Commencement Weekend Memorable on Multiple Fronts
SPOKANE, Wash. – Pride and gratitude topped the myriad emotions that washed over Gonzaga University’s Commencement ceremonies Saturday and Sunday. The jubilation was palpable inside Spokane Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
As undergraduates ascended the stairs to the stage where their diplomas awaited them, those nearby noticed many of them look up – to catch their breath, acknowledge what they have just done, realize they are different now? – and then scan the crowd for family and friends.
They had just heard an inspiring message from educator and law alumna Angela Jones (J.D., ’16), who herself was visibly moved, removing her glasses to wipe away tears as the citation awarding her an honorary degree was read.
Joining them was Holocaust resistance fighter and honorary degree recipient Carla Peperzak, 98, whose life-saving bravery is well-documented. She has shared her story and message of forgiveness and empathy widely since arriving in Spokane in 2004 and was named Washingtonian of the Year in 2020.
Taking in yet another commencement ceremony was grandfather, alumnus and regent emeritus Jim Prince, waiting to stand with his granddaughter when her name was announced – the 12th Prince to attend the school in this third-generation Gonzaga family.
President Thayne McCulloh reminded the graduates that the joyous day was as much a beginning as an ending.
“Gonzaga is the not the place you come to. It has always been the place you will go from,” McCulloh said. “And as you go from this place, you carry the hopes and dreams of a lot of people with you. People who hope you will make the world a different, better, kinder, more loving place. It is a world desperately, desperately in need of you and of your gifts.”
More than 1,200 undergraduates and 786 graduate or doctoral students received degrees. A special celebration welcomed back the Class of 2020, whose own celebration was muted by COVID-19.
And Alumni Office representatives wasted no time welcoming graduates to a new relationship with their alma mater.
He noted the network of more than 65,000 Zag alumni and 53 alumni chapters across the country and around the world.
“Whether you stay in Spokane or are off to another location, the Zag community will walk alongside you in partnership for your journey,” he said.
And all the selfies taken at Poss’ invitation?
“Share that image with all who helped you be here today. Build your network, build our network. We are stewards of this powerful Jesuit education, we are stewards of HOPE. Carry that with pride and responsibility – it is our duty to carry it forward for those who follow.”
Poss summed up the weekend.
“It goes beyond honoring the grads,” he said. “It helped heal a wound that was opened very early on in the pandemic.”