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Prime Minister of Greece calls Boston College graduates to action in his commencement address

Isabel Wagner had a floral arrangement for her cap at the Boston College 146th Commencement. Thousands of BC students received undergraduate and graduate degrees, and Prime Minister of Greece Kyriakos Mitsotakis was given an honorary degree and spoke at the event.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

After more than two years of living through the COVID-19 pandemic, Boston College’s 2022 graduating class came together in person Monday to celebrate their commencement. It was the first time since 2020 the college was able to host a traditional graduation ceremony.

“The pandemic brought unique challenges to us already being in school, and I think to be able to come together one last time and graduate in person is a really special moment,” said Caroline Lowell from Braintree, a corporate systems major. “It kind of wraps everything up nicely.”

Lowell was one of 4,450 undergraduates to receive a diploma at Alumni Stadium.

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Stephen Ruiz from Naperville, Ill., a math major, also appreciated the opportunity for his family to attend the ceremony.

“My sister graduated in my living room, online, so obviously it’s a big difference being able to be in person,” Ruiz said.

In his address to the class, Prime Minister of Greece Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who was given an honorary degree, called on the graduates to “pass on to [their] children a better world than the one [they] inherited” and to not neglect their civic duties.

Honorary degrees were also awarded to Yolanda Lyle, vice president of executive operations and chief of staff to the chairman and chief executive officer at Pfizer, Inc.; the Rev. Nicholas Sannella, a former vascular surgeon and a parish priest in Lowell; Patrick T. Stokes, former president of Anheuser-Busch Companies Inc., and a major benefactor to undergraduate education; and Arivee Vargas Rozier-Byrd, senior director of employee relations at Vertex Pharmaceuticals.

Although it was a day of celebration, the war in Ukraine was not forgotten by graduates and guests.

In his commencement welcome, Boston College president William P. Leahy, S.J. said, “Aggression and human rights violations, such as currently occurring in the Ukraine, have to be stopped. These and other urgent, daunting issues require engagement and just solutions.”

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Bozhena Kulchyckyj of Annapolis, Md., graduating cum laude with a major in information systems marketing and studio art, was disappointed that her grandparents from Ukraine were unable to join her to celebrate her graduation.

“The duality of knowing what’s happening there but also wanting to celebrate the moment here, it’s definitely tough,” Kulchyckyj said.

Mitsotakis recalled his own graduation, which took place in 1990 a few months after the Berlin Wall came down. West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl spoke to Mitsotakis’ graduating class and was beginning to reunify his divided country. In his speech, Mitsotakis lamented his generation’s failure to achieve a peaceful and just world given the opportunities they had to do so.

Mitsotakis discussed the “war on the European continent which is causing unending human suffering but is also threatening us with a global recession” and said he has great faith in the graduates’ generation to not repeat the mistakes of the past.

His address focused on the importance of democracy, which originated in Greece, and said, “In order for a democracy to thrive all its citizens must be involved, in one way or another, in the affairs of the state.”

As the commencement ceremony concluded and the graduates ventured into the bleachers to find their families, Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” played through the stadium’s speakers. The song is considered a Boston anthem, as it plays during the eighth inning of every Red Sox game at Fenway Park.

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Jason Yu of Allston, who received a master of science degree in leadership and administration with a concentration in human resources, really felt the spirit of the song.

“Listening to the music, it’s like being at a Red Sox game,” Yu said.

Mitsotakis told graduates to not worry about the storms they might encounter out on the real world.

“Human beings were not made for safe harbors. Set sail for the far horizons,” he said. “I can guarantee you it’s going to be a great adventure.”


Rose Pecci can be reached at rose.pecci@globe.com.