Some 300 undergraduate and 790 graduate degrees were awarded at the AIC Commencement ceremony Sunday May 19 at the MassMutual Center. The students represented 11 foreign countries and 19 U.S. states.
Two international student athletes were recognized as tops in the class of 2013. Johnni Dideriksen of Denmark (Rugby) was the valedictorian, and Bryony Parker of England (Soccer) was the salutatorian.
Mary Raissi Stewart and A. Craig Brown received honorary degrees at the ceremony. Brown, the keynote speaker, is a member of the Springfield law firm of Doherty, Wallace, Pillsbury and Murphy, P.C., and treasurer of the AIC board of trustees.
He told the graduates to be focused on first impressions. "Value your luck, seize your opportunities, and help the unlucky," he said.
Brown emphasized the importance the role of a volunteer played in his life and he urged the graduates to do the same. "Be a passionate volunteer," he said. "Treat others the way you want to be treated, enjoy the passage of time, and make your lives shine."
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Stewart is not your typical 93-year-old. The long time educator is more active than most people 20 years younger. She still visits St Croix twice a year, a place where she spent most of her five decade teaching career, and played in integral role in the founding of the St. Croix campus of the College of the Virgin Islands.
After receiving her bachelor's degree from AIC in 1942, Stewart began her teaching career, a career that spanned five decades. Stewart returned to AIC in 1949, after receiving her master's degree from UConn, and worked in the Alumni Office coordinating events and setting up files for each of the previous classes at the college beginning with 1885, the year AIC was founded.
Brown graduated from Dartmouth College and also received a master's degree from Georgetown University. He serves on several area boards including the Springfield School Volunteers, Regional Employment Board of Hampden County and the Urban League of Springfield.
He served as a high school and college lacrosse official for many years and is the founder and past president of both the Western Mass. Lacrosse, Inc., and the Connecticut Valley Youth Lacrosse, Inc.
AIC students weren't the only students in attendance at the event. A group of 8th graders from the Kennedy Middle School in Springfield were on hand to watch the proceedings,and see their teacher, Corrine Cheffer, a special education teacher at Kennedy, receive her master's degree.
"The students wanted to experience the college atmosphere. "We would like to follow it up with a field trip to AIC campus. We would like the students to know what Springfield has to offer," she said.