Saint Joseph's College of Maine Celebrates Class of 2024 Graduates During Commencement Weekend

On Saturday, May 11, 2024, Saint Joseph’s College of Maine celebrated the accomplishments of its Class of 2024 during a Commencement ceremony held outside at the college’s Alfond Center. Close to 400 graduates were honored during Commencement, representing eight states for Saint Joseph’s on-campus programs and 30 states plus Canada for its online programs. The ceremony featured addresses by speakers including student representatives, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland’s new bishop, the Most Reverend James Ruggieri, and College President, Joseph L. Cassidy.

“Today we celebrate a new beginning as you — our graduates — advance your careers or continue your education following your success here at Saint Joseph’s College,” said Joseph Cassidy, President.  “At Saint Joseph’s kindness abounds.  I see it in our students. I see it in our staff and faculty, and I see it in the classroom, on the field of competition, and in the quiet moments around campus.  Surely, this is the legacy of the Sisters of Mercy who founded this college, and who continue to guide us today with their presence and with their prayers. The sisters have given us a great gift, and it is our responsibility to steward and care for that legacy.  As graduates of Saint Joseph’s College, I challenge you to embrace the responsibility of carrying our shared Mercy values out into the world. I challenge you to make a difference, indeed, to make the world a better place.”

The Commencement ceremonies began with representatives of the Claddagh Mhor Pipe Band leading the procession of the graduates. This tradition is to honor the origins of the Sisters of Mercy in Ireland and was followed by a performance of the National Anthem by Holly Sanborn, M.A., Manager of Student Accessibility Services (ACE).

Class of ‘24 valedictorian, Hailey Anderson, gave the first student address during Saturday’s Commencement ceremony. Anderson is from Beverly, Massachusetts and graduated as a biology/pre-physician assistant major with a chemistry minor. In her time at Saint Joseph’s, she was vice president of the Delta Epsilon Sigma chapter, a member of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), and a two-year captain of the Saint Joseph's women's basketball team, contributing to back-to-back GNAC conference championships.

“The class of 2024 did not have an easy route to get to this point,” remarked Hailey Anderson, ’24, during her address. “The last time we received a diploma, we were in the heightened stages of a global pandemic. Some of us had drive-through graduations, virtual ceremonies, or no ceremony at all. But now, here we are, finally getting the moment we all so rightly deserve. To say I am proud to be a part of this group that has shown such perseverance is an understatement.”

The online program student message was delivered by class of ’24 graduate, Kendra Rickwald, from Santa Cruz, California. Rickwald graduated with a Bachelor of Science in radiologic science administration. She began her collegiate return at Saint Joseph’s in 2018, balancing her responsibilities as a student and mother of three. Following graduation, Kendra plans to apply the skills and insights she has learned towards patient advocacy and continuous quality improvement, with a focus on women's health.

“When I found a fully online program at SJC I was tired, and frustrated from a decade in healthcare, as well as falling through the healthcare cracks as a patient and new mother.  Knowing with every fiber of my being that our health system could do better,” said Kendra Rickwald, ’24. “A new healthcare path materialized here, as I felt called to patient advocacy and women’s health issues.  My SJC professors helped nurture my calling and supported me in furthering this mission.”

Following both speakers, class reflections were shared by Abigail O’Brien, ’24, from Gorham, Maine, and Carly Downey, ’24, from Yarmouth, Maine. Faculty and Staff Excellence Awards were then presented, honoring Kathleen Clements, Ed.D., for the Faculty Excellence in Teaching Award, Shiela Sheehan for the Staff Excellence in Service Award, and Camilla Bridge, M.S. and Steve Bridge, Ph.D., for the Sustaining Communities Award.

In addition, the Invocation and Benediction at Commencement were provided by Bishop James Ruggieri. Saint Joseph’s College’s Baccalaureate Mass and Commencement were two of his first public events as bishop following his ordination on Tuesday, May 7, 2024. The attendance of Portland’s newly ordained bishop reflected the College’s connection to both the surrounding community and its Catholic identity.

"This is a beautiful occasion for us to come together, and pray for our graduates as they go forward," noted Bishop Ruggieri during Friday’s Baccalaureate Mass. "Saint Joseph's College is a community. As you have had the chance to be a part of this community, one that has nourished you and you have nourished with your presence, I pray that the relationships you have built here will endure and carry on for the rest of your lives. The communities and friendships we find ourselves a part of, within and beyond Saint Joseph's College, can make a difference in the lives of others."

Following the aforementioned Baccalaureate Mass on Friday, May 10, Saint Joseph’s College hosted a nursing pinning ceremony. Held to recognize the successful completion of a nursing graduate’s education, nurse pinning ceremonies date back to the 19th century and were first held at Saint Joseph’s in 1978.

Recorded videos of the Baccalaureate Mass, nursing pinning ceremony, and Commencement ceremony are now available online at