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Commencement in Their Words

A look back at Commencement 2019

May 20, 2019

From ROTC Commissioning and Baccalaureate to the Multicultural and Lavender graduation celebrations, Commencement comes to life through stories. The happiness, the relief, the pride that comes with finally being able to grasp years of hard work in hand. Take a look back at this year’s Commencement ceremonies through the eyes—or in this case, words—of those who were there: students, faculty, parents, friends, and staff.

Haoyu Chen is dressed in his cap and gown and stands in front of Boynton Hall with his parents.

“It’s final–I did it. It’s just another step on my journey to the real world,” says Haoyu Chen, MS, Information Technology. Parents Huajian Chen and Yunjing Hua remarked (through their son’s translation) how proud they are of him. “The future is so bright,” they said.


Rosie McCarthy, wearing her Army uniform, smiles in front of the Bartlett Center before the ROTC Commissioning Ceremony.

"I am most excited to have the commissioning ceremony. I am looking forward to this even more than to graduation. I’ve worked hard and the end of this and the beginning of the next. I’ll be first at Ft. Sill in Oklahoma and then I will be stationed at Fort Campbell in Kentucky." —Rosie McCarthy, field artillery officer, U.S. Army


Three students, two wearing caps and gowns and one wearing sunglasses and a salmon-colored dress shirt, smile together in front of the beech tree.

Calling themselves the “Aero Trio,” Nabeel Tokatli, Marcus Knodler '18, and Lucas Mancinelli––all earning an MS in aerospace engineering––formed a tight bond to get through their program. “Everything we worked for is finally coming to a close,” says Tokatli. “For 2 ½ years we struggled through our classes together,” says Mancinelli, looking at the others. “And it was worth it all,” adds Tokatli. Knodler agrees. “The WPI degree serves as a baseline for all kinds of work,” he says. “It gives us the tools to be successful in any field.”


Wearing his cap and PhD robes, Kyle Dunn smiles in front of the Commencement tent on the Quad.

"Last year I was sitting in my office working on my dissertation and watching all the graduation ceremonies happening. I would rather be out here. It’s a great feeling to finally see this happening." —Kyle Dunn, PhD, Mathematical Sciences


Jessica Locke smiles in Harrington Auditorium while wearing her graduation cap and gown.

"I’ll most remember standing in lines. Ha, no, probably getting my diploma and being with my family and friends. We’ll be celebrating later together. In the future, I'm looking forward to just continuing to learn and continuing to grow." —Jessica Locke, BS, Environmental Engineering


Wearing her cap and gown, Safaa Tahoun smiles on the quad with several other graduates behind her.

"I don’t know how I did it. I work full time. I have three kids. I was insistent to get through this from the beginning. There were lots of hard days and lots of happy days. Today is a collection of all the happy days. I am proud of myself to say I have gone through all of this and here I am." —Safaa Tahoun, MS, Power Systems Management


Holding a copy of the Commencement program, Maggie Becker smiles in Harrington Auditorium. She's wearing glasses, a light-colored shirt, and pink cardigan.

Maggie Becker, director of the Academic Resources Center, took a few minutes out of the 11th WPI Commencement she's volunteered at to share some advice with graduates: "Stay in touch with all the people who have helped impact and support you, from when you began until you walked across the stage. Those are mentors and a support system not just while you’re here, at WPI and in school, but also for the rest of your life. You never know when you might need someone to talk to or reflect on different careers or journeys or path. People who helped get you here today are resources and support for the rest of your life."

Angela Quackenbos smiles in front of the Commencement tent on the quad.

"I was planning on coming anyway, so I figured I might as well help out. I’ll remember how excited everyone was for next year, and in a couple years, I’ll know what I’m doing because I’ll know how everything runs." —Angela Quackenbos '22, Actuarial Mathematics


Terence Carmichael smiles in front of the Sports & Rec Center while wearing his cap and gown.

"I was an online student—entirely online. But I felt like I was part of a community. I met up with my classmates at a pre-commencement meeting and I was just happy to see them. This is the ending of one chapter and the starting of another." —Terence Carmichael, Jr., MS, Robotics, online student from Chicago


Wearing her graduation robes, Allysa Grant smiles in one of the brick hallways of Harrington Auditorium.

"I am looking forward to what’s next. The BS/MS was definitely worth it and cost effective. I like the environment here—the project-based learning and the small community. It’s collaborative here, not cutthroat." —Allysa Grant, 2016 Gilman Scholar, BS/MS Mechanical


Wearing his graduation cap and gown, Andy Baron smiles in front of the Commencement tent on the quad.

