MMC Honors Resilient Class of 2023 at Commencement

MMC celebrated the Class of 2023 at its 74th commencement exercises on May 19—a triumphant send-off for graduating seniors who navigated the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic for much of their college years.

The ceremony took place at the historic United Palace, with more than 300 graduates and some 1,300 family members and friends in attendance. (Watch the video!) More than half of the students graduated with honors.

The day was the first of three commencement ceremonies for MMC; on May 25, the College conferred degrees on 27 students in MMC’s prison education programs at the Bedford Hills and Taconic correctional facilities for women.

Calling them the “class of courage and cool,” President Kerry Walk applauded the resilience of MMC’s 2023 grads, many of whom were just freshmen when COVID made social distancing and remote learning a part of life and left students and faculty to “figure out ways to work together, to cogitate together, to create together, and to be what I’ve come to think of as alone together,” she said.

One such innovation, President Walk recalled, brought the campus community together in April 2021 for a socially-distanced performance of the 1970 dance piece “The One Hundreds” in Central Park. Choreographed by dance icon and MMC honorary degree recipient Twyla Tharp H’89, the piece features 100 11-second movements, each completed by a different dancer. President Walk, students, faculty, and staff across the College participated.

“We performed the piece together and joyfully and to the delight of a host of casual onlookers. … And this, I believe, is the triumph of the class of 2023,” Walk said. “You have shown how you overcame alone and fought together. How through your force of will, you forged bonds that will stand the test of time. How you reinvented in startling, beautiful ways what we mean when we talk about the transformative power of an MMC education.”

Commencement was also a symbolic graduation for President Walk, who announced in April that she would leave the College in June to become president and CEO of University of the Arts in Pennsylvania. She was inducted into MMC’s Alumni Association by the Chair of the Board of Trustees, Abby Fiorella ’83.

“As we set out on our separate adventures, you and I are forever connected to each other and to the College we call home, Marymount Manhattan,” President Walk said.

Other speakers similarly explored the theme of connection in various forms. Class valedictorian Kathryn Miramontes, a history major and art history minor, encouraged her classmates to reconnect with their childhood selves to rediscover their passions and find the magic in life. “Enjoy each moment, and don’t live life like a checklist, going from point A to point B,” she said.

Senior Class Speaker Charlie Keirnan, a BFA musical theatre major and international student, described the sense of connection she immediately felt when visiting MMC for the first time. It led her to choose the College over other New York schools—and trek nearly 10,000 miles from her home in Brisbane, Australia, to attend. “I can leave today knowing I have made some friends for life, experienced a community like no other, and have never felt more at home in a place that isn’t,” she said.

Indeed, for Keirnan and her family, the day was especially memorable. With the help of the College, she hid her selection as class speaker from her parents and brother, who had traveled to the States to see her graduate, alerting them just minutes before the ceremony began.

“Being able to be here in New York to see Charlie graduate was already so exciting, but when we saw that she was the class speaker, we were proud beyond words,” her mother, Alli, said. “It was such a special moment for her and our family! I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face!”

The College also conferred an honorary degree on Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), for his “unwavering commitment to protecting civil liberties and promoting social justice.” Romero, who has led the ACLU since 2001, is the first Latino and openly gay man to serve at its helm.

With the Supreme Court set to issue rulings this month in two cases about race-conscious college admissions expected to dismantle affirmative action, Romero invoked the words of Thurgood Marshall, the country’s first black Supreme Court Justice. “Marshall said, ‘None of us get where we are solely by pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps,’” Romero said. “We got here because somebody—a parent, a teacher, a crony, or a few nuns—bent down and helped pick us up by our boots.”

Romero said the end of affirmative action would be bad not just for any one segment of the country but America as a whole. He used his experiences as a proud beneficiary of affirmative action at Princeton University—which, he said, “took a chance on a working-class Puerto Rican kid from a vocational public high school”—as an example.

“When I got to Princeton, I’d never interacted with a rich white person. I’m pretty sure that most of my classmates had never worked with, let alone lived with a working-class Puerto Rican,” he said. “And there we were together—we all learned how to negotiate environments different from the ones in which we were raised. … Together we helped each other achieve our fullest potential.”

As MMC grads go out into the world and find success, he encouraged them to keep an eye out for those “who might need help with their boots.”

“Find someone you can teach and who can teach you, making you both better people. And by doing so, you’ll make America a better place,” he said.


View pictures of the ceremony below! 

Published: June 08, 2023