May 11, 2024
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Conway School of Nursing graduates celebrate at the University's annual Commencement ceremony on May 11. (Catholic University/Denny Henry)

On the sun-splashed morning of May 11, Sam Nwuha stood outside McMahon Hall with his computer science classmates, relishing the remaining moments together. He embraced each one before they processed to the 135th annual Commencement ceremony of The Catholic University of America, held on the East Portico of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. 

“My family has been my backbone,” Nwuha reflected. “I don’t just use the term family for my siblings and my parents alone but for the family that I’ve met during my time here at Catholic – the siblings, older sisters and  brothers, and younger brothers and sisters. Even the staff, they at some point were like older siblings, grandparents, and parents to me when my parents weren’t available. I don’t know if I’d be here without them.”

Time and time again, many of the students reflected on the often challenging journey that led to their graduation. They arrived four years ago during the heart of the COVID-19 pandemic, each on separate paths, but they left connected for life.

“We were all in our dorms with our masks on, and we couldn’t even have roommates,” Nursing graduate, Whitney Paulson, said. “We persevered through that. It’s really fulfilling.”

Eventually, Paulson and her classmates discovered real connection and community with one another. Throughout their academic careers, the students took part in beloved traditions of patronal feast Masses, University Research Days, and Cardinalpalooza among others. They supported one another in classes, lunch conversations, and dorm life.

That character was evident to University President Peter Kilpatrick when he was appointed two years ago to be the campus’ 16th leader. During his closing remarks, President Kilpatrick told the graduates: “I have spent my adult life on college campuses, but I have never experienced a student body so full of optimism and hope. I have been energized and refreshed by every interaction with each of you. You give me hope! Today, we are sending you out into the world, and let me assure you, the world is in great need of your light.”

Sharon McCambridge Flaesch, ‘84, beamed as her youngest child, Cullen, received his degree in Business Administration with a Dual Specialization in Sales and Data Analytics. “It’s special 40 years later to be here with our youngest,” said McCambridge Flaesch. “He has grown a lot!”

Cullen received a group hug from his parents during a reception that followed the main Commencement ceremony.

“It’s fantastic just being surrounded by those who have really helped and supported me through college,” Cullen said. “It really just means the world.”

Standing in the shadow of the Basilica’s 237-foot high Trinity Dome,  international business and sales graduate, Julie Englert, couldn’t help but recognize the life-changing experience of graduating from Catholic University.

“It’s been the best four years of my life,” she said. “Home is where the dome is.”

Mariana Barillas and Philip Reynolds contributed to this story.