Monday, May 23, 2022

UVI Class of 2022- Be Bold, Courageous & Creative Moral Leaders

UVI Welcomes Nearly 300 Alumni .....    







These are just a few of the adjectives used to describe UVI’s Class of 2022 over the course of two days at exuberant, exciting, electric and edifying commencement ceremonies on the University's campuses on St. Thomas and St. Croix. 


Renowned speaker, theologian, educator and author Dr. Robert Franklin, Jr., delivered a powerhouse keynote address touching on issues of moral leadership, service and weathering life’s storms. 


And with honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degrees also awarded to Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith and VI Commissioner of Health Justa Encarnacion, there was plenty of Virgin Islands pride on display on the podium, in the stands and on the grounds. 


Enhancing the festive atmosphere on both campuses, attendees were serenaded by musical selections presented by the UVI Concert Band, directed by Dionne R. Donadelle and Erick Willie on the St. Thomas and St. Croix campuses, respectively. The lovely voices of the UVI Concert Choir, led by Jeanette Rhymer, also contributed to the celebratory feeling in St. Thomas.  


The theme of resiliency was woven through encouraging remarks addressed to the students by Governor Albert Bryan, members of the 34th Legislature of the Virgin Islands, the University’s Board of Trustees, President Dr. David Hall, the honorary degree recipients and the students themselves. 


Along with hearty congratulations for having achieved their academic goals, there was no shortage of inspirational messages and words of wisdom imparted to the 58th graduating class of the University of the Virgin Islands as they transitioned to the University’s newest alumni. 


In case you missed the events of the “happy day” (as President Hall declared), here are some highlights from among many exceptional moments during the University’s 58th commencement exercises 



George Francis II, Class of 2022 

(Invocation, Orville E. Kean Campus - St. Thomas) 


“We ask You to bless each and every one present here today, as well as those that are viewing the ceremony virtually. We also ask that You bless those that have worked behind the scenes, those who have contributed to make this celebration one to remember. We humbly ask for Your continued protection and guidance for the University administrators, faculty, and staff as they continue to work to fulfill the mission and vision of this institution. We ask that You continue to order our steps and direct our paths as we journey through life. We ask all these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.” 


Karon S. Reynolds, Class of 2022 

(Invocation, Albert A. Sheen Campus - St. Croix) 


“Dear God, You know we have worked long and we have worked hard, and now finally we have made it. We thank You for helping us, the graduates, to reach this milestone today. I pray that You help us to achieve all our goals and dreams despite what obstacles may come our way and despite what anybody thinks. We know we will succeed because we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.”  


Kasem Thompson, Jr., Class of 2022 

(Class Speaker, Orville E. Kean Campus - St. Thomas) 


“We are overcomers. This commencement is a testament to the fact that despite any hardship that came, you rose to the occasion with purpose and intention. To quote Eric Bates, ‘There are no negatives in life, only challenges to overcome that will make you stronger.’ The tests we faced on this journey may have revealed some weaknesses, but it also revealed our inner strengths. This juncture in our life demonstrated the grit, determination, and strength that we possessed as we strived and thrived beyond the challenges we faced.” 


Rex Cazaubon III, Class of 2022 

(Class Speaker, Albert A. Sheen Campus - St. Croix) 


“Someone very close to me reminded me that if you're comfortable, then you're not growing. You're going to hear a recurring theme in my speech. It's imperative, but straightforward all the same. Keep moving forward.” 


“From the uprising of the pandemic to the sudden adoption of virtual learning, as a student body, we have had no shortage of adversity, but nevertheless, we have triumphed.” 


“We are the resilient, ambitious and unbreakable class of 2022. Each of us here today has made a series of decisions that have led us to this very moment. We forged our own paths forward through sheer will and determination, and we will continue to do so. 


Sarai Hutchinson, Class of 2022  

(Benediction, Orville E. Kean Campus - St. Thomas) 


“Each individual here is a prime example of what it means to be resilient in the face of adversity. Collectively we all have undergone our trials and tribulations to include hurricanes and a pandemic as well as our own self trials and tribulations in order to reach where we are today. As we leave this institution of higher learning, we ask that You cover us with Your blessings and grace as we embark onto the next stages of our lives. A humble thanks and appreciation is extended to individuals who motivated and influenced us to keep striving for excellence even when the dream seemed unattainable.” 


Shari Lewis, Class of 2022 

(Benediction, Albert A. Sheen Campus - St. Croix) 


“May we conduct ourselves in excellence and with integrity. May our achievements grow and be a blessing to our family and community. May the strength of God sustain us. May the power of God preserve us. May the hands of God protect us. May the way of God direct us. May the love of God go with us this day and forevermore. Amen.” 


David Hall, S.J.D. 

President, University of the Virgin Islands 


“This is truly a happy day. It is a happy day for this University. After two years of virtual commencement ceremonies, we are back together.” 


