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Queens University Charlotte Celebrates At May 2024 Commencement

Queens University of Charlotte celebrated its graduating class of 2024 under the oaks of Hall Brown Terrace on May 4. Families and friends cheered as 419 graduates – 296 undergraduates and 123 graduate students – turned their tassels, marking the end of one journey before beginning another. For many Royals, walking across the stage served as an emotional culmination of the past four years.

“When I think of the amazing class of 2024, it’s impossible not to recall all the ways that your journey was filled with extra challenges to conquer along the way,” said Queens University President Dan Lugo. “All of the chaos and uncertainty brought into our lives have provided unprecedented opportunities for each of you to demonstrate impressive and much-needed resilience. While we’ve returned to some sense of “normalcy,” the lessons learned, the relationships we developed, and all the unpredictable experiences that we navigated along that winding road will benefit us all for a lifetime.”

Maria Garcia-Castillo ’24, president of the Student Government Association, introduced the keynote speaker, the Honorable Vi Lyles ‘73 to the crowd. “I am honored to introduce a true example of leadership and public service, Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles,” said Garcia-Castillo. “As we celebrate the accomplishments of our graduates today, let us draw inspiration from Mayor Lyles’ remarkable journey. May her unwavering commitment to service and her tireless pursuit of excellence serve as a guiding light for each and every one of us as we embark on our own paths toward making a difference in the world.”

At the podium, Mayor Lyles recognized the recent loss of four law enforcement officers and asked the Queens community to join her in a moment of silence. “This last week was not an easy one in our city. We lost four heroes. They gave the ultimate sacrifice so that others might survive,” she said. “Thank you for acknowledging and understanding that Queens is an integral part of this community and I hope that you will always stay a part of it.”

Lyles continued, “It is an honor for me to stand here today and participate in your celebration. I always enjoy coming back to campus.” She continued, “I attended Queens at a time when the color of your skin was what made you important, or perhaps not important. I was here during the early days of desegregation, so I certainly stood out on this campus. My class was different from [the diversity] I see out in front of me today.”

Lyles continued with words of wisdom and encouraged graduates to make a difference in the lives of others and never quit. “There will always be a Queens community,” she said. “I hope that you will find your space, that you will find your people, you will find what makes you important to our community and our democracy.”

Jeffrey J. Brown ’03, chair of Queens’ board of trustees and president of Hendrick Auto Group, also addressed the crowd. “One of the privileges that my fellow trustees and I enjoy the most is the opportunity to celebrate this momentous occasion with each of you,” said Brown. “It is a reminder of why we serve this wonderful institution, and it is fulfilling to know that each of you will have an opportunity to make a difference in our world.”

He continued, “It is certainly an honor for us to be a part of your commencement as we recognize your distinguished accomplishments. Our challenge to each of you is to build upon the incredible foundation you have built up to this point and seize every moment ahead with a belief that the best is still to come.”

Earlier in the ceremony, graduate student Rosa Ramirez ’21,’24, Queens’ assistant director for diversity, inclusion, and community engagement, delivered the invocation. She encouraged graduates to be thankful and to step forward to bring about positive change in the world.

“As we envision the future, let us carry with us the principles of inclusivity and empathy,” said Ramirez. “Let us strive to build a world where every voice matters, every story is cherished, and every individual is honored.”

Emily Cisneros Soriano ’24 delivered greetings from the student body and talked about the importance of being resilient during challenging times. “Reflecting on our time together, we cannot ignore the extraordinary circumstances that marked the beginning of our college experience. We entered this chapter amidst the chaos of a global pandemic, facing uncertainties and challenges that tested our resilience and determination,” said Cisneros Soriano. “However, our college experience is not solely defined by the challenges we faced during these past four years. Throughout our time here at Queens, we’ve shared countless memories that have shaped us into the individuals we are today.”

Lugo presented the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Awards next. Since 1948, the awards have been presented annually to one member of the graduating class and one to community members and friends of the university, honoring their excellence of character and humanitarian service. This year, there were two deserving students, Ryan Byrd ’24 and Eleanor Williamson ’24. The community recipients were Carolyn and Sam McMahon. The McMahons were honored for their lifetime commitment to education, their exemplary leadership, and dedication to improving and enriching the lives of our students and others throughout the world.

Next, Sarah Fatherly, Ph.D., provost and vice president of academic affairs for Queens University of Charlotte, presented the Hunter-Hamilton Love of Teaching Award to April Sipprell, Ph.D., assistant professor of biology in the College of Arts and Sciences. The most notable honor bestowed upon Queens faculty, the award is presented annually at commencement and recognizes dedication and enthusiasm for the profession.

Degrees were then conferred, and as the last graduate of the class of 2024 walked across the stage, Fatherly concluded the ceremony, marking this historic moment for the crowd, “Thank you so much for being here this morning, we wish you all the very best!”

The class of 2024 leaves Queens University ready to embark on a new chapter, forever bonded by their shared experience. The challenges they faced only strengthened their resolve and resilience. Together, they step forward, ready to make their mark on the world, brimming with Royal pride.

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