(Posted May 24, 2024)

HUNTINGDON, Pa.—Under clearing skies, Juniata College’s Class of 2024 came together on the quad in front of the Halbritter Center for the Performing Arts on May 11 for the 146th commencement ceremony, marking the culmination of an academic journey rooted in resilience and determination. 

A total of 334 graduates received their degrees, 37 students completed master’s degrees, 75 earned bachelor of arts degrees, and 222 presented with their bachelor of science degrees.   

“I have been proud to be your provost for the entirety of your college careers, and it has been a real blessing and joy for me to act as your president in your final semester,” said Acting President and Provost Lauren Bowen. “Thank you for your support and all the energy you have provided this semester.”  

For many members of the Class of 2024, the occasion marked their first traditional graduation ceremony as their high school graduations were disrupted by the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Bowen asked the crowd to give themselves a round of applause, reminding them to take the time to celebrate their accomplishment.   

“I am fairly confident that our graduates are not the only people here eager to revel in the commencement ceremony and all that it means,” said Bowen. “As you know, graduates, you have not been alone in this journey, and quite a few people here today are eager to celebrate this graduation with you and for you.”  

In conclusion, Bowen reminded the Class of 2024 to thank their families and all who love them for their support, encouragement, and all they have done to make the day possible.  

Samantha Hall, senior class president, shared her pride in the resilience of her classmates.  

“I would like to take a moment to acknowledge the heart and steadfast zeal that this class exhibits,” Hall said. “The word I would use to describe the class before me is ‘adaptability.’ The feats that this class has accomplished would be admirable in anyone.”  

Two honorary doctor of humane letters degrees were bestowed upon commencement speaker Angela (Montag) Jones ’01, director of business and legal affairs (original series) at Netflix, and Dr. D. Holmes Morton, a physician specializing in genetic disorders affecting Old Order Amish and Mennonite children who plays a vital role as an instructor in Juniata’s bioinformatics graduate program.  

“It is an incredible honor that you asked me to come and speak today, on what is such an important step in your journey through life,” said Jones. “Over the past few months, I’ve thought long and hard about what I wanted to say to all of you—I wanted to find something that would be relevant, meaningful and that drew insight from what my journey in life has been since I was sitting where all of you are today.”  

Recalling the “incredible and inspiring” message delivered by Nobel Prize laureate William Phillips ’70 at her graduation in 2001, she sought advice from friends, family, and even queried Chat GPT for fun  

“I’ve experimented with these tools enough to know that what I choose to input into them will generate different, interesting, and unexpected outputs—on a daily, and even sometimes minute-to-minute basis,” Jones said.  

By adjusting the prompts, she was provided with suggestions like “embrace lifelong learning,” build valuable connections,” “don’t fear uncertainty, and “save your money—you’ll need it to pay off your student loans.”   

“The good news about this exercise was that, instead of being a total waste of time, it actually became the inspiration for the message that I wanted to convey to you all today,” said Jones. “Life, generally, and one’s career path, specifically, is a delicate balance between planning and control and the unexpected twists and turns and obstacles and opportunities that it invariably will throw your way.”  

Jones emphasized that unpredictability is not automatically negative and advised remaining open to unknown and unexpected opportunities. She shared her personal career journey, which transitioned from pursuing bankruptcy law to working in the entertainment industry.   

“You probably already all realize this, but there may be no better institution than Juniata to prepare you to heed this advice. The ability to create a highly personalized POE (Program of Emphasis) enables you to tailor and prepare what you are putting into this upfront planning in the most personalized manner possible,” Jones said. “And even if you are leaving here today questioning where ultimately your degree will take you, I know that Juniata and your liberal arts education that has taught you to ask questions and be open to considering new points of view has trained you to be agile and adapt to whatever you may encounter.” 

Contact April Feagley at feaglea@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3131 for more information.