Keene State Graduates Celebrate Achievements in Far From Normal Year | Local News
In the past year, not much has gone the traditional way for the 2021 class of Keene State College, class president Adriana Daniel said in her opening address on Saturday.
Instead of many face-to-face classes, there was Zoom. Mandatory weekly testing for COVID-19 has replaced campus-wide social events.
“It wasn’t the last year we were all expecting,” Daniel noted.
But when “Pomp and Circumstance” drove through the college’s Fiske Quad on Saturday afternoon, things looked at least a little more familiar.
“This start, like this entire year that has just passed, has been filled with adaptations,” President Melinda Treadwell told the 750 graduates. “… During all this time, we have asked you to be good, diligent students.”
Treadwell told graduates that the challenges the pandemic presents – academic, social and financial – will help them face the challenges ahead. The class has helped “set the standards for this community” over the past year, she said, doing so with both grace and compassion.
“You venture out with the skills you’ve learned through the most difficult times,” she said. “… It gives me so much hope.”
Keene State graduated the class, almost all undergraduates, in a cold outdoor ceremony with intermittent light rains. As each graduate was entitled to only two guests, the opening procedure was also streamed live online.
Senior graduate Benajil Rai sparked the loudest cheers of the day after winning the Leo F. Redfern Citizenship Award, the highest non-academic honor an undergraduate student can receive. Treadwell commended Rai for his work on multimedia projects for the Keene State Library and his student newspaper, The Equinox, as well as for sharing his native Nepalese culture with the local community.
Mathematics professor Vincent Ferlini received the annual Distinguished Teachers Award from the Alumni Association. Lucille Jordan, president of Nashua Community College and resident of Jaffrey, received an honorary degree for her work in higher education and her commitment to public service. And New Hampshire State Archivist Brian Burford won the annual Granite State Award, which recognizes someone who has demonstrated outstanding achievement in their field and contributed to the well-being of the state.
Reflecting on their time at Keene State, many graduates said they felt more confident than when they first entered campus.
For Gilroy, Calif., A McKenna Blean native, being 3,000 miles from home meant quickly becoming self-sufficient.
“I had to establish myself and be self-sufficient,” she said. “It has helped me so much to be my own person.”
A member of the field hockey team, Blean said this group has given him “some of the best friends I will have for the rest of my life.” Losing her senior season to the pandemic “sucked really badly,” she said, but it hasn’t put the brakes on the whole year.
A highlight came earlier this month when Blean, who earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design, showcased his work at the program’s annual Portfolio Show.
“So many friends have come to support me,” she said. “I was able to show everyone what I was doing for the past four years.”
Genevieve Joly said she feared upon arriving at Keene State that she would struggle in class, having been homeschooled for most of her college life. But the job turned out to be quite manageable, she said, thanking the college faculty and friends for their support.
“It was really easy to get help when I needed it,” she says.
Joly, who is from Brookline, will attend Ohio University in the fall to pursue a master’s degree in geography. In addition to earning an undergraduate degree in this field at Keene State, she also studied technical theater, which focuses on set design and other production-related elements – a far cry from her original plan to study education, she said.
Joly said she changed outside of the classroom too, after entering college with a lot of social anxiety. Through leadership roles in several extracurricular activities, including as an admissions guide, she is now comfortable standing in front of a group and “telling them what to do,” she laughs.
“It’s just fun meeting new families and showing them the campus,” she says. “I love to share it with new people.”
Paxton Blanchard, this year’s men’s lacrosse captain, said his favorite memories at Keene State include winning the Little East Conference as a rookie and sophomore.
“Coming in and doing this in college was new and super exciting,” said the Norwell, Massachusetts native. “I just remember jumping up and down with all the guys and holding that trophy.”
Blanchard, who has studied business management as well as the applied sciences of occupational safety and health, returns to Keene State next year for a graduate degree in the latter program and said he was delighted his brother, Grayson, a freshman, to join him on campus. . Like Joly, Blanchard said his confidence had increased dramatically over the past four years, explaining that he was initially “rather shy”.
“I have no problem walking up to a complete stranger, shaking his hand and having a full conversation,” he said.
The same goes for Katelyn Mello from Exeter, who said putting herself in awkward situations had helped her “get out of [her] lots of seashells. Mello, a major in early childhood education, thanked her academic advisor – assistant professor Jayme Hines – for helping her succeed in and out of the classroom.
“She was always there and supported me if I ever needed anything,” she said. “I know she will always be someone I can return to.”
Despite the disappointment of missing out on many traditional events due to the pandemic, Mello said she and her roommates have enjoyed going to downtown restaurants and retail stores in recent weeks, noting that he was nice to “have some normalcy” to end your stay at Keene State.
“I have had the best four years of my life,” she said.