Drexel Commencement 2022: Embracing Change While Moving Forward

The scene at Citizens Bank Park during Drexel's June 9 Commencement.

For many of the most recent graduating Drexel University students who donned their caps and gowns, walked across a stage and turned their tassels, the culmination of their Drexel student experience marked the end of a time unlike any other in history. What they accomplished in the classroom and on co-op, both virtually and in-person, was completed during a global pandemic and amid a time of societal and cultural stress and change. 

Of course, that means there was much for the Class of 2022 to feel proud of.

Their achievements were recognized during Drexel’s 134th Commencement, which concluded at a University-wide ceremony at the Citizens Bank Park on June 9. Most of Drexel’s colleges and schools held their individual events on June 8 and June 9; the College of Medicine previously graduated Dragons on May 13 and the Thomas R. Kline School of Law on May 23.  

The unique circumstances under which these graduates experienced and moved through the world in the past two decades, completed their degrees, and are now entering the workforce or continuing their academic path was recognized during the University-wide ceremony by many of the speakers. And, on a lighter and more physically obvious note, many of the decorated graduation caps worn by Dragons as they sat in the stadium were similarly belonging to a specific time and generation (there were some memes).

“Graduates, hard as these past two years have been on us all, I recognize the many extra uphill miles that you had to travel, and the weight of hardship and loss that you were forced to bear, just to make it to this day,” Drexel President John Fry told the Class of 2022 at the University-wide Commencement ceremony on June 9. “The fact that you have prevailed attests to your intellect, your persistence, your courage, and your determination to imagine a better future for all of us.”

Freeman A. Hrabowski, III, PhD, president of the University of Maryland Baltimore County, gave his speech in a recorded video that played at the University-wide commencement. Photo credit: Kelly & Massa Photography.
Freeman A. Hrabowski, III, PhD, president of the University of Maryland Baltimore County, gave his speech in a recorded video that played at the University-wide commencement. Photo credit: Kelly & Massa Photography.

In true 2022 fashion, the University-wide ceremony contained time-honored traditions as well as new additions that popped up after unforeseen circumstances. The ceremony was held at the famed Phillies ballpark, which has hosted the University-wide Commencement every year since 2016 (except when there wasn’t an in-person event in 2020); for the second year in a row during the COVID-19 pandemic, the ceremony was also livestreamed and held while attendees and the University followed the latest city and state health and safety guidelines. 

This year, as always, featured a commencement speaker addressing graduates — but this marked the first occasion in which the speech was recorded and played live at the event. Freeman A. Hrabowski, III, PhD, president of the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC), unfortunately, tested positive for COVID the weekend before the University-wide event, but he still donned his regalia and recorded his remarks in a video shown on the Phanavision. And Rob Brooks, broadcasting manager of the Philadelphia Phillies, stepped in as the Master of Ceremonies after Dan Baker, the Phillies’ public address announcer was unable to attend the June 9 event and guide the ceremony as in years past. 

When urging graduates to learn from great leaders and mentors, Fry shared how, early in his career, he did the very same thing — and that the person who was that role model for him was, and continues to be, Hrabowski. Fry shared three lessons he learned from Hrabowski: the importance of curiosity and learning about the world, the power of setting goals and bringing together the right people to achieve them, and making humility a priority.

The UMBC president, who also received an honorary degree from Drexel, urged Dragons to remember where they came from and give it their all in a speech informed by meetings with members of the Class of 2022, as mentioned in this Q&A, as well as his close friend and Drexel alumnus, Anthony “Tony” W. Deering ’69. He also drew upon his own experiences — wondering if he’d be okay when jailed as a child after marching with Martin Luther King, Jr, or when he graduated from college in 1970 during a similar period of global and domestic uncertainty and conflict — to repeatedly reassure the Class of 2022 that they will be okay.

“What is the message that people gave me to give to you?” said Hrabowski. “First, be true to yourself. Don’t let anyone else define who you are. Number two: Don’t forget what it’s taken to get here. Feel good about the courage and the stress that you and your families and the entire University, all of you use to get to this point. Number three: We all get knocked down, but we get back up — resilience or grit. We talk at my university a lot about grit. I know you do, too. And number four, as [one of the Drexel students he met with] said, in a very, very humble way: Never forget your moral compass: the importance of knowing the difference between right and wrong and doing the right thing…. But most important: continue to seek the truth. The truth in the long run will set us free. There’s something about the truth that is so critical to the human spirit.”

Besides Fry and Hrabowski, there were several Dragons and speakers who addressed graduates at Commencement, and their inspirational quotes were compiled in a separate DrexelNEWS story. Those speakers were:

  • Senior Vice President for Enrollment Management Evelyn Thimba
  • Jarod Watson, president of the Undergraduate Student Government Association, who graduated with a BS in entertainment and arts management from the Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts and Design and addressed the crowd on behalf of the Class of 2022.
  • Luis Rebollar Tercero, former president of the Graduate Student Association, who graduated with a PhD in chemical and biological engineering from the College of Engineering, addressed the crowd on behalf of the Class of 2022.
  • Executive Vice President, Nina Henderson Provost, and University Professor of Drexel University Paul Jensen, PhD

At the end of the ceremony, a fireworks show brightened the stadium for one last celebration for graduates. Boathouse Row and several other Philly landmarks shone with blue and gold lights on the nights of June 8 and June 9 to celebrate the Class of 2022.

Want to relive the festivities of Drexel’s 2022 Commencement?

  • Rewatch special moments of the ceremonies:
  • Download Drexel’s 2022 commencement printable program booklet [PDF], which lists all 2022 degree recipients and includes details for college and school ceremonies as well as the University-wide Commencement ceremony.