Temple University holds first in-person commencement ceremony in two years

Temple University Class of 2022 graduates applaud in response to a speaker.

Temple University Class of 2022 graduates applaud in response to a speaker. (Kenny Cooper/WHYY News)

Temple University held an in-person, university-wide commencement ceremony Thursday — its first in two years.

While some individual colleges within Philadelphia’s largest institution of higher learning have already been able to honor graduates with in-person ceremonies, the pandemic put a freeze on the biggest ceremony at the Liacouras Center.

Although the class of 2022 spent several years learning remotely, they finally got a chance to experience one of college’s most memorable moments face-to-face.

Nearly 10,000 graduates from more than 56 counties across Pennsylvania, all 50 states, and 103 countries gathered for Temple University’s 135th Commencement Ceremony.

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Gregory Mandel is the provost of Temple and this was his first-time commencement in his new role.

“You have shown unmatched perseverance, strength, and togetherness. As we have worked through a pandemic and political unrest, strive for greater social justice, and now bear witness to war,” Mandel said.

Mandel told the Owls that they have not lost sight of their values and that he wishes them well as they leave the nest for exciting opportunities.

The commencement speaker for the ceremony was Dawn Staley, a North Philly native and Hall of Fame basketball coach and player. Staley coached at Temple from 2000 to 2008.

She accomplished that feat while at the same time competing in the WNBA as a player.

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“I am certain that a good amount of my success is directly related to how and where I grew up. I am also proud to stand here as a model for young people who falsely believe where they’re from limits where they can go,” Staley said.

She told graduates that they have no limits and that they will only be measured by their effort and determination.

The student speaker for the class of 2022 was Tyler Ray, an aspiring urban designer and community organizer who, like Staley, grew up in North Philly. Since 2018, Ray has been the ward leader for the 16th Ward.

On Thursday, Ray earned his Bachelor of Science in community development and historic preservation from the Tyler School of Art and Architecture at Temple University.

“I’m sure we all felt this sense of darkness and a void with no sense of certainty,” Ray said as he reflected on the pandemic.

Ray emphasized that “struggle and troubles” have made the class of 2022 more resilient and prepared for what’s ahead.

“It’s what empowers us to fight for societal changes. Our experiences in these two years were a result of systems that have failed and it is up to us to correct those failures. All dark times have beacons of light at the end,” Ray said. “If the societal turmoil over the last two years didn’t stop us, nothing can — and nothing will stop us.”

Dr. Jason Wingard, the university’s president, departed the podium with some words of wisdom for the graduates.

“Be bold, stay educated, really connect, protect authenticity, and create impact. Temple University Class of 2022, congratulations. We’re proud of you. Now go do it. You’re Temple made,” Wingard said.

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