UMass president urges graduates to pursue the good fight
Wilson, who is retiring after eight years as the leader of UMass’ five campuses, said the road of life is often filled with challenges and the answers aren’t always clear, but he urged graduates not to let doubters and naysayers prevent them from pursuing their dreams.
Wilson cited UMass’ own struggles against “powerful opponents” in its successful effort to establish the state’s first public law school at UMass Dartmouth in February 2010.
He said he was called “clueless Jack” and UMass was attacked with “relentless misinformation,” including allegations it would go bankrupt, by those who didn’t want to see the state have a law school.
After the state Board of Higher Education rejected the plan for a public law school in 2005, he was told he would be damaged politically if he continued to pursue the idea.
But he said the idea was pursued nonetheless and lobbyists campaigned hard against it, but this time the state Board of Higher Education unanimously approved it.
“We never gave in,” he told the students.
His message was well received by graduates, who are facing their own challenges as they enter an uncertain job market.
“If you want something bad enough, you can make it happen,” said Joseph Sean Chesmore of Medway, expressing his agreement with Wilson’s commencement address.
Graduates were optimistic about their future, although many acknowledge their job prospects right now are slim.
“The search starts tomorrow,” said Andrew Ryan of Mattapoisett, a computer science major.
He said he would eventually like to be a software engineer and believes the job market in his field is a pretty good one. “I think it’s a growing industry.”
Not all of his classmates could say that.
Melissa Allen of Plainville and Brittany Amaral of Dighton, two nursing graduates, said they have interviews scheduled, but there are no job offers waiting in the wings for them.
“It’s hard, hard to get in. Everyone wants experience,” Allen said.
“It’s definitely tough, but it’s manageable,” said Amaral, who has a couple of nursing interviews scheduled.
Brendan Walker of Yarmouth, a criminal justice graduate, said he took the Civil Service exam and would like a career in law enforcement.
“My goal is to get into the state police somewhere down the road, and without this degree I don’t think I could do it,” he said. “I’ll get something sooner or later. It will come.”
Chesmore, a marketing graduate, said he wants to work for a while and earn enough money for his master’s degree and eventually find a job as an economics teacher.
Lauren Williamson of Pittsfield, a photography graduate, said she plans to take some time off and perhaps work as an events and weddings photographer.
Ana Maria Bell, an English major who was chosen to give the undergraduate students’ commencement address by a panel of students, faculty and staff, stressed the importance of kindness in dealing with people.
“Kindness is a universal language. It unlocks hearts better than any other key. Memories of patience and consideration build trust, bind people together,” she said.
Chancellor Dr. Jean F. MacCormack urged the graduates to use their talents, passions and knowledge to confront and correct life’s problems.
“Your education is a great gift for you, but not just for you. It carries great responsibility to work toward a more peaceful and sustainable planet,” she said.
Honorary degrees were awarded to environmental author and innovator Dr. Janine Benyus, conductor and music director of the New Bedford Symphony Orchestra David MacKenzie, and posthumously to former dean of UMass Dartmouth’s Charlton College of Business Dr. Richard Ward.