Dean College President Dr. Rooney speaking at the 153rd Commencement Ceremonies

Dean College held its 153rd Commencement exercises on Saturday, May 11, 2019, at the Dean College campus in Franklin, MA.

Close to 300 students representing 22 states and 12 countries received their degrees, with many family members and friends in attendance. The ceremony was held outside along Awpie Way, considered by many as the most beautiful and iconic part of campus.

The keynote address was provided by Dean College President, Dr. Paula M. Rooney, who thanked students for their passion and participation to the Franklin community and beyond, as their volunteer hours contributed to the more than 2,200 hours of service by students for the academic year. Dr. Rooney encouraged students to persist with that dedication and pay it forward.

“You are the generation that can make a real difference. Continue to be passionate about a cause or belief. Keep pushing yourself out of the harbor, out of your comfort zone on this exhilarating ship we call life. And, like a Bulldog, never settle or never give up and never lose sight of your dreams,” said Rooney.

Additional remarks were provided by Mark D. Boyce, Chairman of the Dean College Board of Trustees, along with graduating student, Fatima Naidjate.

Mr. Boyce encouraged students to “Look up, turn off your electronic connections and relish the real connections; these moments will soon become memories.”

The theme of hope was referenced throughout his remarks, which noted pop culture characters, including Mary Poppins, Yoda and Captain Marvel.

“I hope you spread light around like Mary Poppins,” said Boyce. He referenced the lyrics she sang: For if you hide under the covers, you might never see the day, but if a spark can start inside your heart, then you can always find the way. “With hope, you will find your way in the world,” he added.  

He urged students to not be afraid of failure or take themselves too seriously.

“As Obi-Wan Kenobi said to Yoda in Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back, ‘That boy is our last hope,’ to which Yoda replied, ‘No…there is another.’ That story didn’t fail, and yours doesn’t have to either.”

And, when Captain Marvel thought her fight was over, with a little hope, her superpowers were unlocked.

“Remember, graduates, with hope you too can unlock your superpowers.”

Representing the Class of 2019 was student speaker Fatima Naidjate.

“Who would have thought that someone like me would be giving the 2019 Commencement speech? I am a first-generation American Muslim who grew up believing that I was not important enough to receive such an honor. My presence on this stage exemplifies that at Dean College the most unrealistic dreams one may have is always a possibility.”

A Psychology major with a minor in Sociology, Fatima reminded her classmates to “continue to practice love, acceptance and respect and make the difference that Dean College made for us. Talk to those who don’t look like you, learn about others who are different than you and continue to embrace the beautiful diversity in your community.”

To learn more about Dean College, visit