Graduates and their families and friends packed the Liacouras Center to say farewell as Temple celebrated its 128th commencement on Friday.
Temple’s Class of 2015 contains 9,151 members receiving bachelors, graduate, and professional degrees. One notable absence was honored at the College of Liberal Arts commencement at 1:30 p.m., after the entire ceremony began at around 10 a.m.
Rachel Hall, a graduating senior studying criminal justice and sociology, was seriously injured during a hit-and-run accident on April 29. Kathy Hall, Rachel’s mother, accepted her daughter’s degree in her place and received a huge round of applause. Rachel Hall, who was a member of the lacrosse team, remains unconscious and unresponsive in the hospital, the Inquirer reported.
ESPN SportsCenter anchor Kevin Negandhi was selected as the commencement speaker in addition to receiving an honorary degree. After graduating from the School of Media and Communication in 1998, he became the first Indian-American sports anchor on television.
Like most commencement speakers, Negandhi, who is from Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, started by attempting to excite the crowd.
“Class of 2015, you earned this moment,” Negandhi said. “Live in this moment. Capture this moment.”
A theme of Negandhi’s speech was Temple’s motto: “Perseverance conquers.” He urged the graduates to work toward their dreams.
“My parents didn’t teach me to dream and wait,” he said. “They taught me to dream and work – and work some more.”
That dream was to become a big-time sports broadcaster. Though Negandhi accomplished that dream by becoming a regular host of ESPN’s popular SportsCenter show, he said his path to success did not come without roadblocks.
“Over 50 news directors from TV stations all over the country said no to my resume before one finally agreed to give me a shot,” Negandhi said. “All of my success started with failure.”
Negandhi enrolled at Syracuse University, but decided to transfer to Temple after one semester. Looking back, he is happy with his decision.
“Choosing and transferring to Temple was the best decision of my life,” he said.
At Temple, Negandhi served as the sports editor for The Temple News and worked on the TUTV show Temple Update. That experience, along with taking classes and living in North Philadelphia, had a great impact on him, he said.
“You’re dealing with real people every day,” Negandhi said. “When I would be at a big game, I’d pick the brains of the professionals. I never stopped asking questions.”
Malcom Hoenlein and James Joo-Jin Kim received honorary degrees along with Negandhi. Hoenlein, who graduated from Temple in 1965, is the executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, and Kim is the executive chairman of Amkor Technologies and co-founder of Electronics Boutique.
Bill Cosby, a former member of Temple’s Board of Trustees, was not present at the commencement ceremony for the first time in many years. One of Temple’s most famous alumni resigned from the Board of Trustees in December amid allegations of sexual assault.
University President Neil Theobald was the first to address the audience, and he focused on the changes that have occurred since many of the seniors enrolled four years ago. He spoke about the establishment of the Science Education and Research Center and Morgan Hall as well as new initiatives such as the ‘Fly in 4’ program and the Temple Option.
“You’ve seen this university rising,” Theobald said. “You could not have picked a more exciting time to be here.”
Diversity was also an important point of Theobald’s opening address. The Class of 2015 hails from 72 countries, 44 states, and 56 counties in Pennsylvania. This diversity, according to Theobald, makes Temple graduates “real-world ready.”
“Leaving here, you go forward into a country and world reeling from change – from political, economic, and cultural divides,” he said. “The perspectives you gain from a Temple education equips you uniquely to navigate and, indeed, lead America and the world.”
Ifeoma Ezeugwu, the student commencement speaker, told the audience how she overcame her fear of failure to run for president of student government. Even though she lost the election, she urged her fellow graduates not to let fear keep them from pursuing their dreams.
“It is impossible to live life without failing at something unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all,” Ezeugwu said.
After his speech, Negandhi led a chant – “I believe that we are done” – that was modeled after the chant students sing during Temple athletic competitions, “I believe that we will win.” The students showed their enthusiasm by yelling the words while jumping, and it is hoped that this exercise will become a Temple tradition.
Jack Tomczuk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JackTomczuk.