Kean Awards Nearly 3,000 Bachelor’s Degrees to Class of 2023
Kean University celebrated its Class of 2023 on Thursday, May 18, as the Undergraduate Commencement ceremony turned Prudential Center in Newark into a sea of Kean blue. A total of 2,822 students earned bachelor’s degrees at Kean.
Holly Taylor ’21, a Kean University alumna and star of TV’s Manifest and The Americans, served as commencement speaker. She told the graduates that life is a series of decisions and changes, but everyone – herself included – is still figuring things out.
“Feel confident in the unknown of your future today, just as you did on your first day on campus,” she said. “Embrace the multitude of opportunities that are available to you, and take advantage of every chance you have to do something that brings you and others joy.”
Like the graduating class, Taylor attended Kean during the COVID-19 pandemic, when classes transitioned from in-person to virtual. Her commencement ceremony in 2021 was one of 10 smaller, outdoor ceremonies held on Kean’s Union campus.
“This is my first time seeing all of this, and I feel like I'm experiencing it with the new graduates,” she said. “And that's great.”
Kean President Lamont O. Repollet, Ed.D., spoke after an upbeat welcome from Kean Board of Trustees President Steve Fastook ’06H. The president reflected on the graduates’ resilience and tenacity as well as what makes their Kean experience special.
“As Kean graduates, you all have a special light to share in a world too often darkened by violence arising from fear and ignorance about our differences,” Repollet said. “But on our campuses, where we are committed to diversity, equity and social justice, you’ve seen how people thrive when they’re afforded dignity and respect. With those principles in your hearts, you can be a force for inclusivity and fairness in your careers and your communities.”
The day started well before 7 a.m. for graduates and their families, who began gathering outside the arena.
Sharon and Jesse Miller of Iselin were among them. They were thrilled when they spotted their son, Christopher, in the crowd outside Prudential Center.
“We’re very excited. Not a lot of people in our family have graduated with four-year degrees. It’s a big deal for us,” Sharon Miller said.
Asha Palmer of Montclair celebrated the history degree her sister-in-law, Amber Gabrielle Palmer, received.
"It's been a journey,” Asha Palmer said. “Her father passed away in 2020, and all he wanted her to do was graduate from college, and here she is, fulfilling a family dream."
The Commencement procession entered to the strains of Pomp and Circumstance, while friends and family members watched from the seats above, taking pictures and carrying flowers and posters.
Three student speakers addressed the crowd: Anthony Bogash, valedictorian, who earned a Bachelor of Science in management; Maheen Saeed, senior class president, who received a Bachelor of Science in accounting; and Amir Gallashaw, student government president, who also earned a Bachelor of Science in management.
Bogash said the knowledge and experience the students gained during college “will empower us to accomplish even greater feats and assume even greater responsibilities. Among us I see future teachers, architects, artists, mathematicians, scientists and business professionals. I think I even see a future president in the back.”
Saeed reminded the students that all will face challenges going forward. “Your determination to overcome these obstacles, coupled with a commitment to pushing yourself to the best of your ability, are the first steps toward being successful,” Saeed said.
Gallashaw spoke of the “love, tragedy, pain and inconsistency” that Kean students, and the entire world that survived the pandemic, experienced in the past few years.
“We were the generation that made things possible when the world was falling apart, and we used our innovation to sustain our future,” he said. “Class of 2023, there is nothing that can stop us as we move forward.”
Following a performance of the Kean Alma Mater, each student’s name was called, and they walked across the stage. While their majors varied, all shared the same excitement.
“This is four years of hard work finally being displayed,” said Nasir Howell, a psychology major from Union, who decorated his cap for the occasion. “Life is chess, not checkers,” it read.
Varrianna Siryon of Elizabeth, who received her degree in architecture, was decorating her cap on the spot. She carried a silver Sharpie in her purse and asked classmates to sign it.
The first one to add her name to the top was fellow architecture student Jenna Vogel of Springfield, Virginia. Both agreed the best thing about their experience at Kean was making close friends in their architecture cohort.
“We all grew very, very close freshman year, and we stayed close through COVID, and up to now,” Siryon said.
“Our friends were really the best,” Vogel added.
The last order of business was conferral of degrees by President Repollet. After that, the students of the Kean University Class of 2023 were college graduates.
For Katrina Springer of Roselle Park, who earned her degree in English and received K-12 teaching certification, moving on means teaching high school English.
“I've been going to school for the last six years. I transferred from my first school, and coming to Kean was the best decision that I could have made,” said Springer, who earned summa cum laude honors.”I worked really hard, and I put myself through college. It feels really satisfying to know that I finally did it for myself.”
Kean University held its commencement ceremony for graduates earning master’s and doctoral degrees on Tuesday, May 16, at New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark.