EPA Chief Gina McCarthy to UMass Boston Grads: Be Comfortable Being Uncomfortable
Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Gina McCarthy '76 told UMass Boston graduates to see opportunities in change and "be comfortable being uncomfortable" at the university's 47th commencement Friday at the TD Garden.
McCarthy delivered the keynote address and received a Chancellor's Medal for her advocacy on behalf of the environment and the public’s health and well-being during a career that has spanned more than 30 years.
The Dorchester native, herself a UMass Boston alumna, explained exactly what makes the Class of 2015 special.
“When you get a UMass Boston graduate … you get a graduate who was not handed a diploma — you get someone who worked hard for it,” McCarthy said. “The tenacity it takes to be a UMass Boston graduate, that is the prize of this education. … the ability, ambition, and attitude it took to get where you are now … Do not lose that when you walk away today.”
McCarthy was joined by Chancellor's Medal and honorary degree recipients Deval L. Patrick, former governor of Massachusetts; Jack M. Connors. Jr., a founding partner and chairman emeritus of Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos, Inc.; community organizer and activist Hubie Jones; Bernard Osher, founder of the Bernard Osher Foundation; and Zhang Haidi, chairperson of the China Disabled Persons’ Federation and the president of Rehabilitation International.
UMass Boston granted degrees to 4,144 undergraduate and graduate students, the largest graduating class in university history. Members of the class hail from more than 100 countries, and many of the graduates are the first in their families to earn a college degree. Read student stories from commencement.
UMass Boston celebrated its 50th anniversary this past year, and in his remarks, Chancellor J. Keith Motley spoke of how in 1964 the university’s founders envisioned the opportunity to transform lives.
“They envisioned all of you, ready and waiting to seize opportunity . . . to transform your life, so you can go forth in the world and work to improve—to transform—the lives of others,” he said. “We provide opportunities, you take them and you run with them.”
Three faculty members received Chancellor’s Awards: psychology professors Jean Rhodes and Erik Blaser and School for the Environment professor William Robinson for their distinguished scholarship, teaching, and service, respectively.
Motley also presented Lynn, Massachusetts resident July Suarez, who earned her bachelor of arts in psychology, with the JFK Award, the university’s highest recognition for undergraduate achievement. Watch her speech on UMass Boston's YouTube channel.
"Regardless of the fields we enter, I know we will find ways to incorporate giving back to our communities," Suarez told her classmates.
McCarthy told graduates to be open to change, since one can never know what the future holds.
"I went from smoking Winstons in the back of French class to sitting in the cabinet room in the West Wing just a few seats away from the president of the United States,” she said. “And you know what made it possible? UMass Boston. This school was the enabler. It leveled the field. It gave me a chance—and it will give you that chance, too. All you have to do is take it.”