Byline: Hunter Amabile
WORCESTER - Rounds of applause rippled through the stadium seating of the DCU Center as a line of cap-and-gown clad graduates filed into their seats at the 136th commencement for Worcester State University yesterday. The class of 2012 waited patiently, only to emerge hours later, tassels turned and diplomas in hand.
This year's class of more than 1,100 graduates had students who served internships in Ecuador and Peru, as well as closer to home with the Worcester Chamber of Commerce, the Massachusetts Trial Court, the Worcester Department of Public Health and local schools.
"This is a class that cares," said Barry M. Mahoney, who was attending commencement for the first time as president of the university. On top of the educational involvement within the community, the class of 2012 helped raise more than $32,000 for local nonprofits.
"Nobody in this class has been focused on themselves; it's always about the whole not the individual, which is part of the education we've received," said Patrick D. Hare, president of the Student Government Association and a graduate.
Commencement speaker Dr. Imoigele Aisiku told students, "The secret to your successes not only lies in the content of your textbook, but in your experiences you've had going here and how you apply them."
Dr. Aisiku, a native of Auburn who graduated from Worcester State with a bachelor's in biology, now serves as vice chairman and chief of critical care in the neurosurgery department of the University of Texas Medical School at Memorial-Hermann Hospital in Houston, Texas, a cutting-edge department renowned for its treatment of brain trauma.
Dr. Aisiku and his team were thrown into the limelight worldwide when they became the link to recovery for former Arizona U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head in January 2011 during an attack that killed six people. Dr. Aisiku said it was an honor to help Giffords back to recovery, but as he was sometimes the face of the recovery team, the pressure of the media was "uncomfortable" at times.
Giffords' story turned out to be a triumphant one, and for this Dr. Aisiku paid homage to his roots as a student at Worcester State.
"I could not have cared for the congresswoman without the knowledge I gained on this campus, and whatever great things you go on to achieve, it will begin here," Dr. Aisiku said.
Dr. Aisiku, who has helped develop scholarships for biology students at Worcester State, also received an honorary Doctor of Science degree from the university.
Rutland native Erin M. Borglund, 22, a psychology major who graduated with a GPA of 3.93, was honored with the Ella M. Whitney Award, an award voted on by the seniors to recognize a student who shows excellence in scholarship, professional skill and personal development.
Ms. Borglund, a commuter student, has been extremely involved within the school's community, something she will miss greatly when she moves on to look for jobs next year, she said.
"My entire identity these last four years has been Worcester State," Ms. Borglund said. "I've gone to school here, I've worked here. It's a little scary going out into the real world without my community, but I'm really excited about it."
Geovanna I. Diaz, 21, of Worcester, received a bachelor's degree in psychology and Spanish for professionals, and has her name on this year's list of "Who's Who among Students in American Universities and Colleges," along with Ms. Borglund and Mr. Hare.
Ms. Diaz, whose black gown was gilded with honorary decor, is a native of Ecuador and is the first among her siblings to earn a bachelor's degree. She owed much of her success, like so many other students, to the support of her family.
"My family was always there to support me and that pushed me and kept me motivated," she said.
Ms. Diaz is also one of the many students going back to Worcester State in the fall to pursue a graduate degree. Even with the shaky world economy looming, Ms. Diaz exuded confidence.
"I feel prepared," she said.
WORCESTER - The area Worcester State graduates are:
Bachelor of Arts
Auburn: Stephanie Demake, Keri E. Donahue (C), Lukas S. Godaire (C), James D. Sarkisian (M)
Blackstone: Patrick F. Aldrich
Charlton: Michael Corso, Jourdan A. Lemay, Michael J. Messier
Cherry Valley: Mark J. Derosier
Clinton: Julissa I. Briddell
Douglas: Joshua M. Tetreau
Dudley: Kristina M. Chester
Gardner: Cassie L. Maillet (C), Steven R. Mulloy (C)
Grafton: Michael D. Moroney
Holden: Michael T. Martin, Allyse B. Monahan, Amy C. O'Brien, Katelyn M. O'Brien, Anthony B. Tokarz
Hopedale: Jess T. DeWitt
Hudson: Jared T. Jacobs
Leicester: Robert A. Johnson III, Audra E. Jones (C)
Leominster: Courtney A. Bell (C), Renee R. Fratantonio (M), Chad C. Lawrence
Marlboro: Jayquanna J. Colon, John J. Ruiz Pineda
Mendon: Jennifer M. Grady (S), Aisha S. Mondley
Milford: Rafhael G. Santos
Millbury: Maggie-Claire H. Baker (S), Mykel J. Clark, Raymond P. Ford (S), Sara T. Kendall, Matthew L. Tella
Northboro: Raja N. Kota
Northbridge: Katherine T. Beane, Raymond A. Magner
Oxford: Megan A. Gay (M), Bethany A. Gonyea, Brittni S. Kirk, Laura A. Legere, Jillian M. St. George (M), Alicia M. Strader
Paxton: Bethany J. Eddy
Princeton: Zachary G. Chandler, Todd A. Zoppo
Rutland: Spencer V. Long (M), Timothy M. Quill
Shrewsbury: Edwin L. Hernandez, Daniel J. Lanotte (C), Eric F. Michaud, Gianna R. Porcaro, Van K. Truong
Sterling: Samantha J. Janda (C), David J. Latino (C)
Sutton: Meghan A. Alarie, Tamara A. Drenas, Danielle C. Kasabula (M)
Templeton: Bethany L. Strothers (S)
Upton: Nathan B. Kosiba
Uxbridge: Darrin M. Devito (M), Sean P...