"Be bold and be humble," Thompson said. "Go out, grab hold of the world and make a difference...And in doing so, take care to touch gently the face of your fellow man. For that will make the greatest difference of all."
The Ignatian theme of service was repeatedly sounded at the University's 125th Commencement Exercises, held under blue skies at Alumni Stadium. Some 3,384 degrees were conferred during the day, with separate graduation ceremonies for BC's individual schools taking place across campus following the morning event.
The service ideal was also reflected in the honorary degree recipients. With Thompson, they included:
-Boston College's outgoing executive vice president, Frank Campanella, who helped to steward the school from near-bankruptcy to its current vitality;
-Thomas Durant '51, MD, assistant general director of Massachusetts General Hospital, who has traveled the war-torn areas of the world treating the poor;
-Sister Clare Pratt, RSCJ, NC, '67, superior general of the Religious of the Sacred Heart, leader of a worldwide order devoted to teaching and charity;
-Patrick Roche '51, retired president of Roche Brothers Supermarkets, who made the Golden Rule the watchword of his grocery chain;
-Cherryl Thomas, who oversees billions in benefits for railroad workers and their families as chairwoman of the US Railroad Retirement Board.
In the 125 years since its first Commencement, Boston College has undergone a profound transformation from a small trolley-car school to a major national university, President William Leahy, SJ, noted in his opening remarks.
US Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson addresses graduates at Monday's Commencement Exercises in Alumni Stadium. (Photo by Lee Pellegrini)
"Yet through all these changes," Fr. Leahy said, "the essential character of Boston College has remained the same: not simply to educate its students, but to form them, to help young men and women develop the values and commitment to use their talents to transform the world."
The school held its first graduation ceremony in 1876, a century after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Fr. Leahy observed. Speakers on that occasion "sent BC's first graduates into a nation expanding westward with the admonition that they use their talents and leadership to transform their society, in the words of St. Ignatius to St. Francis Xavier, to 'set the world on fire.'
University Chancellor J. Donald Monan, SJ, and Executive Vice President Frank B. Campanella enter Alumni Stadium for Commencement. (Photo by Lee Pellegrini)
Thompson, in his address, also hailed the Ignatian spirit in education.
"The Jesuit tradition encourages serious study of all the disciplines but also teaches young people how to think, how to reason," said Thompson, a former Wisconsin governor who had two daughters graduate from Marquette University.
"And leading an agency that touches the lives of every American, I particularly appreciate the great Jesuit tradition of service, of using one's knowledge and intellect to raise the quality of life for all Americans.
"Where Jesuits and their students have gone, education has been advanced, medical care has improved, the hungry have received food and the poor have been given hope and optimism.
"The combination of developing one's personal intellect and abilities with engaging in unselfish service to others will be an invaluable asset for any young person in this new century."
Thompson cited scientists who developed Gleevec, a recently approved drug that puts into remission a form of leukemia previously thought untreatable.
"They relentlessly pursued this drug because they wanted to serve, not because they wanted to get rich quick," he said. "They knew occasional failure. But they kept at it. And they won.
"Be like them," he said. "Be bold and humble."
Thompson concluded: "We live in a remarkable world of discovery, a time when far-off dreams are being transformed into ready-made solutions.
"Your Jesuit education prepared you well for the challenges before you and this nation. It has taught you to pursue excellence, but to do so in service to others - to be men and women of conscience.
"As St. Ignatius of Loyola wrote: 'The more universal the good is, the more it is divine. Therefore, preference ought to be given to those persons and places which, through their own improvement, become a cause which can spread the good accomplished to many others who are under their influence or take guidance from them.'
"That certainly describes Boston College and her graduates."
Among the proud parents in the Alumni Stadium stands were Environmental Protection Agency Director and former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman and her husband, John, whose son, Taylor, is a member of the Class of 2001. Thompson hailed his Cabinet colleague and her husband from the rostrum.
"I know that events like today with their son make her and John more proud than any political victories," he said. "These are the accomplishments that matter most."
The former Wisconsin governor opened his speech with a bit of tongue-in-cheek banter on the rivalry he said has developed between Boston College and his home state since Fr. Leahy was enticed to leave Marquette for BC five years ago.
"Our loss was your gain," he said.
"Then, last year, our relationship really became icy when Boston College's Mike Mottau beat out Wisconsin's Steve Reinprecht for the Hobey Baker Award in college hockey.
"And to make matters worse, this past season, the Badgers were ranked number one in the country, only to have the Eagles swoop in and win the NCAA hockey championship.
Trustee Peter Lynch '65, whose daughter Anne graduated on Monday, and Trustee Associate Susan Gianinno '70 share a laugh during the processional. (Photo by Justin Knight)
"So now, you've taken Fr. Leahy and two of our hockey trophies. That's why I'm a little nervous up here today that someone is going to tell me as I walk off the stage that the honorary doctorate is not for real."
Brandon Gantus '01 sang the n ational a nthem, and Rev. Joseph F. Maguire '41, bishop emeritus of Springfield, offered the invocation.
Academic Vice President and Dean of Faculties John Neuhauser presented the Reading of the Degree in Latin. Rev. William Murphy, auxiliary bishop of Boston, gave the Benediction.
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