A silhouetted graduate walks in front of the stage during Commencement ceremonies.

Winter Class of 2024 honored during Commencement ceremonies

Over 3,100 members of Grand Valley's Winter Class of 2024 took part in Commencement ceremonies at Van Andel Arena on April 26 and 27.

A student proudly holds his diploma up as he crosses the stage during graduation.
Image credit - Kendra Stanley-Mills
Graduating student Larissa Hollingsworth smiles at her family in the crowd as she receives her diploma.
Image credit - Ashley Cefali

Following the opening processional, the ceremonies began with remarks by Felix Ngassa, professor of chemistry and chair of the University Academic Senate.

President Philomena V. Mantella welcomed graduates to this significant milestone, even more meaningful for the class of 2024 – many of whom began their college careers in 2020.

“Your class has had a disruption unlike any other,” Mantella noted. “There was no road map, and there was no history book to read to see how previous students managed through the challenge of a global pandemic. You sit here today, getting the graduation moment that you deserve and that many of you were denied four years ago.”

Graduates smile as they watch a video playing on the big screen at Commencement.
Image credit - Kendra Stanley-Mills
President Mantella addresses the crowd during Commencement.
Image credit - Kendra Stanley-Mills
GVSU officials pose and smile with guest speaker Timothy Shriver, who received an honorary degree.
Image credit - Amanda Pitts
Faculty and Staff smile and clap in the audience during Commencement.
Image credit - Amanda Pitts

Following her remarks, Mantella recognized this year’s guest speaker and honorary degree recipient, Timothy Shriver, chair of Special Olympics International and co-founder of UNITE. Shriver was awarded his honorary degree at Friday’s ceremony, and at Friday and Saturday morning’s ceremonies, shared a message to inspire taking a chance on others and leading with dignity.. 

“So I ask you, graduates, to take a chance on others. Take a chance on dignity,” Shriver remarked. “Division is the biggest challenge in our country and you are on the side of solving this problem with a practical, meaningful, and impactful strategy. It’s a solution steeped in the faith that honoring each other’s dignity is a patriotic duty.”

Following Shriver’s recognition, Jenny Hall-Jones, vice president for Student Affairs, introduced each ceremony’s student speaker. The student speaker at the Friday evening ceremony was Logyn Miller, who is receiving his bachelor's degree in secondary education with an emphasis in mathematics. Saturday morning’s student speaker was Jowei Yek, an international student from Petaling Jaya, Malaysia receiving his master's degrees in business administration and social innovation. At the Saturday afternoon ceremony, Elizabeth Schanz, who received degrees in multimedia journalism and dance, addressed the crowd.

In his remarks, Yek shared his path to Grand Valley. “My journey to Grand Valley began 100 years ago, in Fuzhou, China. My ancestors had too many mouths to feed, so, they left to find their ‘land of milk and honey’ in Malaysia. Malaysia is covered in rubber trees, so they learned to live off the land. Each morning, they tediously scored the rubber trees one by one, and latex would seep out like fresh milk. They sold the rubber in weight, and in each kilogram, they planted a hope that their children could one day become someone. Today I became a first-generation, Malaysian Chinese Grand Valley graduate.”

Timothy Shriver addresses graduates during his Commencement address.
Image credit - Ashley Cefali
Jowei Yek, student speaker at Saturday morning's ceremony, smiles with gratitude as he is announced.
Image credit - Ashley Cefali

Following the students’ remarks, Mantella welcomed Anna Bremmer, Lindsey O’Donnell, Saamanthy Rajenthiran and Andrew Lenhart, visiting professor of voice, to perform “The Climb," written by Jessi Alexander and Jon Mabe.

The conferring of degrees was led by Mantella and Fatma Mili, provost and executive vice president for Academic Affairs.

Graduates moved their tassels and were dismissed as official members of the Winter Class of 2024.

Graduates and their supporters have the opportunity to purchase Commencement mementos as well as DVDs of each Commencement ceremony.

A graduate takes a selfie with President Mantella as he crosses the stage at Commencement.
Image credit - Kendra Stanley-Mills
A service dog crosses the stage with it's owner during Commencement.
Image credit - Kendra Stanley-Mills
A young girl plays with a graduate's cords.
Image credit - Kendra Stanley-Mills
A graduate hugs a young child tight following Commencement ceremonies.
Image credit - Emily Zoladz
A graduate's cap that reads "Onto the next chapter".
Image credit - Kendra Stanley-Mills


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