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‘Bet on the Class of 2024’

At Commencement, Graduates Praised for Resilience, Encouraged to ‘Choose Tough’

By Maryland Today Staff

sun shines behind stage as graduates watch commencement ceremony

UMD President Darryll J. Pines addressed students during Commencement, encouraging them to “be fearless and take on the grand challenges of our time.” The ceremony recognized some 14,000 Terps receiving degrees.

Photo by John T. Consoli

Four years ago, high school seniors had to settle for drive-by cheers from friends and relatives, online ceremonies watched from their sofas, or diploma pickups in empty auditoriums.

On Monday evening, University of Maryland graduates celebrated their accomplishments in full with caps and cords, photos and fireworks, and the spirit of resilience that characterized their last four years.

“Your generation of students has faced exceptional challenges, and had to miss, delay or significantly alter many milestones and celebrations—including your high school graduation—because of the pandemic,” said UMD President Darryll J. Pines. “We are so proud of how you persevered, and thankful that we can gather together today to honor you. We are all stronger—TerrapinSTRONG—because of you.”

The ceremony at SECU Stadium celebrated nearly 14,000 graduates from August and December 2023 and May 2024: an estimated 9,122 Terps who earned bachelor’s degrees, 3,406 who completed master’s degrees and 1,286 with doctorates. The livestream was zapped by an earlier power outage that also forced the School of Public Health’s ceremony to be rescheduled for Tuesday.

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore addressed the graduates and their guests, urging students to “choose tough” in their professional and personal lives. “Choose the thing that doesn’t just take you out of your comfort zone, but keeps you out of your comfort zone,” he said. “Because when you choose tough, that’s when you figure out how to take on whatever life throws at you.”

Moore said that his own experiences with “choosing tough,” especially his time in the U.S. Army, had prepared him for crises like the recent collapse of Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge. “We have achieved things that people said would take months, in a matter of weeks,” he said.

He earned a standing ovation, but got his biggest cheers when he said he had “married up” with his wife, Dawn, a Terp. “I guess you are all my in-laws,” he joked.

Student speaker Tolulope Ajayi ’24 highlighted the journey of the Class of 2024 over the last four years, recalling the sense of isolation that many felt at the end of their senior year of high school and throughout their freshman year of college, when they often sat alone in their rooms watching major world events happening without being able to connect with one another to talk about them.

As life returned to pre-pandemic patterns, Ajayi said, this class coalesced. “Strangers become friends, study partners and chosen family, bonded by shared goals and shared struggles,” she said. “Our presence here today is living proof that we are not just a product of circumstances, but active participants determined to make a difference.”

University System of Maryland Chancellor Jay Perman also spoke to the class’ ability to transcend difficult circumstances. “If I had to bet on any class to do great things—important things, impossible things—I’d bet on the class of 2024,” he said. “Because you know what the world looks like when it’s turned upside down, and I suspect that you know better than most how to turn it right again.”

graduate poses with his family in front of the M
Photo by Dylan Singleton ’13

Mohammad Habibur Rahaman Ph.D. ’24 posed with his family for a photo in front of the M on Commencement day.

graduate takes selfie with Testudo statue
Photo by Riley N. Sims Ph.D ’23

Terry Wignall M.P.S. ’24 took a selfie with Testudo in front of McKeldin Library before Monday’s main Commencement ceremony.

graduates line up outside the stadium
Photo by Dylan Singleton ’13

Outside SECU Stadium, graduates lined up for the ceremony’s processional.

Gov. Wes Moore high-fives graduate
Photo by Stephanie S. Cordle

Gov. Wes Moore offered high-fives, fistbumps and handshakes, and posed for selfies during the procession through SECU Stadium.

graduate poses with three family members
Photo by John T. Consoli

Charlie Teixeira ’24, center, waved with his family at Commencement. His sister, Tatiana Teixeira ’21 (top left), mother, Lana Teixeira ’90 (center) and father, Airton Teixeira ’90, are all UMD graduates.

personalized mortarboard with red M and yellow flowers
Photo by Stephanie S. Cordle

A personalized mortarboard celebrated one bioengineering major’s accomplishments.

graduate eats chicken tender
Photo by Stephanie S. Cordle

“I got hungry,” said Sophia Eitel ’24 (center left), so she and Ilanit Sedek ’24 (center right) decided to split chicken tenders and fries.

overhead view of SECU stadium during commencement
Photo by Stephanie S. Cordle

The graduates and their loved ones sat under the setting sun during the main Commencement ceremony at SECU Stadium.

student speaker at podium
Photo by John T. Consoli

Journalism major Tolulope Ajayi ’24—who surprised her family at Monday’s ceremony with her role as student speaker—wove a math metaphor through her remarks. “This sum of our experiences has shaped us into passionate leaders and lifelong learners who won’t only adapt to changing circumstances but will drive positive change ourselves.”

graduates watch red fireworks over SECU stadium
Photo by Riley N. Sims Ph.D. ’23

A burst of fireworks marked the end of Commencement and the final cue to cheer for graduates of the Class of 2024.

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