5/20/18 |Today, Maribeth Bisienere '18 Hon. oversees the park system at Walt Disney World. But, as she admitted to the crowd assembled at Dunkin’ Donuts Center for JWU Providence’s 2018 Commencement, there was a time when she lacked purpose: “When I graduated, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. So I headed out West.”
Ostensibly, she was there to ski. “But lift tickets cost money, and a girl’s gotta eat. I needed a job — and the one I found was cleaning rooms in a local hotel. I took that job and fell in love.”
We began the voyage of education + exploration — with courage + ambition as fuel.”
But here was the key: “I didn’t view my job as cleaning rooms. My job was making dreams come true. I decided I was born to be a hotelier. I learned how to do every job, from housekeeping to reservations to the front desk, where I learned to refashion plans that had fallen apart into organized bliss.”
Her lesson from that formative job neatly dovetailed with her opening vignette about a young Walt Disney, who arrived in Hollywood with just $40, a suitcase and a dream.
After an extended period of bad luck during which a number of jobs slipped through his fingers, he found himself unemployed and totally broke. Through it all, he didn’t give up his dream of starting a studio — and within 4 years, he produced “Steamboat Willie,” which introduced Mickey Mouse to the world. Noted Bisienere, “Sometimes what looks at first like defeat might actually be a shove in the right direction.”
Bisienere is clearly a big believer in holding onto those big dreams. She told the graduating class, “Look for a life you can fall in love with, where everything — where you are, who you are with, and what you do — makes your heart go pitter-pat.”
Leaps-of-faith and risk-taking were consistent threads throughout the day’s speeches. Morning keynote speaker John E. Taylor of Twin River Holding Corp. encouraged students to “take risks and venture to uncomfortable, unknown places — both geographically and intellectually,” while student speaker Thu “Aimee” Dinh Minh Tran spoke of the difficult but rewarding decision she made to leave her family in Vietnam to attend JWU: “Many of you made the same choice as I did — leaving your beloved home and family to begin the voyage of education and exploration. We embarked with courage and ambition as fuel. We fought through long nights of studying ... and New England’s brutal winters.”
Look for a life you can fall in love with.”
In conclusion, Tran evoked the common bond linking Wildcats: “We’ve learned to value relationships with people; to work hard, seize opportunities, own our success — and above all, to be our true-self and live with a purpose. No matter where you are ... use the Wildcat Way to make your mark, to inspire and empower others.”
Afternoon student speaker Josephine Wolfe — a Baking & Pastry Arts and Food Service Management major who earned multiple SkillsUSA awards in baking — spoke with pride of the drive, professionalism and work ethic instilled by a JWU education: “As Julia Child once said, ‘No one is born a great cook. One learns by doing.’ Raise your hand if you learned how to julienne carrots. How to temper chocolate. Or if you learned how to pull a double of labs and survive.”
Both ceremonies featured moving tributes to Chancellor John J. Bowen, who has announced his retirement at the end of 2018 — marking the conclusion of 45 years of remarkable leadership.
While clearly moved and humbled by the outpouring of emotion and respect from the crowd, Bowen demurred in favor of the soon-to-be grads: “Enough about me. It is your day today — congratulations, Class of 2018! I wish you great happiness, in both your personal and professional lives. Go, Wildcats!”
Find Challenges + Joy: 2018 Graduate Commencement Highlights
BELOW: WATCH VIDEO OF THU “AIMEE” DINH MINH TRAN’S INSPIRING SPEECH: