Katherine Himmelman, of Southampton, Massachusetts, is a history and secondary education double major. Katherine is president of the Student Government Association, a resident assistant, a student ambassador, the student representative to the board of trustees, and is highly involved with the student activities office. She will attend Boston College to begin studies in a master's degree in higher education administration and serve as a graduate assistant overseeing a $500,000 student activities budget. Katherine is a member of the Delta Epsilon Sigma and the Kappa Gamma Pi honor societies. She is the recipient of the 2013 Sister Mary Fenton Award in humanities.
Madam Chair Mrs. Mansfield, President Reap, Bishop McDonnell, Sister Schneider, Trustees, Faculty, Staff, Students, Friends, and Family,
Approximately 9 months ago, I found myself moving back into the residence halls to begin my senior year. On this particular sweltering day, as I walked on to campus, my attention was directed to the vast dirt pile and deep hole that had replaced the grassy quadrangle and the quick route to the Maguire Center. This hole has gradually become the Center for Natural and Health Sciences over the past nine months. Today, the structure stands just months shy of completion. The building, much like all of us over the past four years, is a work-in-progress. We are always works-in-progress. Last week while I sat in the RA office doing key checkout, my attention was drawn to an article published by the Republican about the Sisters of Saint Joseph; the group of courageous women who founded the college from which we are about to graduate. These brave women, in conjunction with the Diocese of Springfield, had a dream; a dream of providing a high quality, affordable college education to young women (now women and men) on a beautiful parcel of land in Chicopee. This dream came to fruition as the College of Our Lady of the Elms materialized. Sitting on the first floor of Rose William looking out upon the campus and construction, it became evident that the goals and dreams of the Sisters of Saint Joseph are still in progress. When one looks at the physical improvements at Elms College and its population growth, there is no question that the goals and spirit of the Sisters of Saint Joseph are alive and well. Our college education would not have been possible without the aspirations and persistence of our founding sisters.
All of us here today know what it is to persist and complete our goals. We all have friends and family who set examples before us that make us what to overcome any obstacle. During my sophomore year at Elms, my Nana - the woman who affectionately called me Chief and bought the best after school snacks- was diagnosed with brain cancer and given two months to live if she decided to forgo treatment. As I spent many afternoons holding my Nana's hand, and wiping away tears as I watched her fight for her life as the treatment proved nearly fatal on more than one occasion, I struggled with the prospect of letting her go. On one particular night, as I sat in the uncomfortable plastic chair beside the frail looking woman that held the fighting spirit of my Nana, I told her I understood if she could not keep going. As tears streamed down my face, for the first time in weeks, her deep brown eyes came alive with a verbal reminder that she had a goal to see my sister and I graduate, so I was told "Chief, relax." Over the next two tears she continued her fight with her four pronged cane and stubborn personality.
In typical fashion, goals do not come without their difficulties and tribulations. Last spring, my Nana had a stroke that left her blind in one eye. Despite the recommendations of the doctors, she went home to bake a cake less than six hours after having the stroke, reminding us that we needed to let her do what she wanted if she was going to reach her goal. Today, as I graduate, my Nana sits in the audience, an exemplary model of one who sets a goal and persists through all obstacles to see it met.
My fellow classmates, as we walk across this stage today, we will have achieved so much. We all come from different backgrounds, are in varying stages of our lives, and have different individual goals. Even though our aspirations may not be the same, they inspire us to challenge ourselves. Today, our buildings are complete, so it is time to set new goals, or, for some of us, to continue meeting bench marks on the path to achieving larger accomplishments. Now is our chance to set lofty goals and go out into the world to make a difference like the Sisters of Saint Joseph when they decided to found the College of Our Lady of the Elms. We have already accomplished many things, but there is more out there that all of us are capable of achieving. Do not limit yourself in what you believe you can achieve because through our education we all have received the foundation to do whatever we dream possible. As you receive your diploma, set your next goals high, because in the word of Robert Browning "... a man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's heaven for?"
To everyone who has helped make our educations possible, thank you. And to the class of 2013, good luck!