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Valedictory Address: Rebecca Henion ‘22

Dr. Verghese, Father Boroughs, President Rougeau, Provost Freije, Dean Kramer, Members of the Board of Trustees, Honored Guests, Faculty and Staff, Parents, Relatives and Friends, Fellow Members of the Class of 2022, welcome and thank you for joining us on this momentous occasion. It is the greatest honor to be here, standing in front of the most incredible community I have ever been a part of. 

I visited the Holy Cross campus three times prior to accepting my offer of admission. And every single time, it was raining. And I mean raining. Dark storm clouds, hair a mess, clothes soaked, you name it. Perhaps, anyone else would have taken this as some ominous sign about my next four years here. Let’s be real, pouring rain every time you visit doesn’t scream, “this is the place for you!" But even through the storm clouds, I could recognize the beauty of Holy Cross. And I don’t just mean the beauty of this campus, but the beauty of the underlying warmth and welcoming atmosphere of this one-of-a-kind community. 

So, despite having to trudge up these hills for the first few times in the slippery rain (I know you all know what that’s like), I knew that I was home. 

Four years later, and our time as students on the hill has come to an end. So, what are you taking away from your time here? How has your Holy Cross experience prepared you for what’s to come? And while you’re thinking, allow me to share what I am taking away. 

From those first few rainy trips to Holy Cross, it was the beginning of a valuable lesson – to see the beauty through the rain. 

We’ve sure had our fair share of rain. I’m referring to much more than the Worcester storms. Rather, I’m alluding to the stress, pressure, and hardship that we have all undoubtedly faced. 

When we made our ways through those strange, first few weeks freshman year, and we had no idea what we were doing. For some of us, we were on our own for the first time in our lives. Maybe you felt a little bit lost, just like I did. 

When exams and projects and essays felt beyond overwhelming, and you wondered how you could possibly get it all done. Maybe you practically lived in Dinand, just like I did. When we lost our dear friend and classmate, Grace Rett, and the world seemed less bright ever since. Our lives felt shattered, and we were left trying to pick up the pieces of our community and ourselves.

When the Covid-19 pandemic struck – I know, I know, no one wants to talk about Covid anymore – but it was a time where we abruptly transitioned from college life as we knew it, to Zoom classes, isolation, and unpredictability. 

Rain. It felt like sheer thunderstorms sometimes. But what I have learned over the last four years is to seek out the hope and light in every situation – to remember that when the rain pours, there is sun on the other side. It was our Holy Cross community, made up of wonderful, resilient people, all of you, that carried us through. Every time. 

Together, we helped one another through times of adversity, through the stressful days and the heavy-hearted days. And we helped one another turn the good days into exceptional ones. This community taught us to endure, but also to lean on others who will hold us afloat when we need it. And in turn, we keep others afloat. That’s the beauty of this school. We knew, even as we listened to the rain patter on the rooftop of Hogan, even as the wind howled down Easy Street and made your morning walk to class nothing short of miserable, we knew the sun would peek through the clouds eventually. 

Of course, let’s not forget the gold mine of joyful days that we will carry with us forever. We’ve had more than our fair share of those, too. 

When an army of students helped us move into school on our first day of freshman year, and you started to feel the thrill at the prospect of being on your own. When the hallways of Brooks, Hanselman, and Clark were crowded with excited new faces, ready to meet you. 

When we volunteered in the Worcester community through SPUD. Maybe you helped young students with their homework, or volunteered at a soup kitchen, or spent your time at a nursing home. 

When classrooms filled with the chatter of voices, heads bowed together in deep group discussion. When, after hours of finding the right words for your essay, or wracking your brain for the answer to that stubborn math problem, you could finally click everyone’s favorite Canvas feature: the “submit” button. Think about how much your mind has grown and developed, filled with new knowledge and skills and a desire to keep wondering. You have been handed the keys to the doors of opportunity and success. No matter how apprehensive you are about life after Holy Cross, know that you are anything but unprepared.

Maybe you were able to participate in Spring Break Immersion. Entering as a group of strangers in a new place, forming relationships with a community away from our Worcester home, and leaving as close friends, forever bonded by an incredible week of spiritual growth. 

Perhaps you became a part of our Pride organization or formed close bonds with others in our Black Student Union. Maybe you showcased your talents by joining an a capella group or formed new friendships through Best Buddies. 

Taking breaks from schoolwork to cheer on our classmates at athletic events (hopefully sitting in those purple Holy Cross lawn chairs that I know we all love). Tailgating with family and friends in the fall, reuniting with alumni at homecoming weekend. 

Feeling the winter months fade away to warmth and sunshine and knowing that there is no place more beautiful than Holy Cross in the Springtime. I could go on and on. I hope that each of you were able to immerse yourself in the Holy Cross experience. I hope that each of you, somehow, made this place your own, and made it better for the classes to come. 

Though our years on Mount St. James were interrupted, rather than holding a grudge against the world, let us instead reflect upon how far we have come as individuals and as a community. The pandemic created a sharp divide in our time on the hill, a “before” and an “after.” A whole semester and a half away from our beloved campus, and the feeling of coming home was a strange mix of joy, anxiety, and skepticism for many of us. 

Yet even through these difficulties, slowly but surely, we watched our campus come back to life. Dorms were filled again, Kimball lines grew long, and academic buildings buzzed with activity - how wonderful it was to finally meet your classmates face to face, rather than through a screen. The efforts of faculty to teach in a format that has never been done here before, and the efforts of administration and staff to bring back the true Holy Cross experience, have not gone unnoticed. To put it simply: we adapted, and we progressed, as we have always done, and will always do. 

Again, it was this community that carried us through. Together, we learned how to handle the sun and the rain. Together, we formed the foundation of this school: a community composed of great, creative minds, eager to make a difference. 

Now we face a world where we must soon become the professionals and the teachers, when all we’ve ever known is how to be students. But after four years at Holy Cross, we are far from even imagining all we are to achieve. How exciting!

At Holy Cross, I learned how to face and appreciate every moment – to combat hard moments with strength, and to not take any extraordinary moment for granted. I encourage you all to go forth with this same mindset. Face the world beyond Holy Cross with faith and hope. Find beauty in every experience. Most importantly, know that after building relationships within a community as beautiful as this one, you will never face anything alone. 

So, look around you. Look left, right, in front of you, behind you. Who’s sitting next to you in this incredible moment? And let’s never forget to look up, to remember those who may not be sitting right beside us, but who are always with us, nonetheless. 

So as you begin a new chapter of your life, how will you face the rain? Are you able to find the beauty in it? 

I am grateful for every moment, the good and bad and everything in between, that carried us to this day right here. I hope you are, too. So, let’s go out into this world together. Let’s embrace the sun and jump in the puddles when it rains, and let’s give it all we got. Thank you.