Thousands filled the Saint Mary's College Stadium on May 20, 2006, to celebrate the college's 143rd Commencement. To boisterous cheers from their families and friends, more than 700 undergraduates received their diplomas during the morning ceremony.
"I have had the great pleasure to teach many of you and am certain you are well-equipped for the challenges ahead," Saint Mary's President Brother Ronald Gallagher told the Class of 2006.
Class Valedictorian Antonio Eduardo Reyes Taruc encouraged his classmates to become "imagineers" - people who "dream and then they do."
"What's better than having a vision?" asked Taruc. "It's fighting for a cause."
Commencement speaker Dr. Clifford Straehley, also a member of the Class of 2006 and, at 84, the oldest undergraduate at Saint Mary's College, thanked his fellow students for the "respect and acceptance" they showed by calling him by his first name.
Straehley, who skipped his own senior year in college during World War II to attend Harvard Medical School and later spent decades practicing and teaching surgery, enrolled at Saint Mary's in 2003 to fulfill his dream of completing his bachelor's degree.
During his Commencement address, Straehley urged his fellow students to consider their relationship to the world and recalled the successes of civil rights leaders Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr. and Lech Walesa. He drew enthusiastic applause when he suggested that we abandon the idea of separate races of human beings.
"Racism in the course of human history has led and still does lead to much savagery," Straehley said. "The newer genetics has yielded a message that should be made known to all children, college students, and even we adults who might well profit from such knowledge. The message is that there is but a single race of mankind, the human race."
Following the ceremony, graduates and their families celebrated at parties and receptions throughout campus.
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