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Marietta College graduates smiling during procession following Commencement.

As the rain gently fell on Marietta College’s picturesque campus, Terry Gasper (Woodbridge, Virginia) looked out over the sea of decorated caps and gowns with a mixture of pride, relief, and deep gratitude.

His journey to Marietta College’s 187th Commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 4, had been an uphill battle strewn with obstacles. Still, through grit, determination, and an incredible support network, he earned his Sport Management degree with an Economics minor. 

Born in Virginia, Gasper was raised in Ghana, a West African country. He is the first to acknowledge that his path differed from the typical collegiate experience.

“There were many times I wanted to give up, to be honest,” he admitted. “But the Business & Economics Department faculty were there for me every step of the way, providing real-world insights and believing in my potential even when I doubted myself.”

His smile grew even more significant as he continued, “Then there was Tony Mayle. He was like a father figure who helped me through incredibly tough personal transitions. I’ve always been dedicated to any challenge I take on, and Tony showed me how to view setbacks as opportunities for growth.”

Mayle, Director of Diversity and Inclusion and Associate Dean of Students, was also beaming with pride during Saturday’s ceremony inside the Dyson Baudo Recreation Center.

“Even though I mentored Terry, he has also mentored me,” Mayle said. “He is an inspiring young man with a passion for helping others and standing up for social justice. His pride for his culture encourages so many others to learn and embrace their own cultures. He has made a tremendous mark at Marietta College and I am confident wherever his journey takes him, he will continue to do the same.”

Gasper was one of 216 Marietta College students who received their diplomas from President Margaret Drugovich and Provost Kathleen Poorman Dougherty as approximately 1,500 family and friends celebrated the accomplishment.

Gasper also delivered the second-place Jewett Oration, “Adversity is an Untapped Strength,” during the ceremony.

“Marietta College has been my biggest test, yet my greatest joy,” he said. “I hope everyone experiences what I have experienced and even more.”

Michaela Donnelly (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) earned a Bachelor of Arts in Global Leadership and Political Science. She had the top Jewett Oration, “Anyone Can Graduate.”

“My time at Marietta has been a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” said Donnelly, a four-year rower for the Pioneers. “I have met the people I hope to surround myself with for the rest of my life. These people, my professors, coaches, and friends, have inspired me to become the person I am today. My Marietta College experience would have been completely different if I had not met these amazing individuals.”

She is returning to Philadelphia to work as a head lifeguard in the summer. “After the season concludes, I hope to find a job with the Philadelphia city government or the Pennsylvania state government as a political aid. My ultimate occupational goal is to work for the State Department as a foreign service officer or U.S. diplomat.”

Claire Rocco (Cambridge, Ohio) was the class valedictorian and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Health Science. She will matriculate into the Marietta Physician Assistant Studies Graduate Program in June.

“My Marietta College experience has exceeded my expectations,” said Rocco, who earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Health Science. “When I first visited the campus, it reminded me a lot about home. I felt very comfortable here. It’s now my second home. The education was challenging but one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I’ve learned so much and grown so much.”

Rocco added a minor in Leadership and was an EXCEL leader. She was also a member of the Sigma Kappa sorority, SGA representative, and a member of the Biology Club and Chemistry Club.

“I wouldn’t have been able to do this without the support I received from my family, faculty and friends,” Rocco said. “The support system at Marietta is what made it possible.”

Jillian Strecansky (Columbiana, Ohio) graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology Education and was the class salutatorian. Strecansky will return to the College in the fall to complete a Master of Arts in Psychology.

The College’s Student Government Association (SGA) recognized Gabby Turner (Beavercreek, Ohio) with the William Bay Irvine Medal, which is awarded annually to the outstanding student of the senior class. The recipient is selected on the basis of the degree and extent of involvement in student-participating activities, loyalty and service to Marietta College, and scholarship.

The College also recognized Susan MacKenty Brady ’94, who received the Marietta College Honorary Degree Doctor of Laws. Brady is the Deloitte Ellen Gabriel Chair for Women and Leadership at Simmons University and the first Chief Executive Officer of The Simmons University Institute for Inclusive Leadership. She is widely recognized for her prolific work focused on strategies for women’s leadership development and self-empowerment.

“Susan MacKenty Brady, you are a woman of distinction and a credit to your alma mater. We are grateful for all you have done, for our community and for women who aspire to lead,” said President Drugovich during the ceremony. “Marietta College is proud to count you among our most distinguished graduates. You are an example to all who are gathered here today.”

Provost Dougherty and Board Chair Mary Studders Korn ’82 surprised President Drugovich by presenting her with an Honorary Degree Doctor of Humane Letters.

“Margaret Drugovich displayed a trailblazing vision, and made outstanding contributions to higher education, while also providing unwavering mentorship of Marietta’s leadership team,” said Korn as she read the citation. “(She) has displayed a focus on a brighter future and providing stability to help in the transition to Marietta’s 21st President.”

Brendan Adkinson ’16, who delivered the Commencement Address, shared three important lessons — “Our response to failure. Our desire for success. And how we listen to our hearts” — he has learned since leaving Marietta.

“After you leave here today, you will fail. That’s encouraging, isn’t it?” Adkinson said. “But take it from someone who has failed a lot: Failure is a part of success.”

He wrapped his talk with, “When you encounter failure, persist. Don’t just aim to succeed. Aim to serve. And instead of following your heart and its feelings, let your convictions be your compass.”

The Class of 2024 honored one faculty member — Dr. Lynn Bostrom, Assistant Professor of Biology — with the Outstanding Faculty Award. This award is presented each year to the faculty member who demonstrates excellence in teaching and college involvement as determined by a selection process administered by the SGA.