The evenings of Thursday and Friday July 1-2, 2021 were special occasions for the entire ACG community. The most anticipated event of events, Deree Commencement, having skipped a year due to the pandemic, concluded with great success! The ceremonies were rolled out with the utmost precautions against COVID-19, and hence the number of guests was limited to the close families of the graduates and of course the Members of the ACG Community as well as distinguished guests. 869 undergraduate and graduate students in total, from 32 countries across the globe, gathered at the ACG Stadium and were applauded for their years of hard work, perseverance, determination and outstanding performance that led them to this pivotal moment in college life, Graduation Day!
More specifically, on Thursday, July 1, the Ceremony was held for the undergraduate students who completed their studies this year. Respectively, on Friday, July 2, the diploma awarding ceremony of the undergraduate and postgraduate students who graduated in 2020 took place, which was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. In the same ceremony, the postgraduate students who completed their studies this year received their diplomas.
The events, during which all health protocols were observed, took place in the presence of a few relatives and were also broadcast online for those who could not attend physically.
President David G. Horner gave the opening remarks and welcomed the audience and the Classes of 2020-2021 to the greatest Ceremonies of the year:
“These graduates, with the support of the faculty and staff of the College, have pursued their academic plans and programs under unexpected, unforeseen, and unprecedented conditions. In so doing, they have demonstrated their determination, their adaptability, and their self-discipline. They have learned new skills and utilized new tools, all of which were needed to maintain their academic progress over the past 15 months and all of which will serve them well in the future.”
The American Ambassador H.E. Geoffrey R. Pyatt, who was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Deree – The American College of Greece, participated in the ceremony on July 1, 2021. Mr. Pyatt started his remarks by acknowledging the passing of Sue Horner “whose contributions to the growth of the American College of Greece, and to women’s empowerment, have shaped education on both sides of the Atlantic. I know Sue remains a source of inspiration for the many who benefited from her guidance and leadership, and for the Athens educational community at large” Mr. Pyatt concluded. Addressing the graduates, he said: “As you reach this milestone in your lives, I hope that the challenges of the past year and a half only add to the sense of accomplishment you feel today. You have made it through college in the midst of a once-in-a-century crisis, demonstrating resilience, seriousness, and compassion. You have a lot to be proud of”. And he went on to add: “You graduate today not just as citizens of Greece, but as citizens of a world that is more connected than ever before in human history. In your hands, you have powerful technological tools that have enabled instantaneous communication and are helping to grow human knowledge and innovation at an unprecedented pace. You are better prepared than most to address these challenges because your Deree education has taught you to tackle problems that demand fresh, global perspectives.”
On July 1, Alexia-Aikaterini Tsardaloglou delivered the Student Address to her fellow graduates. “Under circumstances that felt like a sci-fi movie scenario — we adapted and managed to achieve our goal. We graduated. And for that, we owe a huge thank you to our support systems — the ones in front and behind the scenes. First, to all doctors and health workers. Nothing would have been possible without you. Second, to our professors, family, friends and loved ones. Nothing would have been possible without you either. But most of all, we owe a huge bravo to ourselves —for enduring and succeeding under unimaginably difficult conditions; conditions when connections with others were truly precious— but at the end of the day it was the connection we had with ourselves that kept us going”.
On July 2, the ceremony’s Honorary Degree recipient was the Ambassador of Greece to Canada, H.E. Dimitrios Azemopoulos. Mr. Azemopoulos addressed the young people urging them not to be afraid to adamantly follow their dream. “We should not be afraid to vigorously pursue our dream. In doing so, we need to have a clear picture of the path to follow; to be aware of the needed sacrifices and the hurdles to overcome, and to know who we truly are and aspire to become. Most of all, we need to believe in ourselves and be ready to fight until the very end for our purpose.” And he went on to add: “While trying to excel, I urge you not to forget the people around you. Always be there for them. Spread light around you, in your workplace, among your friends, in your family. Whenever you do it, you will feel a reinvigorating energy inside you. You will feel stronger, fulfilled, happy. In short, the more you inspire those around you, the more you yourself, become inspired by them”.
Finally, Foteini Galli delivered the farewell speech to her fellow graduates. “After spending 4 years at Deree – The American College of Greece, it made us feel like marines trained, by the top, to survive under tough circumstances, with a tool kit of necessary knowledge and expertise. We feel ready to face the challenges as we have been trained to respond to them. Deree has taught us that to not know is OK, as long we are willing to discover. And out there is a world which needs discovering. We became a family, one which will ‘soldier us on’ through the years to come. How could we not be a unit? Together we learned language skills, we delved deep into Computer Science, we spent hours honing Marketing, Psychology, Theater… only to find out that Deree was teaching us much more: Inclusiveness, Collaboration, Initiative & Discipline. We became caring volunteers. We discovered hobbies, we had fun in clubs and societies. We got all this from an American institution in the heart of Greece. We have been eyeing the future together while touching thousands of years of history and doing homework under the Athenian sun. I wish these 4 years could last forever! But the world awaits us”.
After receiving their degrees, the freshly minted graduates threw their caps in the air, joining the ranks of 60,000 ACG alumni in Greece and across the world” while the flash of fireworks, in both ceremonies, lit up the night sky of Aghia Paraskevi.