President Lovell’s 2022 undergraduate Commencement address

So many of you have used your time at Marquette to transform both yourselves and the lives of others.  I’ve witnessed and heard stories from you about the ways you’ve personally grown and the ways you’ve changed the world.  To honor your class, I’d like to share a few of your stories.

Emma Busig is graduating today from the College of Arts and Sciences with degrees in philosophy and corporate communications.

Her story is one of “Being the Difference” for others during their time of need. This spring break, Emma went on a study abroad experience in Berlin.  After dinner on her second night, Emma had a chance encounter with a Ukrainian family. They were refugees from the city of Odessa.

A few minutes after the encounter, Emma grasped the weight of the family’s situation, so she approached them and invited the mom, Alexandra, and daughter, Barabra, to coffee. At coffee, Emma, Alexandra and Barbara chatted for several hours about their cultures and lives.

The relationship didn’t end with coffee. After her trip was over, Emma kept in touch with Alexandra and Barbara.

When President Biden announced Uniting for Ukraine in April – a program to provide pathways for Ukrainian citizens to come to the U.S. – Alexandra asked Emma if there was anyone she knew who might sponsor her family. Without hesitation, Emma approached her parents. Would they be sponsors?  In Emma’s words, “they jumped in with two feet first.” They tackled the arduous task of meeting the federal requirements to bring her new friends to the U.S.

As Emma was completing the graduation requirements of two majors and two minors,
she was also spending hours poring over governmental paperwork so that her new Ukrainian family could move to her hometown of Wausau, Wisconsin.

Just a few weeks ago, the U.S. government approved Emma’s request. The Ukrainian family of three – four if you count their dog Mars, who will have to quarantine in Poland for a week – will journey to Wausau next month.

Emma and her family are providing a life-changing opportunity for Alexandra, Barbara, Alexander and Mars. Thank you Emma, for showing us how one conversation, a true human connection, and a selfless act, can transform the lives of others.

Our next story is one of Tess Murphy, who is graduating today with majors in political science and English.

After volunteering within the criminal justice system and studying at the Les Aspin Center, Tess was poised to embark on a career in politics.  But something on her creative side was stirring — and she knew she was being called to do something more.

Through her advisor, Dr. Noelle Brigden, Tess was introduced to Restorative Justice in Movement, a program at Marquette that builds community through workshops for women who identify as friends and family of incarcerated people. Intrigued by the program, Tess started meeting with the women participants and joined the research team involved in the project.

Tess recalls being immediately drawn to the women’s stories, which connected her to Marquette’s mission and what she was learning in her coursework. After getting to know and earning the trust of the program participants, she felt a strong desire to tell their untold stories through film.

There was just one small problem. Tess wasn’t a journalism or film student. She literally had no experience in filmmaking or editing. Undeterred, Tess signed up for an independent study course to learn how to use film equipment. After gaining some proficiency, Tess began documenting the lives of a population of women who often go unnoticed through film.  She even taught herself how to edit films to better piece together the women’s stories.

Fast forward to 2022, our political science and English major recently debuted her first documentary, Justice in Movement.

With no formal training. Tess’s film is receiving international recognition and will be shown at an Australian film festival in the coming weeks.

Tess didn’t get a single academic credit for creating her documentary. She did it because she had a passion stirring within her to honor and shine a light on an overlooked segment of our society.  Many of the women who saw themselves on the big screen felt empowered for the first time. Tess is now pursuing a career in screenwriting.

Her story shows us that we can accomplish almost anything if we don’t let our perceived limitations hold us back from our dreams. Thank you Tess!

Matt Waterman is graduating today from the College of Business Administration with an emphasis in supply chain.

During his freshman year, Matt struggled socially and academically. He finished his second semester with a GPA just above a 2.0. By his own accounts, he tended to keep to himself and had difficulty giving presentations and making conversations.  Matt said these challenges caused him to be passed over for internships. The summer after his freshman year, he got a new perspective on his life: He was diagnosed as autistic.

As fate would have it, Marquette launched its On Your Marq program at the start of Matt’s sophomore year to help neurodivergent students achieve success.  Matt took a chance and made the bold decision to enroll in our first cohort of On Your Marq students.

Working with Emily Raclaw, director of the program, Matt explored opportunities and took risks that he otherwise would have never pursued.  He learned to push himself out of his comfort zone to strive to become the best version of himself.  With this approach, he excelled academically and earned a GPA of 3.6 for the second semester of his sophomore year.

As he grew through the On Your Marq program, he began gaining confidence in his ability to work with and lead others.  Where once he found it difficult to speak in front of a group, Matt was able to create new standards of practice and present them to group of corporate professionals as an intern at Bix Produce.

He later captained a team of fellow autistic students in the Uline Case Competition. By his senior year, Matt was flourishing at Marquette, exploring new social relationships and excelling in his field of study.

Today, Matt Waterman is breaking ground as the first-ever graduate of the On Your Marq Program! Now he’s leading us by his example. He’s teaching us that by taking risks, we can develop into servant leaders. By pushing ourselves, we can become the change we want to see in the world. By persevering, we can pave the way for future students – in his case, those following him in the On Your Marq program.

After graduation, Matt will be working as an analyst at CH Robinson in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. His future holds no limits. Thank you, Matt!

Our final story comes from Annie Bruce, a nursing graduate that personifies grit and determination.

Annie suffers from a fainting disorder and her entire world instantly changed on December 18, 2020, when she fainted, fell off a step, and injured her spinal cord.

Twelve hours after the fall, Annie was in surgery. She woke up paralyzed, unable to move her body from the neck down.

In pain and with her mom crying beside her bed, she remembers how much empathy her ICU nurse showed them.

She recalls her nurse’s exact words of encouragement: “I know you can do this; you’re going to be OK.”

Those words had a profound impact on Annie’s outlook and made her determined to walk again.

Annie had been scheduled to study abroad in Ireland in the Spring of 2021. Instead, she spent the next seven weeks in a Detroit hospital.

She steadily improved and regained some function on her left side.

Annie was moved to Shirley Ryan hospital in Chicago, where she spent the next 3 months in intensive rehab. It was grueling work, six hours each day, five days a week.

When Annie was brought to the hospital, she was unable to lift a pencil.

When she left the hospital, remarkably, she was walking with the aid of a cane.

Throughout her hospitalization, two College of Nursing administrators – Dr. Jill Guttormson and former Dean Janet Krejci – kept in constant contact with Annie. By May of 2021, Annie was able to return to Marquette.

She says that the support and accommodations provided by the College of Nursing faculty was extraordinary. They allowed Annie to first take a leave of absence, then reworked her entire academic schedule so that she could walk across the stage today.

Annie’s perseverance and work ethic has been inspiring to all who know her. Last semester, Annie had to combine her full course load with two clinical rotations, all while doing physical therapy four times per week.

Her ongoing recovery has been nothing short of miraculous.  With 20 of her Marquette friends and family members there to cheer her on, Annie just ran a 5K wearing a T-shirt that said “I run for those who can’t.”

Last summer, Annie’s life came full circle when she worked at Shirley Ryan, the hospital where she once received treatment.

Annie was now the one providing empathy because she was able to directly relate to her patients.

This summer Annie we be working at the pediatric ICU at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.

She still remembers the words of her ICU nurse, and she’s ready to be the person for patients and their families who says, “I know you can do this; you’re going to be OK.”

Annie, thank you for inspiring all of us to never give up.

Graduates, remember no matter how far away life takes you, please know you will always have a home at Marquette University.

Stay engaged and let us know how you are doing. Nothing makes us prouder than to hear how you are “changing the world.”

Remember that you are not leaving Marquette, but that you will be taking Marquette with you as you start a new chapter in your life.

Thank you for all you have done for Marquette University.


May God bless the Marquette University Class of 2022.