Arcadia University Class of 2024 Celebrated at Commencement Ceremonies

By Ryan Hiemenz | May 20, 2024
Keith Jones addressing the class of 2024.

Members of Arcadia University’s graduate and undergraduate Class of 2024 processed down the Walk of Pride in their regalia before walking across the Commencement stage on Haber Green to receive their degrees on May 16 and 17, respectively.

The Philadelphia Eagles Drumline led the procession of baccalaureate degree candidates at Friday morning’s ceremony, kicking off the day’s festivities.

Introduced by the president of the Student Government Organization (SGO), Michael Johnson Jr., Arcadia University President Ajay Nair opened his remarks with Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love” stating, “Yes, indeed, we are crazy in love with the Class of 2024, and I know all of you share my love for this storied University.”

Each year, President Nair in his commencement address highlights individuals from the graduating class who embody the values of the University. He shapes his remarks using a different musical artist, selected by students. This year, Beyoncé served as musical inspiration.

“In 1853, this great institution was founded as Beaver Female Seminary. At the time of its founding, Beaver Female Seminary was among the first to confer degrees to women. At that time, many saw no need to educate women. Your institution broke ground, shattered outdated norms, and believed in the power of education for all. That’s who we were, who we are, and who we always will be. So, it seems fitting, given Beyonce’s attention to feminism, social responsibility, and courage, that her music and persona inform my commencement remarks this year.”

Dr. Gina Upshaw, earning her doctorate in Educational Leadership, addressed her peers as the student speaker at the master’s and doctoral Commencement ceremony on Thursday evening.

“Let us seize this moment not merely as a culmination, but as a commencement—an inauguration into a lifelong journey of intellectual inquiry, discovery, and service to humanity,” she said. “As we traverse the labyrinth of knowledge, may we remain steadfast in our pursuit of truth, resolute in our commitment to excellence, and unwavering in our dedication to the betterment of society.”

Conrad Schmidt, who received his bachelor’s in Media and Communication, was selected as the student speaker for the baccalaureate commencement ceremony on Friday morning. 

“Don’t miss out on life,” he said. “Take the good moments with the bad and truly relish in the great. Those bad moments teach us what we’re supposed to know so that we can achieve our great moments.”

Friday’s ceremony also included remarks from keynote speaker Keith Jones of NBC10 and alumna speaker Iris Barbee Bonner ’07, a Philadelphia-based fashion designer and creator of the wearable art brand These Pink Lips. The University also awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters to renowned educator and civil rights activist Jane Elliott.

“You will always be the knights of Arcadia,” said Jones. “The only class to begin your education in quarantine, six feet apart. Now it’s on you to bring people together. So learn from failure, be bold, be grateful, only then can you leave a lasting legacy. A legacy… like the ghosts that haunt this campus, I’m still not over it!”

“You are the designer of your destiny,” said Bonner. “Stay true to yourself, do what makes you happy, work hard, but always remember to please give yourself grace. You’ve made it this far. Life might be hard at times, but nothing great comes easy. Believe in your abilities, you can do all things.”

As a surprise for the Class of 2024, the University showed a compilation of pre-recorded congratulatory messages from high-profile individuals from around the Philadelphia area including 6ABC reporter Nydia Han, CBS3 anchor Jim Donovan, and Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham. Jane Elliott also appeared in the video.

During the ceremonies, Arcadia presented special awards to faculty and students: 

  • Michael L. Berger Award for Faculty Scholars and Artists Prize: Dr. Megan Wright, professor of Biology
  • Professor of the Year Award: Dr. Mike Tevald, associate professor and director of entry-level programs for the Physical Therapy Department
  • Senior Golden Disc Award: Michael Johnson Jr. 
  • The Ira R. Kraybill Award for Full-Time Study: Harlane Burns, Audrey Chin, Megan Klose, Garrett Knox, Madison Sechrist, and Trinity Turco
  • The Ira R. Kraybill Award for Part-Time Study: Letitia Boyce