The Class of 2020 Takes Flight

Aug 8, 2020

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Graduates of the Class of 2020, parents, faculty and guests gathered virtually on Saturday, August 8, 2020 to celebrate the 55th Commencement ceremony of Franklin Pierce University. Standing on campus in the shadow of Mount Monadnock and streaming from the University’s Marlin Fitzwater Center for Communications, President Kim Mooney ’83 welcomed all to the virtual ceremony while noting the unique attributes of the class of 2020.

“As faculty and staff members reflected on the distinctive characteristics of the Class of 2020, all 647 of you, a number of characteristics were consistently mentioned ‒ resilient, persistent and flexible,” said President Mooney. “And yes, you needed to demonstrate all of these traits as you completed your educational journeys in ways that you did not anticipate, and most assuredly did not wish for.  But persist you did.”

President Mooney at the Commencement Exercises

President Mooney applauded students who completed Franklin Pierce’s full-time graduate programs at academic centers in Lebanon and Manchester, N.H. and Goodyear, Ariz. These included 85 graduates of Franklin Pierce’s Doctor of Physical Therapy program, 23 graduates of its Masters of Physician Assistant Studies ‒ a program dedicated to training health care professionals for rural and medically under-served communities ‒ and graduates of the university’s masters programs in accounting, business administration, education, and nursing. 

She also called special attention to those undergraduates who earned their degrees online.  “So many of you did this while working fulltime and raising families in addition to managing the rigor of your Franklin Pierce courses,” she added.

Fred Pierce, chairman of the Franklin Pierce University Board of Trustees, then provided a message to graduates, noting that they achieved a historic milestone in a historic time.  He also stressed the value of a college degree and the singular role of faculty members.

“A college degree opens up a gateway of opportunity for the rest of your life and professional endeavors,” he said.  “We congratulate you on making this incredible accomplishment here at Franklin Pierce University.  Today I look back and say thank goodness for those for those who influenced my life, who helped me to learn and helped show me the road to success in life.  The faculty are so important to this educational endeavor and we thank them on your behalf.” 

Co-Valedictorians of the Class of 2020, Rebekah Jean Hazleton and Leah Elizabeth Varney, also addressed virtual attendees. Hazleton shared that as graduates, “We should embrace our identity as the ‘Class that Overcame the Pandemic.’ A global health crisis could not stop us from achieving what we set out to accomplish four years ago. Embody that identity in all facets of life. Don’t shy away from challenge - embrace it as an opportunity to grow.”

Varney thanked all of those who took part in the virtual graduation and made it possible. “This is not how we imagined our graduation would be, but it goes to show that while life doesn’t always go our way, when we are able to adapt much is possible.  We have certainly been given the opportunity to fulfill the old saying that when life hands you lemons, make lemonade.  And I think we have made some pretty good lemonade if I say so myself.”

President Mooney, then spoke to the largest cohort of the class ‒ the more than 400 undergraduates who studied and lived at Franklin Pierce’s 1,500-acre residential campus in Rindge. 

“We remember you from your very first days here,” said President Mooney.  “When you arrived as the largest class in Franklin Pierce’s history, you electrified the campus. With your immediate and strong sense of community, and with the ways you took on student engagement and leadership to a whole new level, we knew you were special then and you demonstrated that to us every day you lived on this campus. You will be remembered for the loving, inclusive community you built together, and for welcoming everyone to be a part of it.”

President Mooney also thanked students’ family members and friends who contributed to their success before calling on all students to draw on their experiences at Franklin Pierce.  “We are now relying on you ‒ the Class of 2020 ‒ to honor the magnitude of your educational accomplishments and to honor what it means to be a graduate of Franklin Pierce University,” she said.  “We are counting on you to ethically, passionately and inclusively lead.  Lead in your chosen professionals and in the communities in which you will live and work.”

The conferral of degrees that followed celebrated each graduate as their name was read while showing their photograph and highlighting academic honors. Upon its completion, Executive Dean for Assessment and Academic Affairs Sarah Dangelantonio reflected on Franklin Pierce’s annual Grand Monadnock Climb, a tradition in which the incoming freshman class climbs to the summit.  More than 345 freshmen of the Class of 2020 made the climb on September 10, 2016. 

“This august tradition was the prelude to your successful four-year journey,” said Dangelantonio.  “And it is only fitting that the Class of 2020 return to Mount Monadnock as Franklin Pierce University bids you farewell with the singing of our alma mater by Emma Gelinas, Class of 2020.”  As Gelinas sung, those in attendance viewed the grandeur of the landmark the campus sits in the shadow of, interspersed with photos of the climb four years ago.

As the nearly two-hour ceremony came to a close, President Mooney welcomed graduates into the Franklin Pierce University Alumni Association, a vibrant alumni network comprised of more than 20,000 Ravens across the world. Before concluding with congratulations from faculty and staff, she offered a reminder and invocation for the Class of 2020.

“We will always be connected to one another and to Franklin Pierce, this incredibly special university, our alma mater,” said President Mooney. “We will always want to know how you are and where you are.  And you will always be welcome here. So wherever you are watching from, I now ask all of the graduates of the Class of 2020 to stand, among your family and friends, and be recognized for all of your accomplishments. And if you are wearing your cap and gown, move your mortarboard from the right side to the left.  And family, friends, trustees and alumni, wherever you are watching from, please join me ‒ join all of us ‒ in a resounding congratulations for our graduates.  The world needs more Franklin Pierce graduates. Ravens, take flight!”

Members of RavenNation and their loved ones are invited to enjoy the virtual commencement ceremony.  It can be viewed at

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