The 119th Hood College Commencement exercises took place May 14. The day saw 317 undergraduate students and 263 graduate students celebrate the years of hard work they committed to earning their degrees.
Wil Haygood, an award-winning journalist and New York Times best-selling author, was the featured speaker during the 10 a.m. undergraduate ceremony, and Hood Class of 1978 alumna Deborah A. Bonanni, a former National Security Agency chief of staff, delivered the Commencement address during the 3 p.m. Graduate School ceremony.
This was the first Hood Commencement for President Andrea Chapdelaine, who told the graduating seniors at the morning ceremony, “I am so very proud of you and will miss your presence on campus. Be well, be safe and above all, be happy!”
Haygood is the Boadway Distinguished Scholar-in-Residence in the Department of Media, Journalism and Film at Miami University of Ohio. He was a Pulitzer Prize finalist while writing as a national and foreign correspondent at the Boston Globe. He then joined the Washington Post in 2002, where in 2008 he wrote, “A Butler Well Served by this Election,” a story about Eugene Allen, a butler who worked for eight U.S. presidents, from Truman through Reagan, over 34 years. The story was the basis for the award-winning film “Lee Daniels’ The Butler.” Haygood was an associate producer of the film. He also wrote the New York Times bestseller “The Butler: A Witness to History” about how the story and film came to be.
“When you stand for something, Hood Blazers, magical things happen,” Haygood told the undergraduates. “Blazers, go today, and make your magic.”
The undergraduate class included students from 18 states, Washington, D.C. and 15 countries. Twenty-three students studied abroad, and 131 completed internships.
Class of 2016 President Maya Gonzalez addressed her fellow classmates, saying, “we all had different paths that led us to Hood and after today, we will separate once again. Whether you are traveling abroad for work or play, starting a new pursuit of education or employment, or spending some time at home, I have confidence in my fellow graduates that we will continue to grow and face life’s obstacles with heart, and hand, and mind.”
After students received their diplomas, President Chapdelaine awarded a presidential excellence award to John George, Ph.D., who retired after three decades of exceptional and inspiring teaching and mentoring as a faculty member in the education department at Hood.
The afternoon ceremony marked the 43rd graduating class from the Graduate School. Graduates came from 10 states, the District of Columbia and 13 foreign countries. They earned bachelor’s degrees from 85 national and 28 international institutions. Thirty-nine were Hood alumni.
Bonanni is the vice president for strategic relations at Intelligent Decisions, Inc. and a member of the Hood College Board of Associates and Graduate School Advisory Council. She retired from public service in January 2013. From 2006 to 2013 she served as the chief of staff of the NSA. Bonanni received the Exceptional Civilian Service Award, the NSA’s highest honorary award, as well as the national Distinguished Service Medal from the director of national intelligence. She is the recipient of three presidential rank awards including one at the distinguished executive level. A cancer survivor and enthusiastic mentor, Bonanni is devoted to assisting a new generation of leaders to manage successful organizations.
Bonanni told the graduating class, “Today, I ask you one thing to do for me. Celebrate this amazing day. Really feel it. Look around you—look at your friends and your family. Revel in your accomplishments. Bask in your significant accomplishment. You deserve it.”
During the graduate ceremony, President Chapdelaine presented the Charles E. Tressler Distinguished Teacher award to Mike Franklin, a health and physical education teacher at Catoctin High School. This award is made possible through a gift from the estate of Sam Eig, a longtime supporter of Hood College, whose daughter-in-law, Jackie, served on Hood’s faculty for a number of years. Mike has been an inspiring teacher with Frederick County Public Schools for his entire 20-year career.
For detailed information, visit www.hood.edu/commencement.
Watch Wil Haygood’s speech below.
Watch Deborah A. Bonanni’s speech below.