Graduating Greyhounds 2014: In Their Own Words

By Rita Buettner

Every spring some of the top students of the senior class at Loyola are invited to write the speech they would deliver to their fellow graduates at Commencement. Only one gets to deliver the student speech on the big day. This year Kasey Seymour will deliver the address.

Although the other speeches are never delivered, they are inspiring and reflective.

Loyola magazine invited the students to let us share them with you here, and these students were happy to have you read their speeches. Here are some excerpts:

Ariana Azzato, ʼ14

“This is a place, a launching pad, for a life well-lived, a life of service, a life of leadership, and a life of great civic responsibility.”

This description of Loyola by Fr. Brown was stated in the video shown at Loyola’s Accepted Students Day in April of 2010. When I first heard these words, I was ecstatic about what my time at Loyola had in store. I envisioned enriching courses, spirit-filled athletic events, a plethora of interesting clubs and service opportunities, and a diversity of new people to meet on campus.

However, my 18-year-old self never fathomed the profound growth of mind, body, and spirit that these words entailed, the growth that would shape me into who I would become by my graduation day in May of 2014….

We were given the opportunity to attend the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, in remembrance of the underpinning of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

The speakers at the March on Washington were extremely powerful, especially the child who spoke about access to education. This little boy, in addition to the immigrants and other individuals that I served with during my service-learning courses, motivated me to strive to be able to best serve our increasingly diverse society. My ambition became to no longer be a speech-language pathologist (SLP) in order to just help or fix others. Instead, I intended to be an SLP in order to serve others, and furthermore, to be a person for and with others….

They say that college is the most formative time of a person’s life. I am blessed that Loyola’s motto was the launching pad at the core of my formative years to open my eyes to the world around me, to inspire me to continue to learn and lean into discomfort, and to prepare me to go forth and set the world on fire.

Tommy Antorino, ʼ14

There is something unique about a Jesuit education that is always hard to define, but fundamental to it, I believe, is challenging certain traditional notions of education, especially the growing idea in our generation that everything needs to count for something…

To a certain extent all of this is true: Not every class we took will always “count for something” in the future or will be explicitly helpful to elicit the greatest rewards from our career path. But a Loyola education is not about attaining that perfect job. It will definitely help! But Loyola prides itself more on emphasizing a wide and, more importantly, a flexible range of academic and practical skills that we can use not only to get that dream job, but also to excel in all aspects of life.

Not only were we provided with an exemplary education, but this Jesuit education is also fused with a more general (and perhaps more important) outlook of the world as a whole. Loyola trains its students to not only be a part of the world, but to act in it….

We all have (a strong truth), but I still haven’t explicitly said what the truth is by which each of these individuals lives their lives. The motto “strong truths well lived” is more than just an extracurricular activity we’re passionate about, but rather a guiding principle around which we base our entire lives. It influences every single one of our decisions and actions such that we become identified with it. In other words the members of the Loyola community who have inspired us throughout these four years—all of us—are the strong truths well lived. And these individuals deserve the greatest thanks of everyone for inspiring me these past four years.

Emily Coleman, ʼ14

I believe that we are who we are fundamentally because, whether we realize it or not, the Jesuit emphasis on educating the whole person is a tremendous asset to our Loyola education. It has helped develop the potential that lies within each and every one of us, and in many different dimensions. This refusal to let our education end as we walked out of the classroom each day—and in our unfortunate case, as we walk away today—is Loyola’s steadfast commitment to us.

I believe that we are all who we are because education here at Loyola was never solely about what we could do with our knowledge, but also what this knowledge could do to us, how it could transform us. Due to this, our education has always been about so much more than just knowledge or “academic excellence.” It’s about our values and our convictions. It’s about doing and saying things in a kind way and the thoughts that our words are connected to. It’s about a life of leadership and loyalty to whatever you stand for. It’s about service and striving to be men and women for others in all things. It’s about seeing our world as it genuinely is and fully immersing yourself in everything you do. It’s about defeat and those difficult times just as much as it is about success. It’s about how we interact with people, and it’s most certainly about all of those people you met during your time here who the thought of leaving made you cry in the bathroom last night.

So, while you may feel like the roof is caving in on you, fear not—you’re no longer at Craig’s—and you never have to return. I truly think that the best is yet to come. Loyola taught me so, it taught us so. Sure, I’ll miss the people that I’ve come to love here—my roommates, friends, classmates, professors, mentors, the women at Starbucks and Boulder, those who make Loyola the incredible place that it is, anybody who is still listening to me. But I will certainly not miss the person that I am today, at this time and place. Not because I don’t like her. In fact, quite the contrary. I won’t miss her because I’m confident that I will always unapologetically be her. We are so lucky and fortunate for many reasons, but a fundamental one is that Loyola armed us with enough tools to nail down that ever elusive sense of self.

I am me. You are you. We are the Loyola University Maryland Greyhounds of 2014. And thanks to our beloved and crazy bunch of Jesuits, professors, and mentors, we will always be. That’s my strong truth—that’s our strong truth. And I know we will live it well.

Megan Gansfuss, ʼ14

Getting a good grade is always nice, but there’s nothing better than finally finding an error in a project, or grasping a concept after hours upon hours of failed attempts. The struggle is a love-hate relationship, but it’s that feeling of satisfaction derived from working hard that counts in the end. Those are the assignments I remember—not the ones I received the best grade on. It’s the late nights in the computer lab, laughing (and maybe crying) with my classmates that I take the most from.

This carries to all aspects of life. It’s not about just getting through, finishing the task, moving on to the next step. Loyola has taught me to find the meaning in all things. Our time at Loyola has not been just about today, attending this ceremony, and receiving our diploma, but instead Loyola presented us with the opportunity to live in the moment, and not just for the future. We have been able to grow, get involved in our favorite activities, establish amazing friendships, and create memories that will last a lifetime.

Leaving high school, I was always that student who was so sure I would never be homesick in college. I was ready to leave and start something new. Once I arrived at Loyola, it became instantly clear that I made the right decision. It was the sense of community that drew me here in the first place—the stereotypical Loyola reason—but it was also what has made Loyola home over the past four years. Although I have never been homesick while here at Loyola, I know I most definitely will be “Loyola”-sick these next few months, and especially come September. Here at Loyola, I have been well prepared for the “real world” we now must enter. At the same time, however, I wholly believe that my Loyola education has not just been preparation for what comes next, but possibly more importantly, an end in itself.

Kim Porfido, ʼ14

Before becoming a student at Loyola University Maryland, I did not really know what a “Jesuit education” meant. Today I not only have an understanding of what it means but have experienced it so thoroughly and intimately that it has become a part of who I am.  When I think of what I have learned to value and what I hope to embody in my life after Loyola I cannot help but echo the strong truths of our school and how they have trained us to live a life of meaning that aims to meet the needs of the world….

I think of community and I think of how much something as simple as walking across the Quad will forever be the perfect embodiment of what Loyola means to me and how it has made me feel a part of something special. I think of my roommates and friends who I have shared laughter, tears, stress, accomplishments, late nights, and endless pillow talks with and it reminds me how much we have also learned our strong truths from one another.

Being a part of the Loyola family and being surrounded by such amazing people has made me feel a sense of belonging and has also showed me a glimpse of the person I want to be and the kinds of people I hope to surround myself with in the coming years of my life. I will only be so lucky to find a community that inspires, comforts, challenges, and cares for me the way the Loyola community has.

And when I think of the magis and constant challenge to improve, I think of where we are at, right here, right now. Maybe we do not know exactly what job we want to end up in or where we will be in five years, but Loyola has instilled in us the values to push ourselves to find where we are meant to be. It has prepared us to channel our faith in the face of the unknown, to always have a thirst for knowledge, to discern about what brings us joy, to search for where our gifts and talents are needed in the world, and to value the journey along the way.

Jacqueline Winton, ʼ14

Once I abandoned the propensity I had for my comfort zone, drawing the conclusion that it was only holding me back, I evolved further and felt a part of the Loyola community and the city of Baltimore, learning from my experiences and the people around me. Late night conversations with my roommates and talking with professors—these moments of listening to the unique and diverse people around me are what I will always remember, and are what have helped me grow into a more well-rounded individual.

I began to absorb the new city environment around me, finding that Baltimore had its own distinct pulse and character, and Loyola’s Jesuit ideals further instilled in me a desire to serve the people of this city.

Loyola is more than a plot of land and some classrooms—it is the people that I’ve met here that have taught me the most and have caused me to grow into a better person.

The first couple of years here provided a platform for even more growth. My junior year, I decided to leave my familiar surroundings again to study abroad in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. This life-changing opportunity gave me the chance to absorb a completely new environment and learn what only another part of the world could teach me. These couple of months made up the most independent part of my life, and I returned to the U.S. for my senior year a changed woman, enlightened by what I had experienced.

Now, after the fastest four years of my life, graduation is finally here, as much as I’d like to postpone it. I’m back at the same spot I was four years ago, with another inevitable change right in front of me, but the person I am today is drastically different. As much as Loyola has pushed me to grow into a stronger, more inquisitive and well-rounded individual, it has become my home, and consequently my new comfort zone. Leaving behind these four years—filled with my favorite memories of sitting out on the Humanities porch, Loyolapalooza, this year’s senior countdown events, and taco stacks from Moe’s, is one of the most bittersweet times of my life.

Yet, Loyola has also prepared me for this change, instilling in me an eagerness to learn, to serve, and to make a difference with each decision I make. It has reminded me not to resist evolving to the next phase of my life, but to bring in this change by holding close to me what I have experienced at Loyola and remaining the person it has encouraged me to be. Now we are all called today to leave what is familiar and go into the world and answer the question “What’s next?” as Loyola has prepared us to do—but of course, never forgetting our time at our home away from home that will always remain in our hearts.

To read more stories about this year’s Graduating Greyhounds, visit our 2014 Commencement page.

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