Salve Regina's Class of 2023 urged to embrace power of imagination


NEWPORT— Salve Regina University held a commencement ceremony for undergraduate students on Sunday, May 21.
A total of 804 degrees were conferred to members of the Class of 2023 along with three honorary degrees during the 75th anniversary of the university.
For the first time, Salve Regina named three valedictorians, all from the Department of Psychology. Samantha Bond, Theo Modla and Mairead Nee represented the class of 2023 on stage as valedictorians at the commencement.
“No matter what path brought us here, persevering through a pandemic, completing a college degree, and walking this stage together at the Commencement ceremony is a cause for celebration in itself,” said Nee to her graduating class. “While today may be our last time gathering together as an entire class for the foreseeable future, take note of the collection of memories, friends, experiences, and knowledge that have defined your life for the last four years.”
The celebrated Iranian author, Dr. Azar Nafisi, once forced from her job as a teacher for refusing to cover her hair, presented the commencement address and encouraged graduates to embrace the power of their imagination.
“[Imagination] brings us out of ourselves and connects us with others,” said Nafisi, whose acclaimed 2003 memoir, “Reading Lolita in Tehran,” appeared on the New York Times bestseller list for more than 100 weeks and has been translated into 32 languages. “It is a way of investigating, of perceiving the world and changing it.”
Nafisi stressed the importance of a liberal arts education, even for those studying science.
“Life is transient. Life is fickle,” she said. “Today you might have a home and tomorrow you might not. It is so easy to lose everything you call home. That is why it is so important to have that portable home of imagination, because no one can take that away from you.”
Dr. Nafisi was born and raised in Iran and emigrated to the United States in 1997. She is a winner of the 2015 Benjamin Franklin Creativity Laureate Award, and was also awarded the Pell Center Prize for Story in the Public Square at Salve Regina University in 2023.
Dr. Nafisi, Dr. M. Therese Antone, R.S.M., Salve Regina chancellor who served as the university’s sixth president from 1994-2009 and Gen. Anthony C. Zinni, a retired United States Marine Corps, all received honorary degrees.
After receiving their diplomas, students gathered after commencement to meet with families and friends for hugs and pictures to celebrate their achievement.
“I’ve met my lifelong friends here and it’s been a great community experience,” said Margaret Claire Raposa, 2023 Salve University graduate. “I have really learned a lot.”
Dr. Kelli J. Armstrong, president of Salve Regina, who began her tenure as the University’s eighth president in 2019 together with the Class of 2023 as they started their academic journey, said she shares with them a special and unbreakable bond.
“You are my graduating class,” Armstrong said. “I have had the honor of celebrating your growth over these years as if you were my own children, and I’ve watched you with amazement — not only witnessing your incredible achievements academically, athletically and artistically, but to how much you’ve given back to your community and to one another. You are an incredible group of human beings.”