Charles Nailen/The Hoya Members of the class of 2003 proceed across Copley Lawn on Monday for Senior Convocation. The procession is flanked by flag marshals holding 61 flags for each country represented in the class of 2003.

Members of the class of 2003 gathered Monday afternoon on Copley Lawn, donning graduation caps and gowns, for the fourth annual senior Convocation, an event designed to bring together all 1,507 members of the graduating class.

The ceremony, which included addresses from alumni, administrators and students, featured the presentation of the senior class flag and the senior class gift – a “Welcome to Georgetown” sign at the Canal Road entrance to the school. University President John J. DeGioia presented the Convocation speaker, Maria Shriver (CAS ’77), with an honorary degree.

“I haven’t been this excited since I learned how to spell Schwarzenegger,” Shriver said of receiving the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters. “The fact that I am getting this should give a lot of you hope.”

Shriver, who has worked as a journalist for NBC News since 1988, anchoring “Sunday Today,”Weekend Nightly News” and “Dateline,” has been honored with the two most prestigious awards for reporting in broadcast journalism, a Peabody and an Emmy. Along with her husband, actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Shriver has been actively involved with the Special Olympics and Best Buddies programs.

“Stay free,” she said. “You’ll never be this young and this unencumbered. You’re free of unshakable responsibilities that come later in life.”

Shriver also told students to take advantage of their college degrees, reflecting on her own experience once she began her career in journalism. “Never underestimate the value of your college degree. My degree from Georgetown gave me a real shot of confidence,” she said.

She also advised graduates to place importance on family and friendships, not merely on career concerns. “Work your ass off, but don’t let your job define you. I went into journalism because I wanted to make a difference in the world. But as a society, too often we define people by jobs,” she said. “I am far more defined by my job as a mother of four than by my work with NBC. I’m not telling you to not reach for the stars, but don’t let career success be your only success.” Shriver’s 40-minute address was met with a standing ovation.

Three students, chosen by a selection committee, reflected on the theme of the ceremony, “The Gift,” in their speeches. “At Georgetown, we’ve celebrated contradiction – from a university that was founded by slave-owning Jesuits to the same university that saw the first African-American president in Fr. Healy years later,” Jamaal Young (SFS ’03) said. “Georgetown has never been a place where questions can be answered easily. It is not a neatly wrapped package. But the gift of Georgetown is the ability to embrace ambiguity in this world.”

Laura Wilkicki (MSB ’03)considered the impact of Sept. 11 on the Class of 2003: “After Sept. 11, when the planes overhead were missing, the silence was deafening,” she said. “However, we had the courage to thrive while living and learning in our nation’s capital.”

University Provost James J. O’Donnell reminded students and faculty how much Georgetown had grown in the last 100 years. “In 1903, there were only 13 students in the graduating class, and only one from New Jersey,” he said. O’Donnell also recognized the retiring staff and faculty.

Senior Class Gift Committee Co-chairs Tim Sullivan (COL ’03) and Sapna Vir (MSB ’03) presented DeGioia with the senior gift. Sullivan, a Hoya staff writer, announced that the Class of 2003 had broken the university record for participation in the senior class gift, with over 72 percent participation. After exceeding 71 percent participation, two parents contributed matching gifts of $6,000, brining the total contribution to $29,000.

DeGioia said that the circumstances of Sept. 11 had made for a Georgetown experience that was “unusually intense,” but that the class had managed to continue to “inspire and challenge.”

He also noted that while the class had seen four years of construction on the Southwest Quadrangle, it would not be on campus in the fall to see its grand opening. “Your class endured the distraction of construction over your four years. When you return, you will find the largest building project that the school has ever undertaken,” DeGioia said.

Senior Class Committee Chair Ted Bauer (COL ’03) spoke on behalf of his class, accepting the class banner presented by William Reynolds (COL ’79), the executive secretary of the Alumni Association.

“Here we have made friendships and personal ties that cannot be broken. The Georgetown experience is universal, but it is also intensely specific,” he said. “Our vibrant association of 1,500 is ready to join your vibrant association of 130,000. We are together and will be forever the Georgetown Class of 2003.”

Promising not to utter the phrase “Hoya Saxa,” Bauer instead led his class in singing the fight song, reminding his classmates that it would “definitely not [be] the last time.”

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