Byline: John Conceison
WORCESTER - As one who sat facing the dais 29 years ago, Brian K. Kelly knew what kind of commencement address the 653 degree recipients at Assumption College wanted to hear yesterday.
Mr. Kelly, the University of Notre Dame football coach who graduated from Assumption in 1983 after serving two seasons as football captain, captivated his audience for 15 minutes and received a hearty standing ovation afterward. He injected humor about his days on the Salisbury Street campus while reinforcing confidence in the graduating class that they have what it takes to thrive in today's world.
The 95th commencement in part celebrated the success of the student-athlete. Mr. Kelly was introduced by class Salutatorian Kirsten M. Chirichetti, who was a three-year athlete at Assumption. The valedictory address was delivered by Nicholas I. DiAntonio of Milford, who starred in football and is heading to Boston College's Lynch School of Education on an NCAA postgraduate scholarship.
"I was thrilled to find out that this year's valedictorian is a football captain, and not just because I played football and coach football," Mr. Kelly began after acknowledging those on stage and the graduating class. "Nick epitomizes the values of what a student-athlete is all about in NCAA athletics. The young man has all those traits, excels in the classroom and the football field, and he has excelled at much, much higher heights than I could excel."
At that point, Mr. Kelly was one minute into his address. "And those are my prepared remarks," he said while getting a laugh from the crowd. "I do not prepare anything."
As coach of arguably the most storied college football program in the land, Mr. Kelly is accustomed to addressing audiences of all types unscripted, whether in a South Bend locker room or before a group of faithful alumni. He didn't need a notecard or Teleprompter to convey his powerful message.
"Here's what I can tell you unequivocally: The students that are graduating here today - you are ready, you are prepared." he said. "I started my journey just like you did. Though I will be honest with you, I had a couple of bumps along the way."
Mr. Kelly told the graduates they are
headed in the right direction. "Some of you will have the doors opened more easily, some have to kick them in. But you have the things necessary to be successful."
Mr. Kelly served as an assistant football coach and head softball coach at Assumption from 1983 to 1986 before moving on to Grand Valley State in Michigan, where he served as an assistant and head coach. The Eastern Massachusetts native also was head coach at Central Michigan and Cincinnati before taking over at Notre Dame, where he is entering his third season.
After the address, college President Francesco C. Cesareo announced Mr. Kelly has endowed a $250,000 scholarship for football players at Assumption. The first scholarship will be...