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FPU Graduation

Meeting the challenge of life

Commencement speakers address the need for entrepreneurs, passion in work

  • Franklin Pierce University's 48th Commencement on Saturday, May 18<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • Franklin Pierce University's 48th Commencement on Saturday, May 18<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • Franklin Pierce University's 48th Commencement on Saturday, May 18<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • Franklin Pierce University's 48th Commencement on Saturday, May 18<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • Franklin Pierce University's 48th Commencement on Saturday, May 18<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • Franklin Pierce University's 48th Commencement on Saturday, May 18<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • Franklin Pierce University's 48th Commencement on Saturday, May 18<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • Franklin Pierce University's 48th Commencement on Saturday, May 18<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • Franklin Pierce University's 48th Commencement on Saturday, May 18<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • Franklin Pierce University's 48th Commencement on Saturday, May 18<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • Franklin Pierce University's 48th Commencement on Saturday, May 18<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • Franklin Pierce University's 48th Commencement on Saturday, May 18<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • Franklin Pierce University's 48th Commencement on Saturday, May 18<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • Franklin Pierce University's 48th Commencement on Saturday, May 18<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • Franklin Pierce University's 48th Commencement on Saturday, May 18<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • Franklin Pierce University's 48th Commencement on Saturday, May 18<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • Franklin Pierce University's 48th Commencement on Saturday, May 18<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • Franklin Pierce University's 48th Commencement on Saturday, May 18<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • Franklin Pierce University's 48th Commencement on Saturday, May 18<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • Franklin Pierce University's 48th Commencement on Saturday, May 18<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)

RINDGE — Saturday marked a day of celebration on the Franklin Pierce University campus as graduates walked confidently across the graduation stage cheered on by family and friends to accept their diplomas. But amidst the day’s excitement, members of the Class of 2013 said they were also grappling with that all too common question: What’s next? In many cases, the answer wasn’t clear.

Valedictorian Sarah E. Tremblay of Gorham told fellow graduates that when she completed her undergraduate coursework at FPU in December she left her home of four years with a “very heavy heart.”

“I was thrown into a state of unknown and instability,” Tremblay said in her farewell address. “Most people could not comprehend my plight. To them I was a college graduate with four years of higher education and didn’t know what to do next — essentially the definition of the ‘entitled youth’ of today’s society.”

Tremblay said she got tired of everyone asking, “What are you going to do now?”

Expecting to find the answer and her fairy tale ending, Tremblay said she decided to travel. But during her journey everything wrong with the world — including war, terrorism, inadequate health care and poverty — seemed to flash before her, she said. But there had to be more to this reality than at first meets the eye. And among the hopelessness and the sadness, Tremblay said, she discovered it: humanity’s ability to rise up, to find purpose in life and to make the world a better place.

That responsibility is one Tremblay said she could not ignore, and Saturday she encouraged her peers to also accept the challenge. “Now more than ever, we have the chance to positively affect [the world] as we turn the page and begin writing the next chapter of our lives,” she said.

Prior to the ceremony, Tremblay told the Ledger-Transcript that despite her uncertain future, she feels lucky to have earned her bachelor’s degree in anthropology and is confident that one day she’ll find the perfect avenue to apply what she’s learned and will be able to help others.

“The adults around us are saying, ‘It’s so difficult to find a job,’” Tremblay said. “But you have to be hopeful.”

Messages of hope, perseverance and hard work sounded throughout Saturday’s 48th Commencement at FPU, which honored Gary Hirshberg, co-founder of Stonyfield Farm, and his wife, Meg Cadoux Hirshberg, as well as Olympic medalist Penny Pitou and longtime FPU trustee and alumnus Lloyd Astmann. Each were conferred the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters. They spoke about the importance of entrepreneurship and the pursuit of ones’ passions.

When Cadoux Hirshberg moved from her home in New Jersey to Stonyfield Farm — which got its start in Wilton and is now based in Londonderry — to live with Hirshberg nearly 30 years ago, she said the farm was “a small, weak, failing seedling.” Under those circumstances, she said, it would have been easy for her and Hirshberg to uproot that seedling — the farm — and start anew, rather than fight to keep it alive.

But for this couple, giving up was never an option, she said. And today, Stonyfield is the world’s leading organic yogurt company and generates about $370 million in annual sales.

“In the midst of your confusion and self-doubt about what’s next in your life, you will hear people counsel you to do what you love. The cynic inside you will say, ‘Sure, but what about my college loans? What about my rent?’ Doing what you love, you feel with certainty, is an impossible luxury,” Cadoux Hirshberg said. “But if you want to live an extraordinary life you need to start with a dream.”

Hirshberg mirrored his wife’s remarks Saturday, encouraging graduates to make a difference in the world every day and with every choice they make. He told the graduates to always try because, if you don’t start somewhere, nothing will happen.

“It all begins with ‘Why not?’ And that’s the opportunity right before you, right here,” Hirshberg said.

The university bestowed 570 degrees Saturday. Among the recipients was John Ashkin of Stanford, Conn., who said his dream is to work for a minor league baseball team. Having interned with the Bridgeport Bluefish, an American professional baseball team based in Bridgeport, Conn., Ashkin said he got a taste of what it would be like to work in the league, and is eager for more.

While most of his friends graduated Saturday with thousands of dollars in student loan debt, Ashkin said he feels fortunate that he did not have to borrow money to pay for his undergraduate education. “For my friends, that’s a primary concern,” he said.

A first generation college student, Ahmos Diaz of Lowell, Mass. — a mass communication major — said Saturday’s ceremony meant everything to him and his family. And his educational journey isn’t over yet. Diaz was accepted at Emerson College in Boston, Mass., where he plans to pursue a master’s degree in global marketing communications.

Graduate Kyle Mulcahy of Orlando, Fla., said he’s in a rare position, having been offered a job a month before graduation, and like Diaz feels a sense of relief knowing what’s next after Franklin Pierce when many others aren’t sure. Mulcahy, a business major, said he’ll be moving to New York in July to work for M&T Bank full-time.

“I know I’ll be able to pay my loans back and that is a great feeling,” he said. “I definitely feel a sense of security.”

Alyssa Dandrea can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 228 or adandrea@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter at @alyssadandrea.

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