“You have earned a degree under some of the most challenging of circumstances. You have done what no other UVI class has done, which is complete the final two years and two months of your academic journey during a pandemic that required you to study, learn and excel in circumstances like you never encountered before. You are resilient because you made it here.” 


“You should be happy, not just because you made it to this point, but because of who you are.”  


“I charge you as our keynote speaker indicated that you go out and be moral leaders, that you inspire yourself and others to be better than what you are. We charge you to be bold, courageous, and creative representatives of the University of the Virgin Islands.”  


This is a happy day, but you should have a happy life, regardless of what comes your way, regardless of the circumstances that you face, find that peace and joy within that will allow you to survive those challenges. 


“I charge you to remember that you are a graduate of the University of the Virgin Islands and wherever you are, whatever you do, people will measure us by what they see in you. You are our best representatives in the world. You are our ambassadors for what it is we are trying to do at this institution and what we are trying to do in the world.” 


Robert M. Franklin, Jr., Ph.D. 

Honorary Degree Recipient 


“I hope you'll consider being a moral leader, not just a person of character and decency who tells the truth and keeps your promises. Yes, you should do that at least. But I'm suggesting you can be a moral leader. One who invites others to become better versions of themselves. One who speaks truth to power. One who stands up for the least advantaged members of the community.” 


“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places.” Quoting Ernest Hemingway [in A Farewell to Arms] 


“Class of 2022. You've earned the respect of this great audience, this region, and all the people you have run your race and completed your course. This is a triumph for you.” 


“Ever tried, ever failed, no matter, try again, fail again, fail better.” Quoting the Irish poet Samuel Beckett 


Sittin’ in the morning sun / And watching all the birds passing by / Oh, how sweet they sing / And oh, how much I wish that I could fly … So long and I just find / I been wasting all my time … I’ve got to pick myself up / Dust myself off / And start all over again.” Quoting ‘Pick Myself Up’ by legendary reggae musician Peter Tosh 


“You may be broken. You may fail, but you will try again. And if you fail, you will fail better. And boy, do we need you all to try again because some of us older folks have tried and we've done our best, but we need your help.” 


“Class of 2022, remember the words of Rabbi Hillel: The world is equally balanced between good and evil, and your next act will tip the scale.” 


Oran C. Roebuck 

Vice Chairman, UVI Board of Trustees 


“Know that there is no limit to your resilience, determination, and your capacity for greatness. So just be great.” 

“There is no storm you cannot weather. There is no ailment you cannot fight. There is no pothole you cannot navigate around. There is no limit to the dreams and ambitions you hold. There is no barrier you cannot break. There is no challenge you cannot overcome.” 

“There is simply no limit to your greatness. So just be great.” 


The Honorable Donna Frett-Gregory 

President of the 34th Legislature of the Virgin Islands 


“Be deliberate about caring, about creating human connections. The world that we live in keeps us occupied with our phones and social media. Take time to eyeball those around you, to get a real true sense of how others are doing.” 


“As you begin to embark on your life's purpose, be deliberate about managing your emotional intelligence and also understanding the emotions of others.” 


“Be deliberate in your moral leadership to pay it forward in your community.” 


Senator Novelle E. Francis, Jr. 

Vice President, 34th Legislature of the Virgin Islands 


“Your very presence here today is proof that you're more than capable of navigating whatever the world throws at you.” 


“In some ways, the pandemic gave us a gift of time, time needed to self-reflect and decide who and what is important. Health is important. Family is important. Human connection is important. I say human connection because our lives are more than just what we see on social media. Our collective resiliency is not built on self. It is built on community and the connections that we nurture and build every single day.  


“I urge you to work for and with our community. Together, we can surpass our challenges to accomplish greater opportunities.” 


The Honorable Albert Bryan Jr. 

Governor, United States Virgin Islands 


“I came here to tell you two words: Stay woke.”  


“Your job is not to assimilate. Your job is not to fit in. There's nobody who has done anything great that wasn't laughed at. You are here to lead. Make yourself uncomfortable. Say the right thing and be that moral leader that Dr. Franklin talked about. Step up and do something bold and different.” 


“Your job is to create jobs for Virgin Islanders. Because if we are the bosses and the owners, we don't have to depend on people from other places to hire us.” 


“I'm here to tell you that the future is yours.” 


“God answers prayer. Always keep Him right up here in your sleeve and in your heart. And all your days will be filled with glory.” 


Mitchell A. Neaves 

Vice President for Institutional Advancement 


“You are now officially recognized as alumni of the University of the Virgin islands. Your lifelong connection to this special university should continue through your active participation in the UVI Alumni Association. On behalf of all of our alumni, I welcome you to this prestigious body, which is essential to your future growth and to the University's continued quest for greatness.”