In his Commencement address on May 12 to the 653 students graduating from Assumption College, Brian Kelly, head football coach for the University of Notre Dame and philanthropist, remembered being in the collegians’ shoes at his own Commencement from Assumption in 1983 and wondering to himself: “What now?”
“What do I do with the strong foundation in education and spiritual formation (gained at Assumption)?” Kelly recalled. “How do I live up to the expectations that my parents, teachers, coaches, and I have set for myself? And I remember it is a scary place to be. That is what I want to talk to you about today – about those first steps from this spot, right here…”
Assumption College’s 95th Commencement ceremony was held on the campus’s H.L. Rocheleau Field, where 430 Bachelor of Arts degrees; 201 graduate studies degrees (Master of Arts and Master of Business Administration) and certificates; and 22 Continuing and Career Education degrees (Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Business Administration, Bachelor of Science, and associates) were awarded. Thousands of students, their families and friends, trustees, and other special guests were on hand to experience the inspirational messages delivered by keynote speaker Kelly and Assumption College President Francesco Cesareo.
A veteran of 21 seasons as a head football coach in the collegiate setting, Kelly is heading into his third season at Notre Dame, the 29th in their storied history; he has guided the Fighting Irish to 16 wins and two bowl games over the last two seasons. Kelly became the first Notre Dame head coach to win a bowl game in his first season there. Currently the fifth-winningest active coach in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), his 110 victories as head coach since 2001 are more than all but two active FBS head coaches – Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops and Mack Brown of Texas.
“Of all the things I learned here at Assumption, one of the most important was the value of relationships,” Kelly said. “Look at the people around you. Sure, these are the last days you will spend together on campus as students. The end of this special time together. But these relationships you built are important now and will be going forward. So cherish them, take time to nourish them.”
Also during the ceremony, honorary degrees were conferred upon Kelly as well as three other distinguished individuals: the Most Rev. Robert McManus, bishop of Worcester; Maurice “Moe” Boisvert ’66, president of Youth Opportunities Upheld Inc. (YOU Inc.); and James Welu, director emeritus of Worcester Art Museum.
Valedictorian Nicholas DiAntonio of Milford, an award-winning student-athlete who captained the Greyhounds’ football team, told his fellow graduates to remember that they can be confident that the teachings of Assumption College will allow them to find their “true north in life. In the same way that a simple compass can provide life-saving guidance, our families, friends, faculty, staff, and administration have given us the light and direction we need to find our true north.”
He said, “Assumption College has challenged us to use our liberal arts education and the critical thinking skills we developed in all of our courses, whether they were in philosophy, art history, business, education, mathematics, or from any other department. Every course improved who we are as students and as people. In addition, every one of us, at some point in our college career, has formed a meaningful bond with a member of the Assumption College community.”
In her introduction of Kelly, Salutatorian Kirsten Chirichetti noted that the spirit of Assumption College, with its dual emphasis on scholarship and faith, has had a significant influence on Kelly’s professional career and personal life.
Throughout his professional coaching career, Coach Kelly has always been a Greyhound at heart. He has strived to instill in his players the determination, respect, and work ethic that he acquired from his experiences at Assumption College,” she said. “The entire Kelly family is committed to the ideals of personal involvement, educational advancement, and community involvement, principles that reflect his Assumption education."