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‘You Have Learned How to Be Fearless’

2023 Commencement Honors the ‘Terrapin Grit’ of Thousands of UMD Graduates

By Maggie Haslam

red fireworks go off as grads cheer at Commencement at SECU Stadium

Fireworks and graduation caps flew over SECU Stadium last night as the Maryland community celebrated 15,000 graduates from the classes of Summer 2022, Winter 2022 and Spring 2023 at the Spring 2023 Commencement.

Photo by John T. Consoli

Bookended by a postcard-perfect sunset and a crimson shower of fireworks, the University of Maryland community celebrated the graduating classes of Summer 2022, Winter 2022 and Spring 2023 at Commencement.

Donning smiles, shades, decorated mortar boards and full graduation regalia, nearly 15,000 graduates—including over 12,500 bachelor’s, around 4,000 master’s and more than 600 doctoral degree recipients—were honored in the outdoor event at SECU Stadium. It was the largest commencement ceremony in the history of the university.

“I’ve always believed that with the right people, the right inspiration, the right leadership and the right vision, any problem can be addressed,” said university President Darryll J. Pines. “And the stories and achievements in this crowd today show that you are the right people.”

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore, in a taped message, also honored the class of 2023, especially for the sacrifices that graduates and their families made to realize the dream of a college education: “You braved it all, and now an abundant future awaits you,” he said. “As you go forth, take all that you learned and pledge to use it for good.”

In her first commencement speech anywhere, “CBS Mornings” anchor Gayle King ’76 returned to campus and reflected on her time at Maryland, including making decisions for the first time on her own and learning from mistakes—for example, when she skipped her own commencement ceremony. She emphasized what she’s gleaned over her 45-year career as a broadcast journalist, including the importance of mentors and hard work, managing setbacks and being resilient.

King also stressed to graduates the importance of pursuing unexpected opportunities, such as her serendipitous break into television just out of college.

“Opportunities will appear and your inclination may be to say no,” she said. “Say yes anyway.”

Student commencement speaker Colette Smith encouraged her peers to never forget the community and knowledge they gleaned from each other during their time at Maryland, particularly after returning to campus in-person in 2021. She challenged her classmates to be courageous and confident in their ability and education to make a difference in the world.

“As we sit on the precipice of change, I wish you all curiosity—a never-ending spark that motivates you for years to come,” she said. “I wish you all the tenacity and humility to continue pursuing knowledge through those around you.”

Amid fireworks and a fired-up Testudo, who raced through the aisles high-fiving the newly minted graduates, the classes of ’22 and ’23 joyfully moved their tassels from right to left.

“There is so much work to be done,” said Pines. “At times it can be intimidating. It can be frightening. But it also can be invigorating. Today’s commencement is not the end of your journey, but the beginning. You have learned how to be fearless.”

grads process into SECU Stadium

Some of the nearly 15,000 graduates from Summer and Winter 2022 and Spring 2023 process into SECU Stadium as dusk starts to fall. (Photo by Stephanie S. Cordle)

students in grad regalia wait for ceremony on SECU Stadium field

Flanked by joyous families and adorned in Maryland colors, students await the start of the ceremony. (Photo by Hong H. Huynh)

group of graduates smiling

Students decked in an array of stoles—Omicron Delta Kappa leadership honor society, Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority and the Nyumburu Cultural Center among them—pause from taking selfies prior to the start of commencement. (Photo by John T. Consoli)

grads bounce beach balls

In a harbinger of summer, beach balls bounce between graduates under a setting sun in SECU Stadium. (Photo by Stephanie S. Cordle)

mortar board that reads, "Officially hotter by one degree"

Bedazzled, outlandish, fuzzy and just plain funny was the name of the game for many graduates, who embellished their mortar boards for the occasion. (Photo by John T. Consoli)

President Pines speaks on stage at Commencement

“This is your moment to go forth and do good in our communities and in our world,” university President Darryll J. Pines tells graduates. (Photo by John T. Consoli)

Student speaker Colette Smith

Student speaker Colette Smith, who earned a dual degree in government and politics and psychology and minored in global terrorism studies, challenges her peers to lean on the resilience, strength and knowledge they built at Maryland to forge their future. (Photo by John T. Consoli)

students smile at Commencement

College of Arts and Humanities graduates listen to Dean Stephanie Shonekan congratulate them—“humanists, artists, scholars and performers ... who imagine and think about our society: who we were, who we are and most importantly, who we hope to be. (Photo by Stephanie S. Cordle)

wide shot of Gayle King speaking at Commencement as sun sets

Broadcast journalist Gayle King ‘76 beams as she gives a thoughtful, funny and inspirational speech to Maryland graduates. “Leave behind the person you think you should be so that you can become the person you want to be.” (Photo by Stephanie S. Cordle)

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