With six unique graduation ceremonies held over two days—marking the first events of their kind on the college’s Amherst campus since the late 1950’s—the events safely brought together the Daemen community to celebrate the achievement and exceptional persistence of the Class of 2021.
“We carry on that centuries-old tradition and I am delighted to be able to do so in person after what has been a long year of distance and separation,” Gary Olson, president of Daemen College, told graduates.
Sue Falsone ‘96—who was awarded an honorary doctor of physical therapy degree during the ceremony honoring PT graduates—commended students for staying in school during the preceding 15 months.
“There was no blueprint, no previous experience for anyone to draw upon … but here you are graduating, in and of itself is quite the accomplishment,” said Falsone, the first female head athletic trainer in a major American professional sports league.
“Doing this in the middle of a pandemic is quite extraordinary,” Falsone added. “To say we are proud of you is an understatement.”
During undergraduate commencement ceremonies, NCAA President Mark Emmert recounted his personal story of becoming one of the first college graduates from his small hometown in Washington State.
Three core principles have helped make a difference in achieving his goals, Emmert told graduates: grit, optimism and trust.
“There are a lot of things in life that are just hard work. Sometimes you have to just lower your shoulder and push,” said Emmert, of grit. “If you’ve got an optimistic perspective … and you’ve got that grit to go along with it, you will do things that today seem very far away and maybe even out of reach—but they’re not.”
“If you give trust to people,” he said, “they will return that trust; if you support them 99 percent of the time, they’ll support you.”
In the ceremony awarding graduate degrees in social work, public health, business administration and nursing, Scott Bieler—CEO and president of West Herr Automotive Group—shared thoughts stemming from his own remarkable rise from salesperson at his company to owner of the largest business of its kind in New York State.
“At some point in your life, helping people will matter more to you than your possessions,” said Bieler. “People respond to a truly genuine person. I think it’s the most important trait: to be genuine so you know yourself and be yourself.”
Bieler, who received an honorary doctoral degree from Daemen in an earlier private ceremony, told graduates: “Nothing in this world could take the place of persistence.”
“Talent will not,” he said. “Nothing is more common than unsuccessful persons with talent. Genius will not. Unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not. The world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”
Continuing a Daemen tradition, the Charles L. Lumsden Award—its namesake a former chairman of the Board of Trustees—was presented to the senior with the highest cumulative grade point average: accounting graduate Darcy Lynn Paradiso ‘21.
After each event’s turning-of-the-tassels ceremony, new graduates were inducted into the Daemen Alumni Association and processed out of Lumsden Gymnasium to the ovation of family and friends.
“We are watching,” Falsone told graduates, “and we are so excited to see what you will do.”