Quotes, Comments, and Cheers from BU’s 151st Commencement

There were chants of “Ken! Ken! Ken!” and other notable quotes, comments, and cheers from graduating students, their families, and BU faculty

Photo: A sea of Boston University graduates in red gowns sit on Nickerson Field at the 151st Commencement in 2024

BU was loud. BU was proud. Here are a few standout quotes from throughout the day.

Commencement 2024

Quotes, Comments, and Cheers from BU’s 151st Commencement

There were chants of “Ken! Ken! Ken!” and other notable quotes, comments, and cheers from graduating students, their families, and BU faculty

May 19, 2024
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Boston University was buzzing on Sunday for the University’s 151st Commencement exercises. 

Thousands of friends and family had traveled to campus to cheer on their graduates, and students were awash in their vibrant red robes. Street vendors hawked colorful bouquets and stuffed animals, and protesters supporting three different causes—Boston University Graduate Workers Union striking for a new contract, BU Residence Life workers demanding more support, and a robust pro-Palestine movement—banged drums and chanted on Harry Agganis Way. And then there was the impressive lineup of speakers during the actual ceremony on Nickerson Field. 

BU was loud. BU was proud. Here are a few standout quotes from throughout the day. 

“We’re feeling great; this is an exciting day for everyone at BU,” said Beatrix Tambunan, whose daughter, Sarah Knotts (CGS’22, Sargent’24), graduated with a degree in health sciences. “She really grew during her years at BU. She took on immense responsibilities as an RA [resident assistant], and we fully support her choices.”

“She’s my first-born, almost done with college!” said Maristelo Rapo, whose daughter, Alexis Rapo (CAS’24), studied political science at BU. Rapo said her family is originally from Brazil, but moved to Dover, Mass., more than a decade ago. “BU has been an amazing experience for Alexis—the friendships she’s made will take her around the world!”

“BU gave me who I am,” said Michael Arellano (CAS’24, GRS’24), this year’s Commencement student speaker. “BU gave me who I want to be. BU gave me you. Con cariño, con abrazo, con mil gracias.”

“President Freeman, fellow classmates, and Boston University’s newest alumni, it is our overwhelming pleasure to present the record-breaking 2024 Class Gift in the amount of $59,172!”—Yadira Cabrera (COM’24), who presented this year’s Class Gift alongside Amanda Brown (COM’24) and Sage Winkler (Questrom’24)

“Greetings, BU graduates! This is an exciting—and emotional—moment for me. I spoke on this stage at my Commencement in 1999, and, to be honest, I couldn’t believe I was there. I was a former trailer-park resident, beneficiary of the free school lunch program, and Pell Grant recipient. It was a long time before I realized that I deserved to be there that day. So today, I want to start out by sparing you any second-guessing: You deserve this.”—Jenny Gruber (ENG’99), president of the BU Alumni Association

Addressing Claudia Goldin, who received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree on Sunday, Kenneth Freeman, BU president ad interim, said: “You are the Henry Lee Professor of Economics at Harvard University. Your research explores the history of women’s quest for career and family, including the advent of the birth control pill…” and here Freeman had to stop for thunderous applause from the graduating students in the audience, before resuming: “…and the link between gender imbalances at home and inequity in the workplace. Your most recent book has been translated into 15 languages.”

“Your journey is not predetermined, which at times can make it unnerving,” said David Grann (GRS’94), who delivered this year’s Commencement address and received an honorary degree. “Surely there will be things out there you won’t find at BU, mates. But that is also what makes it an adventure—a journey of discovery. I doubt you will regret the things you dare to try, as opposed to things you don’t. I certainly never regretted trying to write fiction; it shaped the writer I am. And often the most rewarding moments of our quests are the ones born of seeming setbacks, the ones that opened our eyes to new possibilities and led to triumphant ends we could not imagine.”

“I love those guys.”—Harvey Young, dean of the College of Fine Arts and a College of Arts & Sciences professor of English, as CFA graduates cheered raucously while he presented the candidates for degrees

“Mr. President, I have the honor to present the candidates for Masters of the Universe.”—Susan Fournier, dean of the Questrom School of Business, during an improvised moment as she presented the candidates for degrees

“Upon the recommendation of the faculty, and by the authority of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts given to the Trustees of Boston University—and entrusted by them to me—I hereby confer upon you the degrees that you have earned, together with all appropriate honors, privileges, and responsibilities, in token of which you will be granted diplomas.”—Kenneth Freeman, BU president ad interim. “On your shoulders rests the enormous responsibility for guiding our nation and the world, and for addressing the substantial challenges we face. You are the future for this University, for this country, and for humanity.”

“Ken! Ken! Ken!”—Graduates and attendees as Ahmass Fakahany (Questrom’79), president of the BU Board of Trustees, thanked Ken Freeman for his service as interim president and announced that incoming president Melissa Gilliam will take over the post starting July 1.

“Free free free Palestine!”—a crowd of pro-Palestine protesters on Harry Agganis Way following the ceremony. About 100 graduates, some wearing keffiyehs or waving Palestinian flags, walked out of the ceremony following Commencement speaker David Grann’s speech.

“I feel overwhelmed, happy, sad, excited—so many emotions,” said Shafali Verma (CAS’24) right after the ceremony ended. “Some of my best memories are the times I spent with friends in our dorms, just hanging out, debriefing at 11 p.m. That’s what I’ll miss.” 

“I’m sad that this era of my life is coming to a close,” said Andrea Morales (CAS’24, COM’24), “but I’m excited for what’s to come.”

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Quotes, Comments, and Cheers from BU’s 151st Commencement

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