Honoring Those Who Served, Not Just on Veterans Day
In recognition of the selfless sacrifices made by many – including alumni – Assumption University remembered and recognized Veterans through its second annual Veterans Day Observance Ceremony as well as marked its commitment to its student veterans with the formal announcement of a number of new programs for student-veterans including the ribbon cutting of a new Veterans’ Lounge, a new academic program and services to help student-veterans.
“This year at Assumption, we do not simply echo words of gratitude, rather we enter a new era for the institution, an era in which Assumption formally recommits itself to providing for those who have served their country, as we launch a number of veterans-friendly initiatives,” said President Francesco C. Cesareo, Ph.D.
The afternoon ceremony featured Colonel Christina Stevens ‘85, senior aerospace science instructor at South High Community School and retired member of the United States Air Force, who filled the gathered audience hope and inspiration. Col. Stevens provided a brief history of Veterans Day and its importance as a day of honor and remembrance. She shared that Veterans Day was originally founded by President Woodrow Wilson as Armistice Day as a way to commemorate the end of World War I at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month in the year 1918—exactly 100 years ago. Today, Veterans Day celebrates those who served past and present in the United States Armed Forces.
Col. Stevens then reminisced about her time at Assumption, during which she participated in an ROTC program. “There are certain moments in life we all remember,” Col. Stevens said, “and for me, the day in 1981 as a young freshman here at Assumption, putting on my uniform for the first time, is one of those events.”
Col. Stevens sees the uniform as the most potent symbol of veteran strength and pride. “Every person who has put on the uniform, whether in time of war or time of peace, has also felt a new sense of responsibility,” she said, adding that an “unshakable sense of responsibility” guides veterans and invigorates their spirits. After Col. Stevens’ remarks, she assisted President Cesareo in presenting “challenge coins” to veterans in attendance—including many Assumption faculty and students—continuing a tradition that began at last year’s Veterans Day observance ceremony.
The remembrance ceremony was accented by the Presentation of the Colors by the South High Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC), led by Col. Stevens, and a performance of the National Anthem by VOCE, Assumption’s select a cappella chorus. Father Richard Lamoureux ’64, A.A., Ph.D., vice president for Mission, provided a benediction to conclude the formal ceremony.
Guests were then invited to attend the dedication of the new Veterans’ Lounge in the Information Technology Building, a space on campus exclusively for Veterans that includes a lounge and study room complete with computers, refrigerator, microwave and coffee. President Cesareo emphasized the University's commitment to serving and honoring veterans year-round, with a number of new initiatives. Through the work of the newly formed Veterans Success Committee, Assumption has implemented a number of endeavors to help veterans navigate the transition to college.
“When veterans enroll at Assumption, they now have a voice to help them navigate some of the bureaucracy they may encounter – bureaucracy that could present challenges to their academic success,” said President Cesareo. “These “safety nets” ensure that student-veterans will have an advocate, a voice, for an array of matters relative to finances, living arrangements, personal and academic challenges and much more. Given their selfless life-experiences, our student-veterans deserve a resource that will shepherd them through the process by which they transition to and enroll at Assumption.”
A new graduate certificate program, which will be offered through the Department of Human Services and Rehabilitation Studies, and will train students on how to work with disabled veterans and their families. The primarily online curriculum will even include a military immersion course to familiarize students with military culture.
Benjamin Hendricks, a veteran and graduate student at Assumption, thanked the University for its support of the veteran community. After his remarks, Hendricks cut the ribbon, officially opening the two-room Veterans’ Lounge.
One veteran-faculty member, Professor Gary Senecal, Ph.D., attended the event with his daughter. An adjunct professor in psychology and human services, Prof. Senecal has served as a member of the Army Reserves since 2013. Holding his daughter in his arms as they eagerly awaited the unveiling of the Lounge, Prof. Senecal expressed his gratitude for Assumption elevating its promise to serving veterans.
“I think one of the really good things Assumption has done, especially in the last ten years, is become a significant part of the Worcester community, and being a part of Worcester is being a part of the veteran community,” he said.
He distinguished Assumption from other institutions of its kind, praising, “Traditionally, private liberal arts colleges don’t have large veteran populations of students on campus, but Assumption’s has been growing significantly, especially in the last ten years.
“I think it’s a great thing that Assumption is not only acknowledging it but embracing it, and this will encourage more GI Bill-eligible students to come to Assumption and be a part of the community, and that benefits our community here at Assumption to have a more diverse campus,” Senecal said.
President Cesareo echoed Prof. Senecal’s sentiments. “It is those experiences, a sense of duty and commitment, an understanding of one’s place in this world, that makes the presence of veterans on this campus critical to all students’ college experience,” he said, adding that veterans play a vital role in creating a better Assumption, and a better world. “The perspective they offer in the classroom and socially outside the classroom is one that enhances the college experience for all students as they seek a greater understanding of the world in which we live.”
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