze a new path forward.  

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. The challenges today are enormous. My expectation of each of you are equally great. I’ve mentioned already the tribulations of your college years which you have handled with integrity, grace and resilience. What could possibly stand in your way now?  

When you cross the stage today, you've earn a credential that recognizes the work you’ve accomplished. But this achievement is the outcome of a collective effort. You made it here today because of the unwavering support of so many. So graduates, please take a moment to join me in thanking your friends and colleagues, the faculty and staff, but most especially your families for their support and guidance during the course of your academic career here at Bentley University.  

Class of 2024, I hope that as you transition from Bentley that you will continue to identify and stay true to your true north. As you do, know that we are endlessly proud of you and we will watch with great anticipation to see all the powerful impact you will have on the world with the amazing things you do. Congratulations Class of 2024, and enjoy your day! 

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