In a world filled with inequities and the denial of basic human rights, often supported by widely held beliefs and opinions, keynote speaker Sunila Thomas George ’91 challenged Wheaton’s graduating seniors to courageously speak up for what needs to be changed.
“If you remember one thing from today’s Commencement address, remember this: Never stop questioning conventional wisdom,” she urged on a sunny May morning full of promise.
“No matter where you go from here, you will be faced with differing viewpoints, and Wheaton College—our Wheaton College—has prepared you for the world out there, where you will live alongside people who have backgrounds and beliefs different from your own, and where you will be confronted with opinions with which you disagree,” said George, a four-term commissioner for the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination.
“In fact, over time, you will probably come to challenge your own long-held beliefs and that will be a good thing,” she continued, “because questioning conventional wisdom also means challenging yourself, asking if your own opinions stand up over time, and deciding if they make sense in the context of an ever-changing world.”
Addressing the 399 members of the Class of 2016 during the college’s 181st Commencement ceremony, George credited Wheaton for the personal and academic experiences that shaped who she is today.
“My intellectual curiosity was sparked and my appreciation for diversity deepened. In fact, my time at Wheaton laid the foundation and set me forth on a terrific journey that led to my becoming a commissioner for the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination—the state’s chief anti-discrimination enforcement agency.”
During the Commencement ceremony, George received an honorary degree, as did three other alumnae: Ligia Bonetti Du-Breil ’89, executive president and chief executive officer of SID Group, a Dominican Republic-based company that produces and exports a diverse range of products; Faith Nondumiso Khanyile ’91, a founding member, chief executive officer and director of WDB Investment Holdings Pty Ltd., a private equity investment arm of WDB Trust, based in Johannesburg, South Africa; and Susan “Sukey” Nichols Wagner ’56, a Trustee Emerita of Wheaton and an active philanthropist, supporting programs in the United States and abroad that further social and economic equality, public health, conservation and education.
More than 500 alumnae/i were on campus for Commencement Reunion Weekend, coming from 32 states and several countries, including Canada and Israel. President Dennis M. Hanno gave a special shout-out to seven graduates from the Class of 1946, who were celebrating their 70th Reunion.
In his closing remarks before handing out diplomas, the president pointed out that seniors have had a great impact on Wheaton—from the Student Government Association team that provided a strong voice for students to the student-athletes who served as constant reminders of what can be done through hard work and dedication.
“Class of ’16, you are an amazing group of individuals who have come together to do amazing things here at Wheaton,” he said. “I hope that you will treasure the memories of your time here as much as I will treasure the time I had with you. … You will always have a home here.”
More online at wheatoncollege.edu/commencement