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May 11. 2013 10:21PM

Rivier marks a milestone with commencement

Dr. Philip Altbach, director of the Center for International Higher Education in the Lynch School of Education at Boston College, speaks at Rivier. (COURTESY)

LOWELL, Mass. - Rivier University celebrated its 78th commencement Saturday, but its first as a university after being a college for the first 77 years of its existence.

More than a thousand people crowded into the Tsongas Center in Lowell, Mass., to watch Rivier hand out 705 doctoral, masters, bachelors and associates degrees.

"Our transition to Rivier University provides the opportunity to reintroduce ourselves to the world with a renewed focus on academic distinction, global engagement and student leadership," said university president Sister Paula Marie Buley.

Sister Buley mentioned several times the importance of Nashua to the school, saying Nashua is the university's home, but the world is its classroom.

Nashua Mayor Donnalee Lozeau was one of three people to receive honorary degrees, along with Dr. Philip Altbach, director of the Center for International Higher Education in the Lynch School of Education at Boston College, and Dr. Jamison Hoff, who recently retired as chairman of the Rivier Board of Trustees.

Along with the honorary degree, Altbach also served as the commencement speaker. School officials said Altbach was selected because of his influence and service, and his ability to highlight and celebrate the importance of global engagement.

"The great universities of the 21st century will be those that have a global vision. The challenge for us, as graduates and citizens, is to understand the globalized world and to engage with it," Altbach told the audience.

Christopher M. Rochon of Hudson spoke on behalf of Rivier's undergraduate attendees.

"Together, we are here to celebrate Rivier's first commencement ceremony as a university. And together, we recognize the hard work of 705 students that got them to this point, here, in front of all of you, ready to graduate," Rochon said.

Speaking on behalf of the graduate programs, Deborah Jarvis of Salem spoke on a more personal level when addressing her peers.

"Always follow your dreams, always look inside yourself and find the strength to say 'I can,'" Jarvis said.

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