Salve Regina graduates told to embrace the unexpected as they begin life journeys


NEWPORT — Dr. Kelli J. Armstrong, Salve Regina University president, on Sunday conferred 530 bachelor’s degrees upon the Class of 2024. A separate ceremony was held Thursday, May 16, for recipients of graduate degrees – 271 master’s degrees, 19 doctoral degrees, and three Doctor of Nursing Practice degrees. In total, this year’s graduating class was the University’s largest ever at 823.
In presenting the Commencement address, renowned author, scholar, and policy analyst Susan Eisenhower spoke to graduates in the context of Salve’s focus on mercy leadership and service.
“As you begin your post-graduation journey, embrace the unexpected – even the assignments that may at first disappoint you. Learn from them. Reflect on them. Don’t shortchange yourself by living so fast and ambitiously that you miss the enduring lessons that come every day, no matter what job or assignment. You will be the better for it, as will everyone who will come to depend on you,” Eisenhower said.
To illustrate, she shared how two of the least-remembered aspects of the career of her grandfather, Dwight D. Eisenhower, turned out to be instrumental to his rising to be the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces and president of the United States.
In being assigned to train the U.S. military’s first Tank Corps, and then sent to Europe to write an Army guidebook on the battlefields of France, “Ike” was disappointed that these “desk jobs” offered little perceived opportunity for advancement. But he poured himself into each role, and as history shows, the two assignments came together at key moments during World War II, turning out to be assets of incalculable value.
Eisenhower’s recent book, “How Ike Led: The Principles Behind Eisenhower’s Biggest Decisions,” has earned critical acclaim nationally and internationally, highlighting the qualities of successful leadership demonstrated by her grandfather.
She is the founder of The Eisenhower Group, Inc., a Washington, D.C.-based consulting company, and Chairman Emeritus at the Eisenhower Institute. Eisenhower has been a Fellow at Harvard University’s Institute of Politics and a Distinguished Fellow at the Nixon Center.
In addition to Eisenhower, the university also awarded honorary degrees to James T. Brett, president and CEO of The New England Council and a former member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives; to Christine Kavanagh, R.S.M., president of ReFocus, Inc., and member of Salve’s board of trustees; and to Gloria Purvis, an author, Catholic commentator, host and activist.
In her address, Armstrong also spoke to the opportunities unexpected events present, lauding this particular class — many of whom missed high school milestone ceremonies and started college during the pandemic — for its resilience.
“It’s amazing to see what you have accomplished and what you have experienced while you were here at Salve,” she said. “What I am most proud of is that throughout it all you never lost sight of those in need – our mercy commitment of service to the community was central to your life here. You found ways to serve others, particularly the most vulnerable of our society, even in the midst of a pandemic. At a time where simply showing up and persevering was an accomplishment in itself, you went far beyond expectations.”
Cailin Aline Martin, one of four valedictorians in the 2024 undergraduate class, said in her address, “Our class inspires me and gives me hope for the future and the world.”
“Our degrees prepared us for careers while the Salve experience transformed us into local and soon-to-be-global community leaders.”
The other valedictorians were Sofia Elizabeth Abuin, Ashley Louise Lefebvre and Jessica Marie Roberts.