At the 2019 commencement ceremony, Wagner College bid farewell not only to the 630 students who had earned their bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees, but also to President Guarasci and his wife, Carin Guarasci.
Both Guarascis received honorary doctorates from the College, and Richard served as the keynote speaker. He retired in June as Wagner’s longest-serving president and was named president emeritus by the Board of Trustees.
Speaking for the class of 2019, business major Kenya Z. Hyman described the growth that she had experienced and observed in her fellow students during her years at Wagner.
“The people who started this journey have only become more proficient, bright, and independent versions of themselves,” she said.
Public policy major Daniel S. Smith also spoke on behalf of the class. He noted that he transferred to Wagner from a conservatory because he wanted a well-rounded education.
“Taking classes that are outside of your comfort zone and your personal interests opens your eyes to different ideas and concepts that you otherwise would have never approached. Not only that, but it drastically alters your life trajectory for the better,” he said.
In a wrenching moment of the ceremony, the parents and daughter of Tyamonee “T” Johnson ’18 M’19 came to the stage to accept his master’s degree, awarded posthumously.
Johnson had completed his bachelor’s degree in business and one semester of his master’s degree in accounting. He was also a key member of the Seahawks football team. But on the last weekend of 2018, when Johnson was at home with his family in Fort Washington, Maryland, for the winter break, he was shot and killed in nearby Oxon Hill. (Read the full story about Tyamonee Johnson.)
Richard and Carin Guarasci came to Wagner in 1997, when he was hired as provost. He was named president in 2002. Carin led a program called New Educators at Wagner, which provided mentoring and professional development for early-career teachers.
“I know that we will continue to be touched by the memories of the wonderful experiences we have had here, and of the wonderful people with whom we have spent time,” Carin said.
Richard spoke to the graduates about the elements of success — time management, openness to new ideas, problem-solving, and more — that they acquired through the Wagner Plan for the Practical Liberal Arts. He led the creation of this curriculum more than 20 years ago.
He also noted how serendipity shapes a person’s life. “You get to take advantage of luck, chance, the big opportunity, if you have prepared yourself first to recognize it, and, secondly, if you have built the habits, knowledge, and skills to succeed when it arrives,” he said. “My message is that you are prepared. You have the right stuff. You have acquired more skills and good work habits than you realize.”
In conclusion, he said, “I will think of you often; and, in some way, we will be together, rooting each other on.”