(Patrick D. Ross/Boston.com/2013)
As nearly 4,000 students received diplomas from UMass Boston today, one former student, Krystle Campbell, was in the hearts and on the minds of everyone in attendance.
In a poignant gesture, the university awarded Campbell, a Medford resident killed in the Boston Marathon bombings, a honorary bachelor of arts degree in sociology at commencement ceremonies on Columbia Point. Campbell studied at the college from 2005-07.
Chancellor Keith Motley touched on her kindness, character, and ability to make friends.
"Her Spanish professor says, ‘She warned me at the beginning of the course that she was not good at languages, but she was certainly good at communicating with others, sharing projects, and sharing that beautiful smile," Motley said. "By the end of that semester Krystle had made friends with everyone in that class and she did well in that class after all.”
Campbell's brother, William Campbell III, accepted the degree on behalf of the family and was warmly embraced by Motley to sustained cheers.
The college also announced that a scholarship fund in honor of Campbell has been formed by UMass trustee Richard Campbell, who is not related to Krystle Campbell, to help young women pursue careers in business.
“Krystle hailed from the same neighborhood in Medford as me, graduated from Medford High School as my wife and I did, and attended the University of Massachusetts Boston as I did,” Richard Campbell said. “We feel kinship with her and have great empathy for her family on losing such a vibrant, energetic, and beautiful daughter.”
With a moment of silence, the throng that filled the Campus Center lawn was reminded how special and lucky they are to be able to walk across the stage, shake Motley’s hand, and throw their cap into the air.
“Although we are under the shadow of a tragedy, we are reminded that it is normal, human, and necessary to continue to feel joy especially on a day like today as we celebrate what you have worked so hard for, for so long,” Motley said.
The Dorchester university graduated its largest class ever. The graduates not only hailed from Boston and the surrounding communities, but from countries as far away as Uzbekistan.
In the commencement address, James Gustave Speth, co-founder of the Natural Resources Defense Council, told graduates to cultivate close personal relationships. Those ties, he said, "get us through life with the maximum amount of happiness and minimum amount of suffering."
Speth, a former adviser to presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, also urged them to act locally.
“Care for your place, your community, where ever you live,” he said. There is no Washington style gridlock stopping us from acting where we live.”
For parents, the day was a milestone to be celebrated.
“This school has been great. It has afforded her a lot of possibilities and adventures,” said Cindy Donahue, who was there for her 24-year-old daughter, Sarah. “This degree is an opportunity, it’s opening doors for her.”