USM Graduation 2008: A Soul-Centered Ceremony Honoring the 2008 Graduates
The University of Santa Monica held its 27th Graduation ceremony on Sunday, August 24, 2008. 210 graduates received their Masters' degrees in Spiritual Psychology and Counseling Psychology on this occasion filled with joy and celebration. This year, USM' s Consciousness, Health, and Healing Program held their graduation ceremony at a separate location in early August. There were 78 graduates of the CHH Program this year, bringing the total number of graduates for 2008 to a record high for the University: 288.
Royce Hall, located on the UCLA campus, was the venue for the graduation ceremony, and the 1,850-seat hall was overflowing with graduates, faculty, trustees, students, volunteers, and honored guests. A feeling of excitement and tremendous joy was in the air, and no doubt experienced by all who entered the doors of Royce Hall to attend the event.
Faculty member Sherry Phelan welcomed the audience with opening remarks from the podium. The students and faculty entered the auditorium at 2:00 p.m. to the majestic strains of " Pomp and Circumstance" played on the hall' s massive pipe organ by graduate Estelle Day (class of 1987).
" We are both happy and sad that this particular class is graduating this year. We have been so blessed by these students," shared Dr. Ron Hulnick, President of the University.
Ceremony begins with an Invocation
Singer Candace Wheeler, a graduate of the class of 1994, was accompanied by Ming Freeman on the piano. As she sang to the audience, setting the stage for the event, she brought exquisite heart into the lyrics of her song: " Let me be Your Voice, let me be Your Light, let me be Your Peace, let me be Your Love."
The ceremony continued as Sherry Phelan returned to the podium to welcome USM' s President, Dr. Ron Hulnick to the stage. " Ronald Hulnick demonstrates the principles of unconditional loving. He brings great Heart and Soul into this educational format. Dr. Hulnick is a true magician: he transforms lives."
After enthusiastic applause from the audience, Dr. Hulnick began his remarks by acknowledging USM' s Board of Trustees and the Vice-Chancellor of the University, John Morton. " Although he is not able to be physically present with us this afternoon, I especially want to acknowledge the man who has made all of this possible, our Chancellor and Founder, John-Roger."
" I am left with a question &ndash' several questions actually," shared Dr. Hulnick. " What will you do with your USM Degree? What contribution to your world will you be making? What is the value you have received by participating in this Program?"
" It is in times of challenge when the value of a USM education comes most to bear. We learned together these past two years that what is truly valuable in our lives has little to do with the Goal Line of Life."
The bottom line statement about what is of the truest value? " It is about learning to be a more loving person, which encompasses being patient, compassionate, caring, and a lot of other transcendent qualities," said Dr. Hulnick. " There is a quote that all you graduates have heard Mary and I say by the mystic and poet, Rumi: 'Out beyond ideas of right doing and wrong doing is a field. I' ll meet you there.' " As the audience listened attentively, Ron talked about how the graduating class had spent the time at the Practicum learning to center themselves in " Rumi' s field."
" I' ll make a prediction," continued Ron. " The future belongs not to the fighters but to those who learn to work together in cooperation and harmony. I am at a loss for the words that can adequately convey what it was like to experience being in Rumi' s field together during the Practicum." He addressed the graduates directly: " In that place, you all made a decision to quit blaming others. You sacrificed the world according to the way you 'wished' it would be and learned to cooperate with it the way it is. You decided to let go of your stories. Our world was completely sewn together with strands of love."
He went on to read the last stanza of a poem by Robert Frost:
" ...But yield who will to their separation,
My object in living is to unite
My avocation and my vocation
As my two eyes make one in sight.
Only where love and need are one,
And the work is play for mortal stakes,
Is the deed ever really done
For Heaven and the future' s sakes."
Dr. Hulnick concluded his remarks to the graduates in the form of a challenge: " In the words of John Wesley, 'