Cici Chagnon (email@example.com)
The Commencement and Baccalaureate speakers for the Class of 2022 have been announced. This year’s Commencement Speaker will be muralist Katie Merz. The Baccalaureate speaker is former Philadelphia Eagles player Vai Sikahema.
Students may recognize Merz’s name from her work painting the smokestack next to the mail center, which she completed in 2020. Merz was officially chosen as a speaker in October, and will also receive the honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters. Dr. Meredith Goldsmith, a professor in the English Department and Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer, explained the criteria for choosing speakers. “We look for someone who has a genuinely inspiring story,” she said. What’s unusual about Merz, she said, is that she already has a connection to the Ursinus campus. Speakers are nominated beginning after graduation through a Dean’s Office email.
Merz’s connection to Ursinus is evident from virtually any location on campus. Her artwork covers the smokestack and is titled “Live the Questions.” An article for the Ursinus website by Ed Moorhouse described Merz’s work as “a provocative narrative of life experiences—as told to Merz by Ursinus students—that illustrate the impacts of the global pandemic, racial injustice, and other life-defining moments.” Through her art, Merz’s dedication to Ursinus and its students is clear. Goldsmith stated that part of the thought process in selecting Merz was that “she is genuinely passionate about Ursinus.”
Vai Sikahema will be speaking at the Baccalaureate Ceremony, and will receive the honorary Doctorate of Divinity. Sikahema is known for his time as an Eagles running back and kickoff returner, as well as a broadcaster. He also serves as a General Authority Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and graduated from Brigham Young University. The Baccalaureate Ceremony, taking place the day before graduation’s Commencement Ceremony, is significant to the community for its representation and celebration of the many different faiths within the graduating class. Goldsmith pointed to Sikahema’s personal experiences as the main inspiration for his nomination. “Vai Sikahema has an amazing personal journey, encompassing faith, media, and sport.” Sikahema was chosen as a speaker in February, and his connection to Philadelphia as well as his religious involvement are sure to make him a memorable Baccalaureate speaker.
The Class of 2022 is lucky to have such accomplished and engaging speakers to enrich their final days on campus. Goldsmith told The Grizzly her hopes for the two ceremonies. “I’m hoping that both speakers will allow students to get a meaningful message right before they graduate, and that Commencement and Baccalaureate will be genuinely memorable,” she concluded.
Vai Sikahema will give his keynote address on Friday, May 13 at 4:00 p.m. Katie Merz’s address will be on the lawn outside of the Philip and Muriel Berman Museum of Art on Saturday, May 14 at 10:00 a.m.