Graduates urged to heed inner voice, forge path; Worcester State awards more than 800 degrees.

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Byline: Juan Pablo Lopera

WORCESTER - More than 800 Worcester State College students marched into the DCU Center yesterday to the sound of trumpets lauding their arrival.

Classmates were led by peers in their majors - criminal justice, English, biotechnology, early childhood education and others - as the graduating students proudly waved to each other, friends and video cameras that beamed the procession onto large screens.

Susan "Shanee" Stepakoff, a 1984 graduate of Worcester State, marched behind the students ready to give her commencement speech and receive an honorary doctorate for her work in the field of psychology. Ms. Stepakoff works at the international war crimes tribunal in Sierra Leone ensuring witnesses receive psychological support before, during and after their testimony.

"There is precious little that I can say to you today that will make a difference in your life, or that you will remember this time next year or 10 years from now," Ms. Stepakoff said. "There is nothing that I can say to spare you from the difficult and painful lessons of life. ... Pay attention to the promptings from your soul, heed your inner voice, forge your own path, because nobody else can do that for you.

"Create a meaningful life ... that is all the advice I have to offer. Make it meaningful by keeping a marriage together, becoming an artist or a writer, or taking care of a parent or grandparent."

Originally, Lt. Gov. Timothy P. Murray was scheduled to be the commencement speaker at the ceremony, but because of Gov. Deval L. Patrick's out-of-state work schedule, he was unable to make an appearance. State Sen. Harriette L. Chandler, D-Worcester, who was scheduled to be on stage at the opening ceremony, was also unable to attend because of illness, according to Dorothy A. Escribano, master of ceremonies and interim vice president at Worcester State College.

The lineup change did not dishearten those who received degrees.

"It's so nice to be done with school. I feel like I've been here forever. I'm happy that all our hard work has paid off," said Patricia L. Herholz of Spencer, who received a master's degree in education.

"The teachers all had such a big role in this day. Their instruction was very helpful, and this institution has made it really affordable to get an excellent education," said Allan A. Mensah, who came to Worcester from Ghana in search of an education. He received a bachelor's degree in business administration.

Gene J. DeFeudis, businessman and Worcester native, received an honorary degree for his philanthropy and personal interest in Worcester State College students. Linda A. Cavaioli, executive director of the YWCA of Central Massachusetts and a Leominster native, was presented with the Community Service Award during the ceremonies for her service to others and leadership in the community throughout her career.

"Wisdom is far more than a college degree. It's time to move from being educated people to becoming wise people," Ms. Stepakoff. "When you are older, I hope you all have the satisfaction of knowing that you didn't waste this short time of being, and that you didn't sell out for money or status. I hope that when you have aged you can look back and say you have let your inner voice guide you through a life of compassion and meaning."

WORCESTER STATE COLLEGE GRADUATES, CLASS OF 2007

BACHELOR OF ARTS

Auburn: Tonya R. Bennett and Hannah R. Bylund.

Barre: Bethany M. Biron, Daniel G. Colbert and Eric R. Nichols.

Blackstone: Robert J. Fournier Jr. (c).

Boylston: Jarret W. Byrne (c) and Kelly A. Sullivan.

Brimfield: Jason M. Jeneral (c), Brian D. Keith and Sarah M. Masuzzo (c).

Brookfield: Jeremy W. Leone and Joseph P. Mina.

Charlton: Michael C. Auclair, Nicole A. Gaulin and Thomas E. Mitchell.

Clinton: Linda Goodnow and Joseph P. Rotti.

Douglas: Matthew J. Beauregard.

Dudley: Gianna M. Battista (m), David J. Menzone, Kasi E. Reynolds (c) and Eric M. Page.

Fitchburg: Benjamin F. Chamas.

Grafton: Nathan Cochran, Jillian R. D'Apollo, Stephen D. McKeon and Dena M. O'Leary

Harvard: Brendan M. Noonan.

Holden: Brianna E. Burke, Susan M. Kennedy, Matthew S. McLean and David J. White Jr.

Hudson: Sarah N. Ajuonuma, Sara R. Chamberlain.

Jefferson: Deborah A. Potvin (s).

Leicester: Matthew R. Colby, Karyn A. Coleman, Allen G. Jones and Robert D. MacDonnell (c).

Leominster: Matthew D. Anctil, Nicole E. Bell-Hathaway, Andrew W. Himmer and Amanda E. Machado (c).

Marlboro: Melissa B. Johnson (c).

Millbury: Dallas M. Baldwin, Jillian L. Miller, Maxwell Sauber (m), Eric P. Sheehan and Alena R. Sinacola.

Milford: Jeffrey B. Gagnon.

North Grafton: Julia P. Duran.

Northboro: Shanna M. Lutke.

Northbridge: Mark Asadoorian and Rebecca A. Sasseville.

Oxford: Alise M. Karle and Brittany N. Rheault.

Princeton: Rebecca A. McDonough and Mark D. Petersen (c).

Rutland: Paul V. Vallande.

Shrewsbury: Megan A. Ahlstrand, Lori T. Chambers, Thomas J. Crossman, Michaela R. Errede, Coleen M. Motyl-Szary (m), Katherine M. Saba, Elizabeth M. Stanley and Alexis Stevens (s).

South Grafton: Samantha L. Blanchard and Derek Grandinetti (c).

Southboro: Jonathan M. Buck.

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