Temple University held its 136th commencement ceremony at The Liacouras Center Thursday morning, marking the second time Temple held a university-wide ceremony since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The ceremony included speeches from Board of Trustees Chair Mitchell Morgan, Acting President JoAnne Epps, Provost Gregory Mandel, student speaker Melanie Smith and Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro.
Morgan, who delivered the opening remarks, detailed his journey from selling shoes in North Philadelphia to help pay his college tuition, to leading Morgan Properties, a large owner of multifamily apartments.
“Temple students do whatever they need to do and my Temple degree changed my life,” Morgan said. “I tell you my story not to brag, because Temple graduates don’t need to brag. I tell you my story to motivate you. We are all Temple made, we work harder and don’t give up until we accomplish what we set out to do.”
After Morgan’s speech, Epps described each student’s academic journey to become a Temple graduate, highlighting the “unfamiliar path” college students have faced in recent years.
“If life is a canvas, you hold the paintbrush,” Epps said. “You grew from gangly teenagers into adults, ready to take on and solve the world’s challenges. You made lifelong friends and you continued the exploration into who you are, what’s important to you and the values that will shape your life.”
Following former President Jason Wingard’s resignation on March 31, the Board of Trustees named Epps acting president of the university.
Kimmika Williams-Witherspoon, a theater professor and president of the Faculty Senate, discussed the importance of faculty, asking everyone in attendance to shout out three educators who contributed to their education.
“As you go off into the next part of your journey, please remember the people that have poured into you,” Williams-Witherspoon said. “Your loved ones, family and friends that have nurtured and supported you in mind, body, spirit and sometimes finances.”
In her speech, Smith, who earned a bachelor’s degree in dance from Temple’s Boyer College of Music and Dance, listed 10 things for each graduate to remember as they leave college and enter the workforce.
“Know and love your neighbors,” Smith said. “I have met some incredible people here at Temple, students, faculty and staff.”
The university also recognized its Golden Owls, members of the Temple University Alumni Association who have been graduates of Temple for 50 or more years.
Shapiro, whose parents graduated from Temple, discussed the hardships graduates faced and the perseverance needed to get where they are today.
“This class hasn’t had the traditional college experience,” Shapiro said. “You joined student organizations, you went to class, you hung out with friends by the clocktower, but I think it’s also important to acknowledge that your undergrad years were filled with challenges and obstacles that we couldn’t have imagined when you chose Temple.”
Pennsylvania is counting on Temple graduates to become leaders and help tackle future challenges, Shapiro added.
“You are the ones I want on the front lines dealing with the big challenges of tomorrow,” Shapiro said. “You have that resiliency. You got knocked down and then you got right back up even stronger. You’ve got the tenacity to fight for the better world you know you deserve.”
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