Photo Courtesy of Gennadi Novash
Proud family and friends filed into the hot stands of Sprague Field, fanning themselves with programs and drinking complimentary bottles of water for the College of Education and Human Services Convocation on Sunday at 2 p.m.
After the stands were packed with smiling supporters of the 581 candidates, the graduating students started to walk in, line by line. Black robes and red stoles reading “Montclair State University” filled the seats in front of the stage as George Frederic’s “Water Music” played in the background.
“It was weird to think that four years came down to this moment,” said Mike Mazza, a graduating Family and Child Studies major. “It felt great to walk down to the field to hear everyone cheering.”
Elaine Marie Thoman sang the National Anthem before acting Dean Tamara F. Lucas took to the podium to begin the ceremony. First, she congratulated the students on their hard work in order to serve and educate the community. The graduates proudly stood up and faced the stands as the crowd applauded. They waved with big smiles on their faces, looking for their families and friends in the crowd.
“It was hard to see my family in the bleachers since it was so crowded,” Jamie Spinelli, a graduating Nutrition major, said. “But once I found them it was cool to wave and see them up there.”
Lucas then thanked those in the stands for supporting the students in their undergraduate education before introducing University President Susan A. Cole, who congratulated the students and addressed the crowd. She then introduced the Distinguished Alumni Award recipient, Estela Bensimon.
Bensimon is an alumni of Montclair State University who received her BA in Spanish in 1970 and an MA in Student Personnel Services in 1971 before continuing her higher education from the Teachers College at Columbia University.
Bensimon stood at the podium for the keynote address in which she encouraged the graduates with her impressive educational history and got some laughs when discussing MSU’s former tuition of $75.
After Bensimon, senior Robert Anthony Blanco took the stage on behalf of the graduating class. He discussed the many opportunities he has had at MSU including a trip to Nicaragua. He then quoted George Washington Carver and congratulated his fellow graduates.
The recognition of the candidates began and students lined up at the stage according to their major. As their names were read, they shook the hands of many distinguished individuals and proceeded to exit the stage. Some jumped up and down, throwing a celebratory fist in the air while others waved to their guests.
“As I walked up and heard my name being called, I felt relieved, accomplished and nervous about this chapter of my life coming to an end,” Mazza said.
Kelly McGowan, another Family and Child Studies major, was excited to end this chapter with her friends by her side.
“It was really cool to sit with and stand behind my friends and hear their names and then to hear mine,” McGowan said. “It was nice to see how far my friends and I came since freshman year.”
In addition to reading the candidates’ names, the cum laude, magna cum laude and summa cum laude honors given to those with high cumulative GPAs were read aloud.
“It was also really cool to hear them say cum laude,” McGowan said.
After closing remarks from Lucas, the Class of 2015 walked off the field.
The graduates then greeted their guests in the parking lot where they received flowers and took pictures with family and friends. Their degrees were later conferred at the Commencement ceremony at the Prudential Center in Newark on Wednesday, May 20, where all family, friends and guests were welcome to attend and celebrate.