Today, High Point University honored all graduates from the Class of 2020, as well as master’s and doctoral students from the Class of 2021. A second ceremony for Class of 2021 undergraduates will be held at 10 a.m. on Saturday.
HIGH POINT, N.C., May 7, 2021 – “Finally, this is YOUR day!”
That’s what Cynt Marshall, the CEO of the Dallas Mavericks, told graduates at High Point University today during one of two Commencement ceremonies.
Members of the Class of 2020, whose graduation was delayed last year due to the pandemic, as well as master’s degree and doctoral degree recipients from the Class of 2021, walked across the High Point University Commencement stage during an outdoor ceremony with physical distancing. The Class of 2021 bachelor degree recipients will do the same tomorrow.
Marshall, the first Black woman to serve as CEO of an NBA team, addressed the resilience of these graduates.
“Graduates, most of you represent the year of perfect vision, 2020,” she said. “By the time you left HPU last year, a few things were clear: the world had changed, some of your school and job plans had to be put on hold and you were going to have to be agile. Many things have come sharply into focus over the last 14 months. But today, Class of Perfect Vision, I hope you can see how much we love you, how much we admire your resilience, how thankful we are that you returned today, and how proud we are of you. Class of 2020, we see YOU!”
HPU President Nido Qubein led the university’s charge to reimagine graduation for an outdoor event with physical distancing so that all HPU graduates could welcome six family members. He reminded graduates that HPU’s mission was always to prepare students for the world as it will be, not as it is. In 2020, the importance of that mission became more clear than ever.
“When you live with a growth mindset, when you hone your life skills, when you live by your values, you can forge a path forward,” Qubein said. “You can figure ‘IT’ out. You can light pathways for others. And yes, you can be a beacon of light that inspires the world. We may be celebrating one year after you received your diploma, but we are celebrating, together.”
Murphy DiRosa, who served as president of the Class of 2020, acknowledged the adversities the class endured the last few months of their senior year due to the pandemic.
“We left for spring break not knowing that we just had our last moments together,” said DiRosa, who today received her bachelor’s degree in event management, as well as her master’s degree in communication and business leadership. “We all planned to thank our favorite professors, dining staff and security members, and we never got the chance to. And yes, these things hurt. But we also grew and learned from them. We learned to never say no to a new opportunity, to be grateful for what we have and to thank those that have stood by us for our four years and shaped us to become who we are today. So take the time now to thank those people.”
Highlights from the High Point University Commencement Speech Delivered by Cynt Marshall, CEO of the Dallas Mavericks:
Marshall delivered an impactful message that appropriately harnessed the power of sports terminology as it relates to life.
“The ball is in your court,” she told graduates. “Did y’all really think you were going to leave today without getting a basketball-related message from me, HPU’s Sports Executive in Residence?”
Marshall recognized sports management majors in the audience. In her role as HPU’s Sports Executive in Residence, she has worked with these students on campus and hosted a group of them at the Dallas Mavericks for an externship. She also recognized HPU athletes.
“Your ball is now different, and the playing field is the same as mine,” Marshall said. “You are playing the game of life, and your ball is a collection of choices that you get to hold each day.”
Here are a few excerpts from Marshall’s speech encouraging students to focus on these areas of their life.
Teammates – “Constantly ask yourself, who else is on the court with you? Who are you doing life with now? Always keep good company. Run with good people who are doing good things and who will help you keep your court safe.”
Tip-off – “The game has begun, and the ball has been tipped your way. High Point University has equipped you to pick up the ball and make good decisions. Sometimes, you will have many decisions to make and competing priorities.”
Rebound – “Sometimes, you will make a bad decision. Sometimes, you will take the shot and miss it. Sometimes, the light you think you see at the end of the tunnel is a train coming at you. In the game of life, bad things do happen to good people. But there will always be someone there to help you rebound with grace.”
As is tradition at HPU’s graduation, a bald eagle soared over the graduates at the end of the ceremony to symbolize the ideals of free enterprise, independence and the ability to pursue new opportunities in America.
The graduates received a blanket after the ceremony to give to their mothers in honor of Mother’s Day.