Quinta Brunson, Richard Englert speak at Temple’s 137th commencement

Temple held its 137th commencement ceremony at The Liacouras Center Wednesday morning, marking the first college graduating class that experienced COVID-shutdowns in high school.

Temple held its 137th commencement at The Liacouras Center Wednesday morning. | COLLEEN CLAGGETT / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Temple held its 137th commencement ceremony at The Liacouras Center Wednesday morning, marking the first college graduating class that experienced a COVID-19-related shutdown in high school. 

The ceremony included speeches from President Richard Englert, Provost Gregory Mandel, Board of Trustees Chair Mitch Morgan, student speaker Journee Lutz and former Temple student and Abbott Elementary star Quinta Brunson.

Englert, who delivered the opening remarks, congratulated the Class of 2024 on persevering through the COVID-19 pandemic and a revolving door of university leadership.

“In many ways, your future begins today,” Englert said. “It is full of limitless possibilities. Just as you have done for the last several years, you get to pave your path forward. Your future is yours to define.”

Englert also remembered former President JoAnne Epps, who died after collapsing at a university event on Sept. 19, 2023. Epps was serving as the university’s acting president after former President Jason Wingard resigned in March 2023.

“I have been thinking long and hard about what wisdom and advice I might share with this talented group of graduates,” Englert said. “My mind keeps returning to one big idea: be like JoAnne.”

Lutz, a theater, film and media arts graduate and member of the Class of 2024, highlighted the hardships her classmates have faced through the COVID-10 pandemic and most of them experiencing their first in-person graduation since 8th grade.

“Despite all that was thrown at us in the year that shall not be named, I have since seen that you all came out a little taller, a little more heroic and a little more receptive to change,” Lutz said. “For resilient people like us, that means the world.”

Lutz also reflected on her time at Temple, wondering how all her fellow graduates got through college. But she quickly learned it’s about the people you meet along the way throughout your college journey that make the experience so special, she said.

Brunson, one of the last speakers of the morning, drew an emphatic round of applause when she arose from her seat to earn her honorary doctorate degree and address Temple’s Class of 2024 as commencement speaker.

Brunson has won two emmys and a golden globe for her work on Abbott Elementary, and participated in TUTV program Temple SMASH while she was a student at the university.

“Mom, it only took me 11 years, two emmys and one golden globe to finally get a degree,” Brunson said. “I just want to talk about being an Owl at heart, which I realized I was when I moved out to California.”

Brunson did not graduate from Temple, leaving college early to pursue a career in acting, but she still has countless memories from her time spent on Temple’s Main Campus, she said.

“This is a special campus,” Brunson said. “This is a special place. The TECH Center, man I used to be in there until 4 a.m. Not doing work, just talking and having fun. But all of this reminded me that I was an Owl at heart. This campus is very special and there’s no place like it in the world.”

Morgan followed Brunson’s remarks recalling his own journey as a Temple student, selling shoes in North Philadelphia to help pay his tuition.

“Temple has changed my life, and I’m sure Temple has changed your life too,” Morgan said. “Through the challenges that you guys overcame to be here today, it’s now time to grab the opportunities that are ahead of you. We really need you.”

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