Lesley graduates 1,945 students; ‘Giver’ author Lowry speaks on power of words
Lesley University graduated 1,945 students Saturday – granting 1,446 master’s degrees, 473 bachelor’s degrees and 26 doctoral degrees – at Blue Hills Bank Pavilion in Boston after hearing from commencement speakers Lois Lowry, author of “The Giver” and other works, and Guyana’s minister of education, Priya Manickchand, for graduate students at 10 a.m.; and poet Nikky Finney and artist Abelardo Morell for undergrads at 2 p.m.
It was a rainy Saturday, but “the rain was no match for graduates’ enthusiasm,” said John Sullivan, director of communications for the university.
Among the milestones celebrated was the graduation of Lesley’s first class of 13 students from Guyana, who completed master’s degrees in a partnership to equip child welfare and social workers to address pressing social issues in their nation.
Founded in 1909 by educator Edith Lesley, the university has been stepping back its graduation numbers in recent years, from 2,632 degrees granted in 2011 to 2,388 in 2012, then 2,234 last year, dropping by 289 to this year’s figures.
Lowry, two-time winner of the Newbury Medal, has a movie version of “The Giver” starring Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep set to debut in August. But she began her commencement speech by confessing she didn’t feel adequate to be giving advice and wisdom to the graduates, Sullivan said.
“I can’t think of a reason why you should listen to someone who dropped out of college not once, but three times,” she said, according to the university’s posted account of the event:
She told a true story from her childhood, when at 10 years old she spent her allowance – a dollar – on an “echo box,” which was supposed to capture words spoken into it and say them back upon the press of a button. “Today’s 10-year-olds would laugh at such a device,” she said, with their tablets and laptops. But at the time, it was to her a miracle. “I never had a voice, never felt heard. Sometimes you will give everything you have just for a chance to be heard.”
“This is me speaking; this is my voice,” were the words she chose to say into the orange box. But when she pressed the button, all she got was a stabbing pain in her finger, as she encountered a sharp pin. Her lesson, she said to laughter, was, “Never invest all your money in a place that deals in deception.”
“Even though you will encounter some hideous and painful failures,” she added, “your voice must have power. Words are important. Use your words, craft them carefully, meticulously – and when you are ready, treat them with care, and even reverence, and caution. Your words will have a stunning amount of power.”