At ceremonies where hundreds of students shook hands with school officials and tightly clasped their newly conferred diplomas, commencement speakers wove the Marathon attacks into their remarks Saturday by celebrating the resilience of the graduates.
At the Berklee College of Music, Lawrence J. Simpson, the senior vice president for academic affairs and provost, said he was “extremely proud” of the students who turned their pain and fear into art.
“For many, even in the face of the unimaginable, learning continued,” he said. “Something else happened as well. During that time of crisis, many in our community and many of us at Berklee turned to art and craft as ways to see through and respond to the ugly use of violence.”
“We were hit, but remained Boston strong,” Simpson said to cheers that nearly drowned out his words. “We were and we remain Berklee strong.”
While Berklee, situated just blocks from the bombings, remembered the strength of its community, another college miles from Boylston Street came to terms with its own ties to the tragedy.
At the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, Chief Justice Phillip Rapoza of the Massachusetts Appeals Court spoke of the bombings.
“The horrific events of the Boston Marathon have cast a long shadow, one that would be unnatural to ignore,” he said.
Rapoza said although one of the bombing suspects was a student at UMass Dartmouth and two students have been accused of obstructing justice in the case, the school’s legacy will be decided by its graduates.
“We all know that those now facing charges passed this way and the campus will continue to deal with the fact,” he said. “Let me assure you that it is you, the class of 2013, that will define in your careers and commitment what UMass Dartmouth is about.”
UMass Dartmouth conferred 576 master’s, doctoral, and law degrees Saturday, with approximately 450 graduates in attendance, said Robert Lamontagne, a spokesman for the university. Approximately 2,000 people who attended observed a moment of silence for the bombing victims.
A forecast of thunder and lighting moved the graduation indoors, but otherwise all went according to schedule.
“Everything did go smoothly, our security process went extremely well,” Lamontagne said.
Rapoza, who was awarded an honorary doctor of law degree, said that as a Dartmouth native and someone who has spent more than 35 years in the legal profession, he has a “particular affection” for the law school.
“I had to wait 37 years, but considering what this degree represents, finally, I have a law degree that comes with bragging rights,” he said.
At Berklee, musicians Carole King, Willie Nelson, and Annie Lennox received honorary doctorates of music.
During her address, Lennox, perhaps best known as a member of the duo Eurythmics, looked back on her journey to becoming a famous singer-songwriter.
“I didn’t even know that such a thing was possible,” she said, recalling her parents paying for music lessons even when it was hard to make ends meet.
Lennox — who has won four Grammy Awards, a Golden Globe, and an Academy Award — said she hoped her story would show graduates the “value of unorthodoxy.”
From the Beatles to the Rolling Stones, from Marvin Gaye to Aretha Franklin, Lennox recalled the musicians of the 1960s and 1970s who inspired her and, to the delight of the audience, belted out lines from some of their songs — including one by fellow honoree King.
“I realized that I had to unlearn just about everything I had been taught about music and embrace the spectacular notion that I actually was a singer-songwriter and I was going to do my own thing in my own way,” she said.
Nelson, whose six-decade career has produced more than 200 albums, also spoke to the 1,050 graduating students — the largest graduating class in school history — after receiving his honorary degree.
“The history of music has been good, but the future is even better thanks to you folks,” Nelson said.
Correction: Because of a reporting error, an earlier version of this story incorrectly described the status of some UMass Dartmouth students in connection with the Marathon bombing. Two students were accused of obstructing justice in the case.