As nearly 4,000 students received diplomas from UMass Boston on Friday, one former student, Krystle Campbell, was on the minds and in the hearts of everyone.
In a poignant gesture, the university awarded Campbell an honorary bachelor of arts degree at the seaside commencement ceremony. Campbell, a Medford resident who was killed in the Boston Marathon bombings, studied sociology at the college from 2005-07.
Chancellor J. Keith Motley touched on her kindness, character, and ease at making friends.
“Her Spanish professor says, ‘She warned me at the beginning of the course that she was not good at languages, but she was certainly good at communicating with others, sharing projects, and sharing that beautiful smile,’ ” Motley said.
By the end of that semester, the professor told Motley, “Krystle had made friends with everyone in that class and she did well after all.”
To sustained cheers, Campbell’s brother, William, accepted the degree on behalf of the family and was warmly embraced by Motley.
The college also announced that UMass trustee Richard Campbell, who is not related to Krystle, had designated a scholarship in her honor to help young women pursue careers in business.
“Krystle hailed from the same neighborhood in Medford as me, graduated from Medford High School, as my wife and I did, and attended the University of Massachusetts Boston, as I did,” Richard Campbell said. “We feel kinship with her and have great empathy for her family on losing such a vibrant, energetic, and beautiful daughter.”
The throng on the Campus Center paused for moment of silence for Campbell and all the other bombing victims.
“Although we are under the shadow of a tragedy, we are reminded that it is normal, human, and necessary to continue to feel joy especially on a day like today, as we celebrate what you have worked so hard for, for so long,” Motley said.
The Dorchester university graduated its largest class ever Friday. Graduates hailed not only from Boston and the surrounding communities, but also from countries as far away as Uzbekistan.
In the commencement address, James Gustave Speth, cofounder of the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental action group, told graduates to cultivate close personal relationships. Those ties, he said, would sustain them “through life with the maximum amount of happiness and minimum amount of suffering.”
Speth, a former adviser to Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, also urged them to act locally.
“Care for your place, your community, where ever you live,” he said. There is no Washington-style gridlock stopping us from acting where we live.”
For parents, the day was a milestone to be celebrated.
“This school has been great. It has afforded her a lot of possibilities and adventures,” said Cindy Donahue, who was there for her 24-year-old daughter, Sarah. “This degree is an opportunity, it’s opening doors for her.”
Graduates said they were excited to start their careers, but would miss the UMass Boston community.
“It’s been a hard long road, but it’s been very rewarding,” said Denise Levy, 21, a Roslindale resident who studied biochemistry. “I’m excited, but it’s bittersweet. I’ve made so many great friendships here.”