Winter Commencement 2023 celebrates student success

December 29, 2023
Graduates at Winter 2023 commencement ceremony

Fitchburg State University awarded more than 400 graduate and undergraduate degrees during the winter ceremony of its 127th commencement exercises Friday, Dec. 22.

The ceremony included speeches by undergraduate valedictorian Dylan J. Dandy of Leominster and Graduate Student Leadership Award recipient Maryanne Fiorino of Danvers.

Dandy graduated with a dual major in mathematics and chemistry. In his remarks, he thanked members of the faculty who had taken him under their wing and offered guidance and mentorship through his studies. He singled out Professor Gerald Higdon of the Mathematics Department for overseeing his capstone research project.

Dylan Dandy delivers valedictory address
Dylan J. Dandy delivers the valedictory address.

“Through him and my capstone project, my passion for mathematics truly began burning brighter than ever,” Dandy said. “So, for all of that, and some directions for the future, I want to thank him and the other professors who got me to this point by pushing and believing in me. I hope that all of you have someone or something that can do that for you.”

Dandy plans to pursue his PhD in mathematics.

Fiorino, a nurse for the past 27 years, completed a Master of Business Administration with a concentration in healthcare management.

Maryanne Fiorino receives graduate student leadership award from President Lapidus and Provost Patricia Marshall
Maryanne Fiorino, center, receives the Graduate Student Leadership Award from President Lapidus, left, and Provost/Vice President for Academic Affairs Patricia Marshall.

“Leadership, as I’ve come to understand, is not confined to titles; it’s a way of life. It’s about guiding, supporting, and nurturing, even when the world sleeps,” said Fiorino. “To all those facing challenges, remember, you can persevere. Keep pushing through, stay positive, and smile, even in the face of adversity. It's an integral part of life.

In his keynote remarks, Fitchburg State President Richard S. Lapidus highlighted several graduating students for embodying the university’s motto of perseverantia, meaning persistence. They included:

  • Nathacha Santiago-Prado of Leominster, who completed a bachelor’s degree in education, and looks forward to being an inspiration to future students of color by showing them they can lead their own classrooms.
  • Mary Nankya, a native of Uganda who left her young family to pursue her dreams of an advanced education and build a better life for them. She completed a Master of Science in computer science.
  • Stephen Wells of Ayer, who completed a bachelor’s degree in English Studies at the age of 70, overcoming serious illness to complete a long-held ambition. He plans to continues his studies in graduate school.

The ceremony also included the presentation of the Robert V. and Jeanne S. Antonucci Student Leadership Award to Christopher Shaddock of Ayer. A veteran and cancer survivor, Shaddock completed a degree in interdisciplinary studies and plans to continue his studies at the graduate level with an eye toward becoming a counselor.