UMass graduates shine through the showers, soak in the moment at commencement

May 17, 2024

As the rain came down on Thursday morning, May, 16, UMass Dartmouth’s graduating Class of 2024 huddled together under a sea of umbrellas awaiting the start of their commencement ceremony. 

While the 2020 high school graduates might recall sitting 6 feet apart, a Zoom ceremony or having no prior commencement at all due to the Covid pandemic, the students and families seemingly didn’t let the weather dampen their spirits as they happily accepted the free rain ponchos as opposed to face masks. 

Chancellor Mark Fuller jokingly warned attendees to pay no mind to the construction nearby — they’re rebuilding Noah’s Ark — and if anyone needed assistance getting back to the parking lot after the ceremony, “the swim team is on standby.”

The day’s program was shortened, with the university cutting two speeches due to the weather and the remaining speaking only briefly.

The student speaker, Alexis Petty of Fairhaven, earned a Bachelor of Science in Physics, graduating from the Honors College with a 3.97 GPA. Petty’s goal is to become a radiation therapy medical physicist, focusing on pediatric care. She’ll be headed to Brown University next to to pursue a master's degree in Medical Physics.

Petty congratulated her peers on their accomplishments and expressed her gratitude to the university and her professors: “Your commitment to our academic and personal growth is something I will never take for granted. From mastering the intricacies of physics equations to navigating the complexities of life, your guidance has shaped us into the individuals that we are today.”

She spoke of how much she appreciated the opportunities she had and the mistakes she made as both provided possibilities for learning and growth. 

She said although it may be cliché to say, she encouraged her peers to maintain the mindset that “the worst thing they can say is, ‘No.’”

“Remember, even in moments of uncertainty, the willingness to take risks can lead to unexpected doors opening,” Petty said. “Embrace the journey, celebrate your achievements and never underestimate the power of your own potential.”

Petty was one of nearly 1,200 students who would walk across the stage on Thursday, and of those to receive a surprise $1,000 each from commencement speaker Robert Hale, Jr., CEO of wholesale telecommunications provider Granite Telecommunications.

The money was split into two envelopes, one to keep as a gift and one to give to someone in need or an organization they support.

This is just one of the recent philanthropic acts Hale and his wife have committed to, with Hale having given the same gift at UMass Boston’s undergraduate commencement last year. According to Fuller, it doesn’t end there, with Hale operating the top philanthropic company in Massachusetts for the last three years, having donated a total of $73 million to local charities in one year.

Fuller said, “You’ve demonstrated how business can be an extraordinary force for good.”

Given this work, he received the Chancellor’s Medal. Fuller said, “While we like to say extraordinary is what we do here at UMass Dartmouth, apparently, extraordinary is what you do as well, Rob.”

Hale said for he and his wife, “The greatest joys we've had in our life have been the gift of giving."