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Deval Patrick Urges Graduates to Be a Voice for Others and ‘Seek Purpose Not Prestige’


Deval Patrick Urges Graduates to Be a Voice for Others and ‘Seek Purpose Not Prestige’

At Graduate Ceremony, C Space Founder Diane Hessan Challenges Students to Embrace Uncertainty



Former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick challenged graduates at Bentley University’s undergraduate commencement ceremony to be a voice for others and “seek purpose not prestige” at this time in history when “the world around us is in turmoil.” Approximately 8,000 people attended the ceremony, which was held on May 19, 2018, in Waltham, Mass., as Bentley kicked off its second century since its founding in 1917.

“Lead with purpose, to make change, to have impact, to improve the lives and circumstances of those you are privileged to lead,” Patrick said. “Coasting along and simply doing no harm is not enough in normal times. But these are not normal times. The world around us is in turmoil.”

Patrick, who became Massachusetts’ first African-American governor in 2006 and served two terms, told graduates about his path from the South Side of Chicago, where he grew up with his mother and sister in a two-bedroom tenement apartment, to a scholarship to Milton Academy outside of Boston before attending Harvard College and Harvard Law School. Patrick urged graduates to keep others in mind as they succeed in their career and to recognize the responsibilities that come with being a leader.

“Seek purpose not prestige, meaning not just money, because purpose and meaning make everything else worth the effort,” Patrick said. “Think of the opportunities your Bentley degrees have given you not just to occupy the corridors of power for the sake of your own achievement and prestige, but to occupy the corridors of power for the sake of all of the folks who are waiting for those in power just to glance in their direction and give a damn. Because when you decide to glance in their direction and give a damn, you decide to make your moment in power count for something.”

Patrick, who spoke at Bentley President Gloria Cordes Larson’s inauguration in 2008, returned to campus for one of Larson’s final events before she steps down as president in June. Patrick received an honorary Doctor of Commercial Science degree at the ceremony.

See the photos from the undergraduate ceremony


At a separate commencement ceremony for graduate students later on Saturday, keynote speaker Diane Hessan, founder and chair of C Space, encouraged the nearly 700 students to welcome uncertainty and look for unexpected moments of clarification.

“Uncertain people are the lucky ones, because when you are unsure, you are more open to serendipity--the notion that at any moment, something might happen in your life that changes everything,” Hessan said.

Hessan described her career transition from corporate executive to entrepreneur and how she learned through failed ideas and an openness to new ones. “Ask somebody how they got to where they are and you will rarely hear stories of intentionality or grand plans or perfect execution,” she said. “Instead you will very often hear tales of a moment when everything changed. There is a moment of serendipity.”

Hessan encouraged graduates to resist the temptation to say “I can’t.”

“Say ‘yes’ to the party you may not be in the mood for,” she said. “Sign up for the conference that you may not be interested in, step outside of your comfort zone, and be very aware of what life is throwing your way.”

Hessan received an honorary Doctor of Commercial Science degree at the ceremony.

See the photos from the graduate ceremony

Bentley awarded undergraduate degrees to 1,073 students, including 1,058 Bachelor of Science degrees, 11 Bachelor of Arts degrees and four Bachelor of Business Administration degrees. (The figures include degrees conferred on Oct. 27, 2017, Feb. 23, 2018, and May 19, 2018.)

Graduate degrees were awarded to 678 students, including 468 Master of Science degrees, 132 Master of Business Administration degrees, four doctoral degrees, three dual Master of Science / Master of Business Administration degrees, and 75 certificates. (Figures include degrees and certificates conferred on Oct. 27, 2017, Feb. 23, 2018, and May 19, 2018. Students may earn multiple degrees and certificates so may be counted more than once.)

The Gregory H. Adamian Award for Excellence in Teaching was presented to Professor of Economics Aaron Jackson. Professor of Natural and Applied Sciences Fred Ledley was awarded the Excellence in Scholarship Award. The Joseph M. Cronin Award for Excellence in Academic Advising and Mentoring was given to Associate Professor of Mathematical Sciences Emmy Roth

Undergraduate students Brittani Marie Murphy and Andrew Putra Sunarko won the Professor Robert J. Weafer Award for Undergraduate Academic Excellence. Graduate students Catherine Cullen, Nicollette Dessy, Emily Feldmann and Alec Markowski won the Professor E. William Dandes Award for Graduate Academic Excellence.


Originally from the South Side of Chicago, Deval Patrick came to Massachusetts at 14, when he was awarded a scholarship to Milton Academy. After Harvard College and Harvard Law School, he clerked for a federal judge and then launched a career as an attorney and business executive, becoming partner at two Boston law firms and a senior executive at Texaco and Coca-Cola. In 1994, President Clinton appointed Patrick to the nation’s top civil rights post, assistant attorney general for civil rights. In 2006, in his first bid for public office, he became Massachusetts’ first African-American governor. In two terms as governor, Patrick oversaw the expansion of affordable health care to more than 98 percent of state residents, launched initiatives stimulating clean energy and biotechnology, and steered the state out of recession to a 25-year high in employment. Patrick currently serves as a managing director of Bain Capital Double Impact, where he focuses on investments that deliver a competitive financial return and significant positive social impact. He is a Rockefeller Fellow, a Crown Fellow of the Aspen Institute, and the author of two books, “A Reason to Believe: Lessons from an Improbable Life” and “Faith in the Dream: A Call to the Nation to Reclaim American Values.”

Diane Hessan is a successful entrepreneur, marketer and author. She is the founder and chairman of C Space, formerly Communispace, and was CEO during 14 years of exponential growth as C Space disrupted the market research industry with its online communities, used by major brands to gain insight and inspiration from their consumers. A serial entrepreneur, Hessan has consolidated her investment and advisory work into a new company called Salient Ventures, which will help accelerate the next generation of growth companies in tech. Most recently, Hessan researched voters across the U.S – first for the Clinton Campaign and now on her own. She has personally interviewed nearly 1,000 voters. She has appeared on national and local television shows, and writes regular op-eds about voter sentiment. Hessan has also led two companies in the education space: as CEO of Startup Institute, which helps young professionals develop 21st-century skills; and as executive vice president of The Forum Corporation, a large training and development company. Hessan is co-author of “Customer-Centered Growth: Five Strategies for Building Competitive Advantage”; serves on the boards of Panera, Eastern Bank, Brightcove, Tufts University, Mass Challenge, CoachUp, and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center; and is special advisor to Datapoint Capital. 

Bentley University is one of the nation’s leading business schools, dedicated to preparing a new kind of business leader with the technical skills, global perspective and ethical standards required to make a difference in an ever-changing world. Bentley’s diverse arts and sciences program combined with an advanced business curriculum prepares graduates to make an impact in their chosen fields. The university enrolls approximately 4,000 undergraduate and 1,000 graduate students. For more information, visit


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