Vassie Ware, professor of molecular biology, spoke on behalf of Isabel Amaya ’19, who will receive a degree in biochemistry: “I want to say that Isabel has enriched my life, and she has in fact created an atmosphere in our laboratory that has just been defined by collaboration and cooperation. I want to thank you, Isabel, for being an absolute gem.”
Victor Contreras ’20 spoke on behalf of his friend, Serge Ayinou ’19, who will receive a degree in mechanical engineering. Contreras shared a story of Ayinou’s planning a trip to Ocean City, Md., for a group of students who were studying at Lehigh during the summer: “The fact that he made sure that all of us could make it just shows the kind of man that Serge is: a man whose personality warrants all of his successes, a man that always carries a warm smile, and a man that never quits in his pursuit of excellence. During this ceremony it is usually customary to give you advice, but you are usually the one giving me guidance. So continue to pave the way for those who look up to you, and keep making us proud. I’m confident that after graduating, you will continue to lead with compassion, persistence and humility, and inspire many others, as you did with me.”
Aarsenio Perry, assistant dean and director of student engagement, spoke on behalf of Vladimir Castillo ’19, who will receive degrees in finance and marketing: “I’ve always admired how much you care. You constantly challenge others to explore other perspectives and to imagine the world in a different way. You speak up firmly against injustices and share opinions and thoughts, even if others consider them to be unpopular. It speaks to your honesty and integrity, and that will be greatly missed from you at Lehigh. But one thing that I’m proud about you beyond this achievement is your heart for people, which is something that I don’t think that many people always see … You’ve never wavered from your commitment to serve others and to do so with an energy that helps bring justice to their stories or to bring compassion to their suffering. You have big dreams and big goals, and yet you’ve never let it stop you from keeping the most vulnerable in our world and in our communities at the forefront of your approach.”
Lisa Comick spoke on behalf of her niece, Armani Tiyanah Comick ’19, who will receive a degree in international relations: “Congratulations, Armani. I’ve always said to you you are not a quitter. You never give up, no matter how difficult things may appear. You’re living proof that when you do your best, keep pushing forward, good things will happen. Your graduation from Lehigh University is a mighty good thing … You have matured into an intelligent, strong and beautiful young woman. We are very proud of you today and always. You are an inspiration to us all … Continue to be courageous, take strategic risks and create your own destiny. I wish you happiness and success beyond measure, and I love you dearly.”
Carolina Hernandez, assistant dean and director of the Community Service Office, spoke on behalf of Linette Caudillo Zavala ’19, who will receive a degree in biology: “I have to say that Linette is exactly the type of student that we aim to have on our college campus because inevitably, anything that Linette is engaged with, she leaves an indelible mark. And we all have a responsibility to show up and bring our whole hearts and our whole selves, and Linette does that bravely, humbly and above all, with a kindness that, to me, is inspiring.”
Jimmy Hamill, graduate assistant in the Pride Center, spoke on behalf of Laura DeFelice ’19, who will receive degrees in psychology and women, gender and sexuality studies. Hamill described DeFelice’s significant contributions to the Pride Center’s programming and services: “Laura, you are the embodiment of a brilliant scholar, of a fierce advocate, a truly remarkable human being, and it takes my breath away each and every day … But more than anything else, Laura, it is not your accomplishments. It is not the things you have done that define you, but it is the way that you have made all of us here feel. You have changed my life, you have changed Lehigh’s life, the Pride Center’s life. Thank you for everything.”
Following the Donning of the Kente, Reginald Jennings ’70, co-chair of BALANCE, Black and Latino Alumni Network for Community and Equity, shared a few words, and Tanairy Ortiz ’19 presented the Statement of Unity and Remembrance. Henry Odi ’98G, deputy vice president for equity and community and associate provost for academic diversity, gave the closing remarks.