At Drexel University's 2023 Commencement, Graduates Considered Their Role in the World and Their Own Symphony
June 20, 2023
Students walk on the field at Citizens Bank Park as they make their way to the stands for Drexel's 2023 Commencement.
At Drexel University's 2023 University-wide Commencement ceremony, the Class of 2023 was encouraged to think of their time at Drexel as their own personal symphony. The directive came from the University-wide speaker, Philadelphia Orchestra Music and Artistic Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin, who told them that their experiences at Drexel — from every class to every friendship to every night on Lancaster Walk — “formed the notes and melodies of your unique composition.:
“It’s time for you now to reflect on that symphony of yours, on everything that brought you to this very moment,” he said. “Think about how you can use that knowledge and those experiences to make bold choices going forward — choices that express your stance on the things that matter most to you and to your communities. As you make those choices, embody the virtues that this University instilled in you: integrity, empathy, respect, humility, courage, generosity, an appreciation for cultural differences, a fierce commitment to justice and to humane leadership.”
Throughout the June 16 ceremony held at Citizens Bank Park, Dragons heard advice on how to make and reflect on their place in the world — something that they are now equipped to do as Drexel graduates. The Class of 2023 likely spent a majority of their time at Drexel navigating the COVID-19 pandemic; participating in civic engagement and community-oriented events; gaining real-world experience through Drexel's signature co-op program as well as research, professional and academic opportunities; and learning and recognizing the ways in which they can take on some of society's most pressing issues, including advocating for racial justice and developing solutions for combatting climate change.
“Graduates, your Drexel experience has prepared you to meet whatever pressing issues you encounter, to serve society with distinction and to lead with integrity and compassion,” said Drexel University President John Fry. “I know I speak for the faculty who have prepared you to begin the next chapter in your lives, and for all the people and communities you have learned from and worked with, when I say our University, our country and our world are so much better for your being here, both now and in the future.”
The Drexel and Commencement leaders gathered on the Commencement stage.
Executive Vice President, Nina Henderson Provost and University Professor Paul Jensen, PhD, also stressed the importance of recognizing this significant moment in life as an opportunity.
“As you find yourselves entering this next phase, stepping into new careers or pursuing postgraduate degrees, do so confidently, knowing the challenges you have already met and conquered, the contributions you have already made and your hard work and experiences have prepared you for these next, exciting steps,” he said.
Nézet-Séguin implored graduates to take this important moment to think deeply of who they want to be and how they want to be in the world.
“As you begin the program of your lives, the choices you make matter,” he said. “They form a narrative, they reflect your values, they take you on a journey.”
He shared moments of his personal journey, from growing up as “a devout Catholic, closeted gay man, living in French-speaking Canada,” he said, to more recent times when he is able to live his truth and has “learned to question the lenses through which we view history and through which we experience our lives.”
A screen showing the University-wide speaker, Philadelphia Orchestra Music and Artistic Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin, as he addressed graduates.
“It’s time for you now to reflect on that symphony of yours, on everything that brought you to this very moment,” said Nézet-Séguin. “Think about how you can use that knowledge and those experiences to make bold choices going forward — choices that express your stance on the things that matter most to you and to your communities. As you make those choices, embody the virtues that this University instilled in you: integrity, empathy, respect, humility, courage, generosity, an appreciation for cultural differences, a fierce commitment to justice, and to humane leadership.”
Before addressing the Class of 2023, Nézet-Séguin was introduced by a filmed excerpt of himself and the Philadelphia Orchestra performing the last few minutes of Antonin Dvorák's “Carnival Overture” from a concert in Berlin, Germany, on Sept. 1, 2022.
Nézet-Séguin received the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, for helping to “ensure that classical music and opera will continue to grow more exciting and inclusive,” said Senior Vice President for Enrollment Management Evelyn Thimba at the ceremony. She also praised the “’Yannick touch’ of embracing change while honoring tradition that already has earned [Nézet-Séguin] a place in the pantheon of legendary conductors and musicians.”
Marla Gold, MD, who is retiring this year as Drexel's senior vice provost for community health and chief wellness officer and dean emerita of Drexel’s Dana and David Dornsife School of Public Health, where she is a tenured professor, was also recognized with an honorary degree at the event. She received the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, for devoting a “distinguished four-decade career in medicine and public health to the elimination of health disparities, the advancement of health equity, and the pursuit of social justice,” said Senior Vice President for Student Success Subir Sahu, PhD, who was the Grand Marshal at Commencement.
Students packed the stands in Citizens Bank Park. Photo credit: Kelly and Massa Photography.
Kevin Owens, chair of the Faculty Senate, was honored at the event as “an incredible partner, working tirelessly on behalf of our faculty and in service of our students,” Jensen said before noting they both thanked faculty for their work and contributions to their professions and the University.
Chair of the Drexel Alumni Board of Governors Corina Lam was the first to address graduates at the ceremony and congratulated those Dragons on reaching the end of their Drexel journey's “spectacular conclusion” and earning the right to be a Drexel alumnus.
Members of the Class of 2023 are now the “newest members of our global family of Drexel alumni,” as Fry noted. Earlier in the week, they had the opportunity to walk across the stage to receive their diplomas at individual college and school ceremonies held from June 14–16. The University-wide ceremony, which was announced in May after an event conflict at the stadium originally canceled the event earlier in the spring, was presided over by the beloved public address voice of the Phillies, Dan Baker, who served as Master of Ceremonies.
At the end of the ceremony, graduates turned their tassels from the right to the left to fully mark the occasion. They exited the home of the Philadelphia Phillies singing “High Hopes,” as led by the late Phillies Hall of Fame broadcaster Harry Kalas, in the tradition of exiting the ballpark after a Phillies win — after triumphantly passing through an educational finish line and starting a new chapter of their lives as new Drexel graduates and alumni.
Want to experience or relive more for Drexel's Commencement? Visit the University's Commencement website to download a PDF of the 2023 Commencement program, see social media posts made with the #ForeverDragons hashtag and more. You can also read the "Top 5 Inspirational Quotes From Drexel's 2023 Commencement."