Surrounded by the stately moss-draped oak trees of Cistern Yard, friends and family members cheered and applauded as over 900 graduates crossed the stage in two separate ceremonies on Saturday, May 13, 2023, to officially become the newest College of Charleston alumni.

will ward and todd mcnerney

Will Ward (left) and Todd McNerney (right) addressed graduates during commencement ceremonies on Saturday.

Students from the School of Business, the School of Education and the School of Health Sciences received their degrees during the Saturday morning ceremony, while Saturday afternoon was the time to honor the graduates from the Graduate School of the University of Charleston, the School of the Arts and the School of Sciences, Mathematics, and Engineering.

College of Charleston President Andrew T. Hsu reminded the graduates that this commencement ceremony is not the only “once-in-a-lifetime experience” this class has encountered.

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“Your experiences these past years have been very different from those of your family members and loved ones,” said Hsu. “The pandemic, current tensions, both domestic and international, as well as the dawn of artificial intelligence give you a preview of what may come in the future. Times are changing more quickly than ever, and you are showing yourselves capable of changing with them.”

In his commencement speech to the graduates in the Saturday morning ceremony, Will Ward ’93, the founder and CEO of Los Angeles-based business development firm Forward Ventures, urged the graduates to be fearless and believe in themselves.

“Go out in the world and make your mark,” said Ward. “You are inheriting a pretty complex world and country now, and it’s your job to make it a better place. Bring people together. Have compassion. Live your life with integrity. And always know that the only thing that can hold you back is you.”

In the afternoon ceremony, Todd McNerney, associate dean of the School of the Arts and a professor of performance in the Department of Theatre and Dance, praised the graduates for their perseverance.

RELATED: View the spring commencement program with the names of all graduates.

graduate students wearing caps and gowns

Graduate students during the afternoon commencement ceremony. (Photos by Mike Ledford)

“Over these last few years, you have met the challenges of your professors and the challenges of their classes,” said McNerney. “You have experienced a once-in-a-hundred-year pandemic, and you have undoubtedly faced numerous trials and tribulations specific to your own life circumstances – all of which have allowed you to arrive at this moment.”

The afternoon ceremony also featured the College’s first systems engineering majors participating in a commencement ceremony. The College of Charleston launched its new Systems Engineering Program in the fall of 2020.