"It’s a combination of a lot of work, a lot of understanding from my wife and kids. You just have to plod through and make it happen. It’s not easy, but if you set your mind to it, you can accomplish anything." —Andrew Baron, associate director of public relations, WPI, MS, Marketing and Innovation


Wearing his decorated graduation cap and gown, Peter Ross smiles in front of Harrington Auditorium.

"My cap is based around the recent buzz with Marvel and Avengers Endgame. I’ve always been a huge Marvel comics fan, so that was the inspiration. My friends and I have gone to Endgame, Infinity War, Black Panther, all the Avengers movies together, so I thought it’d be fun just to commemorate that and cap everything off." —Peter Ross, BS Management Engineering, concentration in Mechanical Engineering


Wearing his faculty Commencement robes, Neil Heffernan smiles in front of Harrington Auditorium.

"It’s one of the most fun days of the year. I have two PhDs I am hooding and several MS students. Some are going off to do great things. One, who will become Doctor Botelho in an hour or so, is staying here. He already has four research grants." —Neil Heffernan, professor of computer science, director of the Learning Sciences & Technologies program


Lillian Caraballo smiles in front of the Commencement stage under the tent. A WPI banner is hanging behind her on the stage.

"What I’m going to remember most...the pride. Oh, gosh, I’m going to cry. [laughs] It’s also a good Mother’s Day present, too. I’m so proud that they made it through. It’s awesome." —Lilliam Silva, whose son, Juan Caraballo, graduated with a BS in Electrical & Computer Engineering


Three members of the facilities team smile together in front of Harrington Auditorium.

WPI’s photo-worthy campus is ready for its Commencement close-up thanks to the tireless work of the Facilities Office. This weekend, when families come to see the students graduate is especially meaningful. “It brings a lot of joy. I know how hard students work to achieve this goal,” says Terry Pellerin (l). Dan Outerson (c) says they get to know the kids. “It’s pretty cool to see them all progress.” And Wayne Atchue (r) says the facilities employees feel protective of WPI’s students. “I’d like the students to remember the levels of dedication and commitment from the faculty and staff here,” he says. “With facilities, we see the students at all hours. We talk with them and keep an eye on them. I want the parents to know their kids have been taken care of while they are here.”


Jack Marabello, wearing his Air Force uniform, stands in front of the Foisie Innovation Studio before the ROTC Commissioning Ceremony.

"My first salute is going to be from Marine First Sergeant Paul Journet from Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical School. He was my high school junior ROTC instructor and I learned so much from him. I would not be here without his mentorship." —Jack Marabello, Air Force civil engineer, U.S. Air Force, next stop Ft. Ellsworth in Rapid City, SD


Wearing her graduation cap and gown, Gizem Selcan Cetin smiles in Harrington Auditorium.

"I am a little sad because I am leaving WPI. But I am excited about what’s coming next, and I am excited about the future. I am tired from all the deadlines and finishing up and I feel like this is still a dream. I can’t believe this is really happening! My family has come from Turkey, and I am really happy they are here. I hope they are proud of me." —Gizem Selcan Cetin, PhD, Electrical & Computer Engineering


Sharon Delaney and Chris Love smile for a photo in the lobby of Harrington Auditorium.

Christine Love (r), associate registrar, and former WPI registrar and now Commencement volunteer Paula Delaney ’75 (l) honor the solemn and celebratory aspects of the day. “This is my 30th Commencement,” says Love. “It takes a village to raise a child, and it takes a campus to get a student across the stage.” When asked why she comes back every year, Delaney (she hired Christine Love), didn’t hesitate. “Are you kidding?” she said. “This is home. I am a very active alum.”


Ruthven Ottey sits under the Commencement tent on the quad, smiling. He's wearing a suit and sunglasses.

"I’m here for my son, Daniel. I’ll most remember how he’s completed this, and that he’s graduating. I’m very proud, it’s a great achievement. I would say to him and the other graduates that this graduation is really a step into the future, and hopefully everything they’ve learned here they’ll be able to put into the working world. I’d like to wish them all the best, and a lot of success." —Ruthven Ottey, whose son, Daniel, graduated with a BS in Mechanical Engineering


Wearing their caps and gowns, Erica Stark and Emma Travassos smile together while waiting to enter the Quad in Harrington Auditorium.

Erica Stark and Emma Travassos took a few minutes to share the decorations on their graduation caps (Erica explained, “I saved a lot of stickers that I got on my Dunkin’ Donuts cups, so I decorated the border with that, and then put ‘Life happens, coffee helps,’” while Emma went with, “I wrote ‘2019’ and the 1 is a little graduated cylinder. Bubbling out of it I’ve got rhinestones and apples because I’m going on to grad school for education”) before deciding on what they’ll miss most about WPI. “The people. Definitely the people. We’ve made a lot of really close friends here, and it’s great to finish this with them.” They both earned their BS in Chemistry.