Gettysburg College Celebrates Class of 2024 Commencement 

By Vince DiFonzo, Editor-in-Chief

Adela Holahan ’24 sings the National Anthen (Photo courtesy Gettysburg College)

On Saturday, May 18 at 11 a.m., Gettysburg College held the 189th commencement ceremony. In line with college tradition, students of the class of 2024 processed from the south to north side of Pennsylvania Hall, inverting the procession done as first-year students at Opening Convocation. Despite morning rainfall, the ceremony was held outside on the north lawn of Pennsylvania Hall. 

A special commencement ceremony for the NCAA-bound women’s lacrosse team was held on May 14 at 5 p.m. The team was unable to attend the main commencement ceremony because they played against William Smith College at Wesleyan University on May 18.

The Processional was led by College Marshal and Professor of History Michael Birkner ’72 and the Commencement Brass Ensemble played throughout. 

After the procession, Birkner welcomed the audience and introduced Adela Holahan ’24, who sang the National Anthem. Next, Birkner introduced Valedictorian Emma Marie Ortiz ’24 for the posting of the flag of the class of 2024. Director of Religious and Spiritual Life and College Chaplain Michael Bright gave a land acknowledgement and invocation. 

Gettysburg President Bob Iuliano then gave his opening address. He first told the story of Cameron Boozer, an MLB player who faced many obstacles before becoming a professional baseball player. He encouraged graduates to persist through difficult situations, “Class of 2024, my question to you is this: what will you do when your dream pushes back?”

Iuliano also introduced the story of commencement speaker Debora Martin Chase, “The brave may not live forever but the cautious do not live at all. These aren’t my words, these are the words of Prince Renaldi of Genovia from the movie ‘The Princess Diaries,’ a film produced by our esteemed commencement speaker Deborah Martin Chase.” 

Iuliano continued, “Throughout her distinguished career, Ms. Chase had plenty of opportunity to give up or give in as she entered an industry where there were very few people who looked like her in front of the camera, let alone people who looked like her behind the camera. And yet, what did she do when her dream pushed back? She dared to endure, to sacrifice, to overcome, to live, and as a result, she changed the entertainment industry forever.” 

Gettysburg President Bob Iuliano delivers his opening address (Photo courtesy of Gettysburg College)

Iuliano then introduced Senior Class Speaker Regan Rightmire ’24. She spoke on the meaning of the word “perfection” and what it means to her, “No one is dealt a perfect hand. It’s a statement that stuck with me, begging the question: what is a perfect hand?”

Rightmire continued, “Perfect should not be used to describe legitimate perfection, but rather, it should be used to celebrate a properly imperfect journey. One that concluded just as the universe intended it to—flaws, scrapes, bruises and all. You sitting here before me today is your perfect hand—it is you revealing your cards, throwing them down on the table in triumph and grabbing what is rightfully yours. You earned it, and that is what we are celebrating today.” 

Rightmire concluded by introducing co-chairs of the Senate Class Gift Committee Aleah Ellerbee ’24 and Owen Labruna ’24, who presented the Senior Gift. The committee chose to support the Student Emergency Fund, which assists students with financial costs during times of emergency. With the help of 105 members of the class of 2024, the committee raised $2,807.

Next, Iuliano introduced Board of Trustees Chair Lauren Wise Bright ’90 for the awarding of honorary degrees. Andrew Delvano, Alexander Hamilton professor of American studies at Columbia University was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters. In addition to his work at Columbia, Delvano was honored for his advocacy for liberal arts education as president of the Teagle Foundation. 

Next, commencement speaker Debra Martin Chase was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters. She was honored for her work in the entertainment industry. Chase is a two-time Tony Award-winning producer famous for films such as “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” and “Harriet.” 

Chase then delivered the Commencement Address. Chase spoke on finding meaning and living a “consequential life.” She shared how she originally pursued a career in law, graduating from Harvard Law and working in 4 different legal jobs. She chose to attend law school, which she saw as a practical decision over attending film school, which she described as her dream. 

Debra Martin Chase delivers the Commencement Address (Photo courtesy of Gettysburg College)

“I was motivated [working in law] by a fear of failure—I didn’t love it and I didn’t feel like what I was contributing as a corporate lawyer mattered. It didn’t matter to me,” she said. 

Chase left her legal career to pursue film and television. Explaining her decision, she said, “If I was going to find true happiness and true well-being, I needed to figure out my real purpose.” Chase encouraged graduates to find meaning through their work. 

Iuliano then presented the Conferring of Degrees for the Bachelor of Arts, Science, Music and Music education. Candidates were presented by Provost Jamila Bookwala. Following this, President of the Alumni Association Al Wilkins ’06 welcomed the class of 2024 into the Alumni Association. The alma mater was performed by Adela Holahan ’24 and the Commencement Brass Ensemble, then Chaplain Bright gave the Benediction. 

Iuliano then delivered his charge to the class of 2024.

“Be brave and know that you are worthy. You are worthy of this moment. Every cheer and tear from those who love you. You are worthy of your education and the profound responsibility now entrusted to you to use it wisely and compassionately. You were worthy of being counted on to rise to the great and unfinished work of our time, and lastly you are worthy of leading a consequential life in service of a world that needs you. We know you will. Class of 2024, we believe in you.” 

Author: Vincent DiFonzo

Vincent DiFonzo ’25 serves as Editor-in-Chief for the Gettysburgian for the 2024-2025 academic year. Vince is an IGS international affairs and history major with a political science minor. He served as Content Manager in Spring 2023 and as Opinions Editor and Lead Copy Editor for the Fall 2023 semester, before studying abroad in Berlin in Spring 2024. On-campus, he is the House Leader for Public Policy House, an editor for the Gettysburg Social Science Review (GSSR), a participant in Eisenhower Institute programs and previously served as Managing Editor of Ike’s Anvil. Outside the Gettysburgian, Vince enjoys discovering new music, geography and traveling.

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