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Lesley graduates are given gift of song

Boston, MA -- 05/18/13 -- Honorary degree recipient Graham Nash receives his honors at the Lesley University Commencement ceremony on May 18, 2013 at the Bank of America Pavilion in Boston, Massachusetts. (Kayana Szymczak for the Boston Globe)

Kayana Szymczak for the Boston Globe

Folk-rock musician Graham Nash received his honors at Lesley’s commencement ceremony at the Bank of America Pavillion.

He kept his remarks to Lesley University’s class of 2013 brief, but then legendary musician Graham Nash took out a guitar and brought them to their feet.

Nash, a cofounder of folk rock group Crosby, Stills, & Nash, played at fitting rendition of “Teach Your Children” at Lesley University’s commencement on Saturday afternoon at the Bank of America Pavilion on Northern Avenue.

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Not accompanied by his bandmates, Nash instead invited the graduates and their families to join in.

“Will you help me sing this?” he said before playing the song and getting a standing ovation.

Nash and Pulitzer Prize-winning author and historian David McCullough, were the two speakers at Lesley University’s undergraduate commencement ceremony Saturday afternoon and both received honorary degrees. Saturday morning, former Massachusetts Secretary of Education, Paul Reville, and the Rev. Liz Walker, an Emmy Award-winning television journalist, also addressed graduate students at their commencement at the pavilion and received honorary degrees.

The Cambridge-based Lesley University and its Art Institute of Boston, which merged with Lesley in 1998, awarded a total of 468 bachelor’s degrees, 1,740 master’s degrees, and 23 doctoral degrees in the two ceremonies Saturday.

Joseph Moore, president of the university, said he will remember this year’s graduating class because of the unusual spring semester that was interrupted first with the February blizzard and again in April by the Boston Marathon bombings and the ensuing manhunt that shut down much of the area.

“You know we learn some things the hard way, but we don’t need to be defined by those hard ways,” Moore said. “We rebound, we recover, and we in some ways discover a deeper and broader human spirit.”

Spirits seemed high among the graduating students, many with broad smiles on their faces as they entered the Pavilion to be greeted by family and friends. As the commencement progressed, some students raised their cellphones above the caps and dangling tassels of classmates to snap a photo of Nash when he began to perform.

Nash, who was also honored for his work in digital photography, congratulated the students and suggested that they try to make art out of everything they do, whether they are making tea or being a parent.

“I don’t give advice,” Nash said. “But if I was asked to give you advice, it would be very simple for me. You have to find your passion.”

McCullough, who was the narrator for Ken Burns’s “The Civil War” documentary, lent his own voice to the graduates with advice for them to “read, read, read” and to work hard and enjoy every day.

The historian said that contrary to what other intellectuals and people on television may say, there is good cause for optimism.

“Optimism may not seem in style or very cool, but I’m extremely optimistic because all you have to do is know some history and you know there is very good reason for optimism,” he told the graduates. “I’m optimistic for a great number of reasons, and one of them is you.”

Brock Parker can be reached at Brock.globe@gmail.com.
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