President Monaco delivered the following address to the Class of 2022 during the Baccalaureate service on May 21, 2022.
Thank you, Dash, for that introduction and good afternoon…family, friends, colleagues, and distinguished guests.
It is a pleasure to be here with you in person this afternoon. Most of all, it is a pleasure to help celebrate the Class of 2022.
Graduation from Tufts is a milestone—not just for our students, but for all those who are close to them. A college career can bring with it unforeseen challenges as well as hoped-for triumphs.
Therefore, before we begin, I would like to ask the graduates to please stand and recognize the support…care…love…and sacrifice…of the parents…grandparents…siblings…partners…children…and friends, who have helped make this day possible. Seniors, please give them a hearty round of applause.
I would also like to recognize the devotion and excellence of Tufts’ faculty, deans, coaches, advisors, and staff. In countless ways visible and invisible, academic and personal, they have supported and guided our students throughout their college experience.
I am also grateful to the students who have enriched our campus and this day with the important messages of their faiths, traditions, and philosophical perspectives. Thank you to the string quartet and jazz ensemble for sharing your talents with us today and bringing life to the ceremony through music.
Special thanks to Reverend Elyse Nelson Winger and her colleagues in the University Chaplaincy for organizing this afternoon’s celebration.
Finally, thank you, René, for that thoughtful Wendell Phillips address. You are an outstanding representative of the Class of 2022.
Class of 2022: This Baccalaureate service and Illumination later tonight are the final time your class will gather as one. In the years since we first gathered for your Matriculation in August of 2018, you have gone on to excel in your chosen pursuits with passion and creativity.
The outstanding students who received this year’s Academic Awards, Presidential Awards for Civic Life, and Alumni Association Senior Awards reflect how exceptional your accomplishments have been.
During your time at Tufts, the COVID-19 pandemic uprooted nearly every aspect of our lives, including the Tufts experience for the Class of 2022. But clearly, it has not been successful in extinguishing our spirit or “the light on the Hill.”
Over the last four years, I have watched as our athletics teams have won many NESCAC championships and participated in multiple NCAA championships, winning an impressive number of them.
I’ve seen you flourish on stage as musicians and in galleries as artists. I watched in awe as you brought to life Spring Awakening and the entirely student-run musical, Almanac.
Over the course of your time on the Hill, our campus has changed. During the pandemic, the affectionally named Mods took over the tennis courts to allow us to resume in-person instruction safely.
Your Class is the first to take advantage of the beautiful new Joyce Cummings Center, which has already become a bustling and beloved space on campus. And this past fall, you were among the first to cheer on our Jumbos in the newly renovated Ellis Oval field.
Your class has stood up and spoken out in support of social justice and against racism…supported international students, and students with undocumented status…and requested changes in university policy.
Thanks to your advocacy, our campus saw the launch of the Indigenous Center to support and increase representation of indigenous students at Tufts.
You participated in focus groups and surveys to help inform us on our efforts to address antisemitism on our campuses, and to recommend a new hybrid arming model for Tufts police.
It was also during your time at Tufts that we celebrated the historic 50th anniversary of the Africana Center and, recently, we held the first Leading While Black event and exhibition to honor the outstanding legacy of Black leadership at Tufts.
You have been tireless advocates on campus, in our local communities, and around the world.
You’ve demonstrated that young voters should not be taken for granted and through your participation in Jumbo Vote, you have increased awareness and participation within the political process in our country.
As you join the over 120,000 alumni of Tufts University tomorrow, I hope you will retain the same spirit of public service and active citizenship. I encourage you to stay connected with the University, with your advisors and mentors, and hold on tightly to the cherished friendships you have nurtured during your time at Tufts.
I don’t need to remind you that you are leaving Tufts at a time unlike any in recent memory. For the past two years, you have navigated an uncertain world. You have helped each other get through this pandemic by providing support, a helping hand, or a shoulder to lean on.
Your experience during your time at Tufts, especially over the past few months, prepares you to enter a world that is evolving every day. I hope that you will look forward to the future with the same open mind and embrace it with the same enthusiasm and passion that you brought with you to Tufts.
This is not just a question of adapting to circumstances: You can never know when an experience or interaction will unlock new opportunities by encouraging you to move in an unanticipated direction.
When I was not much older than you, as a graduate student, I heard a talk by a young faculty member that inspired me—quite unexpectedly—to switch my graduate research from neuroscience to human genetics. The outcome of that impulsive decision was the identification of the gene for Duchenne muscular dystrophy 3 years later and a model which led to the first FDA-approved drug for treatment of DMD in 2016.
I followed my gut instinct about accepting a challenge. Taking that leap had an impact I could not have imagined. Eventually, following my gut instinct also led me here to Tufts, to the unique opportunity to work with outstanding students, faculty, and staff to make a great institution even stronger. In my work, I draw on everything I’ve learned over the course of my career, but in a way for which I never consciously planned.
This was certainly true in the pandemic and how Tufts responded. When everyone else remained closed, we opened our doors and fought the virus with science and data-driven decision making. It was the biggest, boldest experiment I ever ran. Thank you for your crucial part in making it such a success.
So I encourage you to be open about your chosen path. College is famously a time for intellectual and personal exploration. But the process of intellectual and personal exploration should never end with college. Even if you have a careful plan in mind now, be open to revising it when an opportunity to make a difference comes along.
During your time at Tufts, you have gained compelling long-term skills—skills such as critical thinking, complex problem solving, written and verbal communication, and habits of mind that enable the questioning of established thought and social assumptions.
You have acquired these invaluable skills through transformative learning experiences ranging from rigorous course work, study abroad, and independent research and scholarship to energetic participation in athletics, leadership in campus activities, and service in the community.
All of those experiences have given you the confidence and enhanced your ability to be flexible and succeed in a changing environment. These are skills that will help you navigate transitions in the present and into the future.
The world is facing great challenges: from institutional racism and health disparities; to climate change and continuing economic transformation; to political instability and conflict in regions around the globe.
The complex and intertwined challenges we face require solutions that go beyond individual areas of study, public policy, or industry.
If we are to work together to find innovative solutions with a social justice lens to the big problems facing our society, it will require excellence and depth in our disciplines, a commitment to the truth and to scientific and data-driven facts, active listening, recognition of differences and disparities, and finding common goals.
It will require intentional dialogue and discourse, especially on difficult topics and with people with whom you disagree with. It will require walking into issues rather than avoiding them, even though it may be more predictable or comfortable to do so.
And it will require taking on issues larger than your own self-interest, and advocating for issues that impact society at large. All of these skills—breaking molds, leaning in, and making change—are already within you as Jumbos.
We believe that your Tufts education has prepared you to follow your passions and to tackle the challenges of our times. And that is exactly what we expect you to do.
As a community, we have always been inspired by the wish that Charles Tufts had to “put a light on” the Hill. I hope that your experience at Tufts has been indeed a source of light.
I challenge you, the Class of 2022, to make that light shine even brighter as you leave the gates of this campus and go out into the world.