Saint Michael’s College celebrates 117th Commencement

Related Company

Vermont Business Magazine Members of the Saint Michael’s College Class of 2024 were urged by multiple speakers during the College’s 117th Commencement to shine their light on the world around them as they leave campus and navigate what’s next.  

Approximately 380 students at Saint Michael’s College received Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees during the Commencement celebration on Sunday, May 12, 2024. Degree recipients in the undergraduate Class of 2024 represented 23 states and 10 countries, while Master’s graduates represented 10 states and five countries.  

Many in the Class of 2024 entered Saint Michael’s during the first year of the global COVID-19 pandemic. Saint Michael’s President Richard Plumb, Ph.D., while presiding over his first Commencement ceremony as president, lauded the class for their courage and resilience in facing and overcoming obstacles, especially those posed by the international health emergency.   

Saint Michael’s President Richard Plumb, Ph.D.

“You didn’t let uncertain times prevent you from trying new experiences, making life-long friends, absorbing in new ideas, becoming a leader – all of the things that are essential to shaping who you are,” Plumb said.   

He added, “You are prepared to face and navigate the complexities of the modern world with skill, professionalism, and empathy. From your knowledge and understanding of global issues, your concern for the environment, and your dedication to service and social justice, you are ready to go out into the world and make your mark.   

“I am confident that whatever you choose to do and wherever you decide to go, you will make a positive impact on the people and community around you.”  

Commencement speaker Dr. Ansel Augustine, D.Min, recalled the story of David and Goliath in the Bible during his remarks to the graduates. Augustine – an award-winning author and speaker, and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Assistant Director of African American Affairs of the Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church – said that David, who was only armed with a slingshot, focused on his faith and trust in God despite seeming to be outmatched by Goliath. This, he said, ultimately helped him defeat Goliath.   

As Augustine told the graduates, “It’s not about you, but what God does through you.”   

“As you go out into the world, there will be dangers, there will be challenges, there will be doubts,” Augustine told the graduates. “But, I want you to understand, the same God who got you to this point is the same God who’s going to get you to your goals.”   

Augustine urged the graduates to use their experiences at Saint Michael’s to hone their metaphorical slingshot and fight the ills of the world.  

“You have to remember that you are someone of importance, someone of value, someone of worth,” Augustine said. “If God took time to make you, you have a purpose.”   

Student speakers talk about joy found amid obstacles  

Makayla M. Blake of Albany, New York, who gave the undergraduate Senior Address, said that while the class faced obstacles because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the pandemic did not define the class. Even after a rocky start, Blake said she and her classmates did experience some level of normalcy as college students later in their four years.  

“When you reflect back on those times, I encourage you to acknowledge all the hardships you overcame,” Blake said. “I’d like you to highlight how resilient, flexible, intelligent, and strong we all are because of it.”  

She added, “As we all take our final steps across this stage, and say goodbye to our home away from home, know that we are ready. We are ready to take on new challenges, new communities, new classrooms, and new friends. Know that the endless hours of honing our skills, expanding our knowledge, and discovering our passions have prepared us for the challenges and opportunities ahead.”  

Graduate student speaker Henry Markham Haddad of West Hartford, Connecticut, said that in recalling his time at Saint Michael’s as both an undergraduate and graduate student, he realized his favorite and most joyful moments were small acts of kindness. Haddad, who received a Master of Arts in Teaching during the Commencement ceremony, said this realization caused him to recall an analogy that his father imparted on him and his siblings while growing up.  

“He told us that if you were to light a candle in an open field in the middle of the day, you wouldn’t be able to see its light for far at all,” Haddad said. “But if you took that same candle and placed it in the middle of a dark stadium, you would be able to see its glow from every seat. You never know how dark the world is for people, and the same small act of kindness that might not seem like a big deal to you could light up someone’s entire life.”  

Haddad encouraged his fellow graduates to take those small acts of kindness they practiced so often at Saint Michael’s out into the world.  

“It doesn’t require a lot of imagination when looking around at the world to realize that it needs more people who are willing to live with a purpose that is greater than themselves,” Haddad said. “And if St. Mike’s has taught me anything, it is that when you surround yourself with a community of people willing to support and love each other, finding that purpose becomes, if not a simple, then a much less daunting task.”  

Awards announced during Commencement 

Two students were recognized during the ceremony through the annual Katherine Fairbanks Memorial Award and Father Prevel Memorial Award. The awards are given to outstanding seniors in the graduating class who have maintained a high level of academic achievement over four years and “have demonstrated commitment to the intellectual, social, and moral values of the College by numerous and exemplary contributions to the life of the campus community.”  

·       Father Prevel Memorial Award winner: Swapnil Jhajharia of Jhunjhunu, Rajasthan, India. 

·       Katherine Fairbanks Memorial Award winner: Jenna L. Farber of Coventry, Rhode Island.  


The following undergraduate students were also recognized for maintaining 4.0 grade point averages throughout their academic career at Saint Michael’s:  

·       Petra M. Bajuk of Colchester, Vermont  

·       William F. Coburn of Orleans, Vermont  

·       Katherine G. Culliton of Glens Falls, New York  

·       Jenna L. Farber of Coventry, Rhode Island  

·       Swapnil Jhajharia of Jhunjhunu, Rajasthan, India  

·       Valerie A. Johnston of Thornton, New Hampshire  

·       Virginia R. Kelsey of Vail, Colorado  

·       Finn J. McGillivray of Groton, Massachusetts  

·       Sarah M. Newton of Pembroke, New Hampshire  

·       Allison B. Petrozzo of Huntington, New York 


About Saint Michael’s College 

Saint Michael's College, founded on principles of social justice and leading lives of purpose and consequence, is a selective, Catholic college just outside Burlington, Vermont, one of the country's best college towns. Located between the Green Mountains and Lake Champlain, our closely connected community guarantees housing all four years and delivers internationally respected liberal arts together with an innovative Purposeful Learning Program, preparing students for fulfilling careers and meaningful lives. Young adults here grow intellectually, socially, and morally, learning to be responsible for themselves, each other, and their world.  

Source: 5.12.2024. COLCHESTER, VT – Members of the Saint Michael’s College.

To support great journalism, access our archives and get unique features like our award-winning profiles, Book of Lists & Business-to-Business Directory, subscribe HERE!