Chicago Archbishop Blase J. Cupich challenged Boston College graduates Monday to become leaders who will “promote the common good” and improve life for the poor.
The university conferred degrees on about 4,000 undergraduate and graduate students during a commencement rooted in Catholic tradition. Cupich told the graduates at Alumni Stadium to never lose their youthfulness, even though on occasion they will have “lost a sense of the grace of life.”
“There will be days . . . when the spontaneity and freedom you enjoyed in an earlier time in life has been sapped by disappointment and cynicism,” he said, adding that if that happens, he has one final homework assignment for them: to spend time with a child.
In his remarks, BC’s president, the Rev. William P. Leahy, also urged graduates to use their education to better society, and to become “forces for good.”
Leahy said that of the thousands of students who have graduated from BC, “those who have had the most fulfilling lives are those who used their education and talents in the service of society, who have given life and given it abundantly.”
He said that when the Rev. Robert Fulton welcomed a class of 22 men, mostly the children of immigrants, as the first students at Boston College in 1864, “he could not have imagined that his fledgling enterprise would be recognized as one of the world’s preeminent universities.”
Although BC has changed its location, size, scope, and reputation in the last 150 years, it has not wavered from its core values, he said.
“Its essentials remain the same: Jesuit education is a gift only fully realized when given away,” Leahy said, adding that the university “has never been stronger, more vibrant, and more willing to assist contemporary society and the Catholic Church.”
BC presented honorary degrees to: Archbishop Cupich; Sister Marie Chin of Jamaica, an internationally known speaker and spiritual director; Steve Pemberton, vice president and chief diversity officer at Walgreens; Michael J. Motyl, president of a tuition-free Catholic middle school in Texas; and Lee Woodruff, a “CBS This Morning” contributor.
Following the ceremony, Katerina Katsouri, 21, said that her time at BC has helped her to flourish as a “world citizen,” and that she is grateful for having had the opportunity to study across a range of subjects, including languages, art, and geology.
“You dip your foot into everything,” said Katsouri, who will soon start a job at a law firm.
Katsouri, who is from Athens, said the transition to life in the United States was tough at first, but she has found a home at BC.
“The Jesuit education fosters a sense of community and giving back,” said Katsouri, a political science and art history major.
Alexa Geraniotis, 21, a nursing graduate, was visibly emotional after commencement and said that although she knew it was time to move on, the BC community would “follow me for the rest of my life.”
“BC will always be your second home,” said Geraniotis, from Orleans.
Added graduate Dorian Deen, 22, from Atlantic City, N.J.: “It’s been the best four years I could have ever imagined. There’s a type of love around BC that is just incomparable.”
Katherine Landergan can be reached at katherine.landergan@globe.-com.