Temple celebrates 130th Commencement
With 9,519 graduates, the Class of 2017 was the largest class in university history.
Tassels swayed and sequins shimmered from the tops of cleverly decorated caps as the swarm of Temple graduates filled the Liacouras Center floor Thursday for the university’s 130th Commencement.
“Raised by a village,” read one of the caps. Another declared: “Time to fly.”
And that it was.
With a morning of symbolic traditions and sincere salutations, Temple leaders and distinguished guests marked the release of another 9,519 Owls into the world—a celebration for the largest class in university history and a recognition of how far they’d come.
Quite literally, one graduate came to Temple from upward of 10,000 miles away. Another, former men’s basketball star Mik Kilgore, who earned a criminal justice degree, finished an educational journey that began more than two decades ago.
“Class of 2017: Wherever you come from, whatever is unique about you, all of you now have something in common,” Temple President Richard M. Englert told the graduates. “You are forever Philly Made and Temple Made.”
Englert spoke of the history behind the Temple “T” and all that he sees in the iconic marker—entrepreneurship, service, grit, dedicated professors, advisers, coaches, staff, and supportive family and friends.
“Most of all, I see you,” Englert said. “I see the students who are the reason why I have been at Temple University for more than 40 years. I am immensely proud of you all.”
He added: “I know you will go on to do great things. But whatever path you choose, remember that you are united by this symbol, the Temple ‘T.’”
Provost JoAnne A. Epps, who told the class it was part of “Philadelphia’s brain gain,” encouraged graduates to “remember the food trucks, the residence halls, the concerts, and the competitions both athletic and scholarly.”
“Remember the friends you made, and the ideas you’ve discovered, the points of view you’d never considered, the differences you’d never imagined,” she said.
Student speaker Binh Nguyen, a strategic communication major in the Klein College of Media and Communication, also offered words that highlighted Temple’s unwavering dedication to diversity.
“Any person from any background, country, of any gender, first generation or second, citizen or immigrant can obtain a world-class education because of Temple,” Nguyen said. “Temple has always known that what makes us different from one another is our greatest strength. And looking out now, I can see living proof of that.”
Graduates represented 86 countries and 45 states, plus Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. But there was no shortage of local ties: About 300 graduates were from the seven zip codes surrounding Main Campus.
Their next stops also proved varied: Students were planning to build up businesses, help veterans, work at prestigious firms, pursue further education and document stories across the globe, just to name a few.
An annual tradition at Temple since 1890, Temple officials bestowed honorary degrees upon two respected leaders.
The university extended a doctor of humane letters to legendary former Philadelphia Eagles Coach Dick Vermeil. Estelle Richman, a longtime public service champion and former secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare, was granted a doctor of laws.
“As you achieve your goals, remember you never do it alone,” Richman advised in her remarks. “Go back and help one other person.”
Addressing the class, Vermeil introduced students to what he calls his “common sense” principles of leadership, telling each to “strive to be a person worthy of emulation,” to build genuine relationships, and to bring dedication and energy to their work.
“If you have integrity, nothing else matters,” he said. “If you don’t have integrity, nothing else matters.”