On Friday, June 2, 2017, Massasoit Community College held its 50th annual commencement ceremony. The College graduated its second largest graduating class in its history with 1040 graduates, ranging in age from 18 to 69, earning 1080 awards. 70 percent of the graduates are a first generation college graduate in their family. President Wall honored Ousamequin, Massasoit of the Wampanoag, for whom the College is named, with a posthumous honorary Associate in Humanities and a presidential medallion.
Edith Andrews of the Aquinnah Wampanoag accepted the honorary degree in recognition of Ousamequin. Ms. Andrews is an active member of the Aquinnah Wampanoag community and she, along with several others, played an integral role in the recent re-interment of Ousamequin’s remains in Warren, Rhode Island. She serves on the Board of the Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe, on the Constitution and Election Committee, on the Culture and Historic Commission, and is a former Commissioner on Indian Affairs for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
“I am honored and humbled in accepting this posthumously for Ousamequin. He was truly the first humanitarian this country had. Without him, the Pilgrims would never have survived,” she stated. “I am hoping and praying that when you leave the College, and when you hear about the Indians that met the Pilgrims, you remember that we have a name. You will tell people, I know them! They are the Wampanoag Indians!”
Massasoit Community College is the only public higher education institution in the Commonwealth to be named after a person rather than a location. In February 1966, the Board of Regional Community Colleges stated that the name was “in keeping with the historical significance” of Massasoit. As Massasoit’s namesake, the College recognizes him as part of its published history. Though the Pilgrims called him Massasoit, a hereditary title meaning great leader, his name was Ousamequin. As Great Leader of the Pokanoket Wampanoag, Ousamequin held the allegiance of numerous chieftains and villages in the Wampanoag Confederation, stretching from Narragansett Bay east to Cape Cod, including most of modern-day southeastern Massachusetts, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket. Ousamequin led the Wampanoag as Massasoit for approximately fifty years. Known for his diplomatic skill and desire for peace, he is recognized as a man of integrity, loyalty, and generosity. He was a humanitarian, offering solace, succor, and refuge to early settlers.
Lais A. deCarvalho Costa of Abington was awarded the Presidential Scholar award, which is given to the graduating student with the highest GPA who has also completed the most credits, the most full-time semesters, and most credits in their last semester at Massasoit Community College. Lais graduated from the business administration program with a 4.0 GPA. She will transfer to Bridgewater State University this fall to pursue a bachelor’s degree in management with a concentration in marketing.
Kathleen Purple of Halifax was the student speaker for the Class of 2017. Kathleen graduated from the liberal arts transfer program; she will continue her education at Bridgewater State University this fall to study English. Earlier in the week, Kathleen was honored with the Bridgewater State University Merit Transfer Scholarship, which covers all tuition and fees at the University as she pursues her bachelor’s degree.
“The secret to milestones or the satisfaction they bring is that you don’t have to wait a few – or 50 – years for them to happen. This is true for everyone. Major life events like anniversaries and graduations are not the only laudible goals you can enjoy reaching. A moment of personal triumph or a couple of hours spent making a difference for others may turn out to be some of your most cherished achievements,” Kathleen said during her address to her classmates.
In his final commencement address as President, Dr. Wall asked the graduates, “What is precious to you? First of course is to love and be loved; to be safe; to have your health; to have freedom; and to have time.” He added, “But second, and truly precious, what we have is education, higher education – the life of the mind. That, graduates, is what you and we share tonight.”