Donnelly graduates celebrate milestone
by Jessica Langdon
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — From the cheering standing-room- only crowd to the commencement speeches, Donnelly College’s graduation here carried a distinct family feel.
“From day one, I felt like I was part of the family,” said Liz Medina, who spoke to the crowd at the Jack Reardon Civic Center in Kansas City, Kansas, on May 9, moments before receiving her associate of science degree.
Medina’s road to graduation has not been an easy one.
It was her father’s illness — and the nurse who helped him — that sparked her own desire to become a nurse. She took the plunge and enrolled part time.
In her studies to become a certified nurse assistant, Medina discovered a love for school, and the next year enrolled full time to continue her studies.
Donnelly became a second home, she said, one she admitted she didn’t want to leave.
“Words cannot express how proud I am of each and every one of you,” she told her fellow graduates.
Those gathered for the commencement ceremonies also heard from Nathan Johnson Sr., who was awarded his bachelor of applied science, about his discovery of the organizational leadership program and his increasing interest in the ideas he was learning.
In his address, the Rev. Desmond C. Lamb Sr., pastor of Forest Grove Baptist Church in Kansas City, Kansas, urged the graduates to embrace others and make a difference in their world, because, just as in the story of David and Goliath, there are still giants to take down — racism, sexism, ageism and classism, to name a few.
“Leave this place knowing every giant in your life can be defeated,” he said.
Rev. Lamb, who attended Donnelly College and received his associate of arts degree in 2000, said Donnelly holds a special place in his heart.
“Donnelly taught me that it’s not about me, but about helping others,” he said.
The ceremony also honored Irene Caudillo, president and CEO of El Centro — an organization that provides educational, social and economic opportunities for Hispanic families — as the 2015 Delta Award honoree. The award honors people for contributions to the community that embody the mission, spirit and values of Donnelly College.
Donnelly has been serving students — often first-generation college students — in the urban core since 1949.
The Catholic college is sponsored by the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.
In recognition of Donnelly’s unique role in the community, an archdiocesan youth formation assessment is providing a gift of $4 million over a 10-year period — funded through parishioners’ giving at their parishes — to be equally divided between funding scholarships and helping with capital improvements.
Addressing the graduates, Msgr. Stuart Swetland, president of Donnelly, shared anecdotes about Doc Rivers, coach of the Los Angeles Clippers.
Rivers’ son Austin plays for the Clippers, and the younger Rivers described their bond as a “coach-player” relationship, in which his dad is hard on him because he wants the best for him.
“I hope Donnelly College was hard on all of you — because we want what’s best for you,” said Msgr. Swetland.
He also spoke of a comment Doc Rivers made about whether he’d treat Austin like a son or another player: “They’re all my sons,” said the coach.
“And today,” Msgr. Swetland told the graduates, “all of you become sons and daughters forever of Donnelly College, your alma mater.”
In the benediction, Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann referred to Donnelly College as one of the “jewels of the archdiocese.”
“It’s something we treasure very much,” he said.