Drew University Celebrates College of Liberal Arts Class of 2024

James Van Der Beek delivers Commencement address, Chekwube Okunowo C’24 speaks to and for her peers

May 2024 – The Drew University College of Liberal Arts Class of 2024 has crossed the Commencement stage, moved their mortarboard tassels to the left side, and tossed them in the air.

On a perfect spring day ripe for celebration on Mead Hall lawn, Drew graduates, families, friends, faculty, staff, trustees, and even a celebrity were on hand to honor a special group of students. Those unable to join were able to watch via livestream.

“Today is about celebrating each and every one of you, for your hard work, your successes in the classroom, in internships or service, or on the athletic field, and your successful completion of your Drew degree,” said President Hilary L. Link, PhD, celebrating her first Commencement since joining the University.

As the ceremony unfolded, a theme emerged: A long time coming.

After addressing the crowd, President Link introduced and presented an honorary degree diploma to actor, writer, and producer James Van Der Beek, who spent two years at Drew before “deferring his education”, as he likes to say, to take the life-changing lead role on the hit show Dawson’s Creek.

Van Der Beek delivered the Commencement address, recalling performing at Commencement as part of the 36 Madison Avenue a cappella group and wondering what the future might hold. He told several stories rooted in life lessons to let the brain work for the heart, being careful of what you think you know—like that going back for a second audition for Dawson’s Creek would be a waste of time—and being honest about how and where you’re valued, but never mistaking it for your actual worth.

“Earlier, I highlighted a few of the technological advances made in the last 25 years since I last sat where you are. When one of you gets up here 25 years from now, the technological landscape will be unrecognizable from today,” closed Van Der Beek.

“May you approach it with openness, presence, awareness, optimism, and a healthy sense of awe. After all, unpredictability opens up a world of possibility.”

For many of the students, the ceremony was their first true graduation ceremony, having lost their high school graduations to the pandemic.

“Yet here we sit, four years later, side-by-side, able to see each other’s bright smiles, adorned in our regalia and surrounded by loved ones,” said student speaker Chekwube Okunowo C’24 after asking her peers to tell those sitting next to them how proud they are of them.

“Today, though a kaleidoscope of emotions swirls within us—joy at reaching this milestone, a tinge of sadness at leaving what has become home and the people who have become family, as well as, the thrill of the unknown future—let the moment you just shared with the person beside you erase any doubts – it is a day for serious celebration!”

As a last piece of business before bestowing more than 300 diplomas, President Link slowly teased out the winner of the President’s Award for Distinguished Teaching in the College of Liberal Arts. Citing student nominations peppered with words like “passion”, “support” and “care”, President Link called Assistant Teaching Professor of Psychology, and Drew alum, Dr. Adijat Mustapha C’11 to the stage amid mass applause.

The Class of 2024 then heard their names called, received their diplomas from Provost Jessica Lakin and Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Caspersen School of Graduate Studies Ryan Hinrichs, and stopped to shake hands with President Link.

The graduates descended the stage to rejoin their peers to the sound of proud families cheering. A celebration on a special day for a special class, and one a long time coming.

For more photos, click here.

For more Commencement 2024 coverage, click here

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