About 200 graduates of the University College of the Cayman Islands received their diplomas last Thursday night amid cheers and accolades.
Dressed in gold, blue, black or white robes and mortar boards – depending upon the degree they were receiving – the honorees were encouraged to pursue their passions, give back to their communities and continue learning.
UCCI President Roy Bodden, who is retiring at the end of December, told the graduates to keep being students.
“This is not the end, but the beginning,” Mr. Bodden said. “Commit yourselves to lifelong learning.”
Mr. Bodden was part of a slate of speakers that included Premier Alden McLaughlin, MLA Barbara Conolly and UCCI Board of Governors Chairman Anthony Ritch. Belle S. Wheelan, president of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, gave the commencement address.
Ms. Wheelan also encouraged the students to continue accomplishing their goals through determination and hard work.
“Don’t lose that spirit,” she said.
Ms. Wheelan shared stories of her own struggle with racial discrimination as a student in 1964. She said being confident helped propel her forward in her career.
“Get involved,” she said, after urging the graduates to give back to their communities by being tutors and role models. “You see these wonderful leaders?” she added, motioning to those sitting on the dais. “They used to sit where you are. You are no different. Make a difference out there.”
Mr. McLaughlin shared his own story of being in the same place as the graduates.
“I was not a particularly good student,” he said. “The pursuit of happiness was more important to me. But the point came when the penny dropped and I discovered I had to work hard.”
He found his calling in law, he said, and looked forward to working each day. He encouraged the graduates to find something that would similarly drive them.
“If you can find that, you will have done the most important thing for yourself,” he said.
Mr. McLaughlin, as well as some of the other speakers, took time to laud Mr. Bodden for leading the campus since 2009. He revealed a special connection between himself and the UCCI president.
“Tonight is the swan song of your president, J.A. Roy Bodden, who taught me Year 11 history 40 years ago,” he said, adding that Mr. Bodden’s career “warrants national recognition.”
Mr. Bodden said his accomplishments were only as good as those surrounding him.
“The credit goes to my hardworking staff,” he said.
His work for the university, he said, came from a sense of obligation from his own success.
“I thought the least I could do was give something back and I hope I can continue to be an exemplar,” he said, while encouraging the graduates to do the same. “Go back to your neighborhood, your hamlet and give something back.”
Among Thursday’s graduates were those who received awards at a convocation ceremony Oct. 27. Top award winners included:
- Garima Chawla – Highest Achiever Post Graduate;
- Tracia Barrett-Ong – Overall Highest Achiever Bachelor’s Level;
- Neisha Miller – Overall Highest Achiever Associate;
- Althea Miller – Outstanding AS Student with STEM Specialism;
- Maria Pia Velasquez – Highest GPA