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UHart Celebrates Class of 2024 at Commencement

More Than 1,200 Graduate and Undergraduate Students Hear from Two Distinguished Alums.

Commencement balloon drop

The indelible influence of teachers, the challenges of the pandemic, and the unwavering support of family were recurring themes at the University of Hartford’s 2024 Commencement ceremonies. More than 1,200 graduate and undergraduate students and their guests filled the XL Center in downtown Hartford, where two distinguished UHart alumni delivered this year’s Commencement addresses.

During the morning ceremony, Jay Malave M’98, chief financial officer of Lockheed Martin, one of the nation’s leading global security and aerospace companies, addressed doctoral and master’s degree recipients. Later in the day, UHart undergraduates heard from Georgia State Senator Sonya Halpern M’90, a persevering advocate for equity and opportunity.

Many of the undergraduates entered UHart in 2020, and several speakers acknowledged the long shadow cast by the pandemic on the class’s academic journey. Halpern told undergraduates, “For many of you, there was no prom. No senior trip. And a scaled down or virtual graduation, if you even had one. But this bright and beautiful day makes up for all of your challenges and sacrifices.

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal echoed that sentiment in his remarks to the undergraduates. “You've embraced each other, supported each other, during a time of COVID, a time of anguish, challenge and fear,” he said. “You will leave our great nation a little bit better, a little bit stronger than you found it.”

In his charge to undergraduates, Barney School of Business student and Student Government Association president Anthony Lebron ’24, M’25 acknowledged the challenges of the pandemic, but said he and his classmates also learned valuable lessons about resilience, flexibility, and the importance of community. “We embraced virtual classrooms, forged connections with classmates and professors online, and found innovative ways to stay engaged with campus life,” he said.

Halpern, who received her MBA from UHart, also focused on the purpose of higher education, telling undergraduates, “This remarkable institution that I am proud to call my alma mater has prepared you to do work that matters, including work that focuses on advancing the public good by working within the community—local or global."

“We never know where life will take us. There will be twists and turns, pauses and plateaus, trials and triumphs that you cannot even begin to predict or even imagine. Every great achievement begins with the decision to start. But it’s not just about the courage to leap; it's about the perseverance to keep moving forward, even when the finish line shifts.”

Sonya Halpern M’90, Georgia State Senator

Malave, speaking at the graduate ceremony, recalled how his Introduction to Accounting professor at UHart influenced his career path. He said Professor James Bannister, currently chair of the Accounting Department at the Barney School of Business, inspired him to pursue a master’s degree in accounting. “I know what you’re thinking,” he joked, “who in their right mind could be inspired by Intro to Accounting? But I knew then what I wanted to do … that decision, based on one course and one professor, changed my career trajectory and gave me the foundation I needed to one day become the CFO of Lockheed Martin.”

A total of 1,272 undergraduate and graduate students received degrees, including 22 associate degrees, 749 bachelor’s degrees, 407 master’s degrees, and 94 doctoral degrees.

The University is preparing to welcome its next president, Lawrence P. Ward, on July 1. Acting President Stephen M. Mulready M’77, who has led UHart during the 2023–24 academic year culminating decades of engagement on campus, had one simple message for the Class of 2024: “We are so proud of all of you. Good luck to you.”

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Matt Besterman