A devoted public servant who has served more than 30 years as an elected official, New Haven Mayor Toni Harp ’13 Hon. gave the keynote address at the morning Commencement ceremony for graduates of the University’s College of Arts and Sciences, School of Health Sciences, and Tagliatela College of Engineering.
May 28, 2019
New Haven Mayor Toni Harp told graduates of the University of New Haven’s College of Arts and Sciences, School of Health Sciences, and Tagliatela College of Engineering that earning a college degree is a testament to their love of learning and their thirst for gaining more knowledge.
"In our culture, we know that education is the great equalizer," said Harp who delivered the keynote address during the University’s morning Commencement on Wednesday. "Today each of you is on top of the world. I hope your interest in learning is contagious and that you share it with everyone you know."
Harp, the first African-American woman to serve as the mayor of New Haven, was elected to their third two-year term in 2017. Prior to being elected mayor, she served 11 terms in the Connecticut State Senate, and she previously served five years as an Alderwoman in New Haven. She applauded the members of the Class of 2019 for their dedication.
"Throughout your course of study you have been examples of perseverance to your family and friends and others close enough to have watched and admired your hard work," she said "This speaks to your resolve and a certain strength of character."
She told the graduates that an important mission of any level of education is developing lifelong learners.
"The goal is for students to be inspired to continue to learn," she said. "Those of you graduating today embody this ideal. With sufficient knowledge, any one of us can step out and compete for better jobs, higher wages, and an improved standard of living."
Calling the class young, bright, and socially motivated, she encouraged the graduates to involve themselves in public debate about matters that impact them.
"Help these important decisions get made though your participation," she said. "Or, conversely, let someone else get involved, allow someone else to be in the room and then simply live with the decisions those other people make.
"A much larger and exciting world awaits, one with as many or more lessons to be learned and opportunities seized," Harp concluded. "Keep current, keep an open mind, and keep learning as you explore it."
As part of the morning ceremony, honorary degrees were awarded to Michael H. Ambrose ’84, vice president of engineering and technology at Sikorsky Aircraft, a Lockheed Martin company; and Roger J. Cooper, a former international banking executive. Both Ambrose and Cooper are members of the University’s Board of Governors.
"The rules were different, the people were different, and the culture unique. But we sought to better ourselves, so we dealt with it. And we couldn’t have done it without our community and the guidance we received."Caner Kilinc '19, comparing his and his classmates’ arrival on campus to his family emigrating from their home country of Turkey when he was a child.
In remarks on behalf of the undergraduate student body, Gio Roper ’19, a psychology major, said that when she arrived on campus, she could not see her true potential because she was blinded by fear and a lack of self-confidence.
"We have proven to ourselves that we are stronger than we think, more intelligent than we know, and more incredible than we can imagine," she said. "Once we decide who we are and embrace what we are capable of doing, we are so unstoppable that nothing and no one – not even ourselves – can stop us from doing the extraordinary things we are destined to do in this world."
In his speech, Caner Kilinc ’19, a mechanical engineering major, compared his and his classmates’ arrival on campus to his family emigrating from their home country of Turkey when he was a child.
"The rules were different, the people were different, and the culture unique," he said. "But we sought to better ourselves, so we dealt with it. And we couldn’t have done it without our community and the guidance we received."
Speaking on behalf of the graduate student body, Marlo Keba ’19 M.A., who earned a master’s degree in industrial and organizational psychology, admitted there were times as a student – even when preparing her speech – when she felt she was not good enough.
"By its very nature, self-doubt comes from within," she said. "My challenge to you is to not view your self-doubt as a barrier that you need to cross, or resistance that you need to overcome, but as a sign. A sign telling you what you have to do. We can’t grow and we can’t learn, if we’re getting in our own way. Let your fear guide you."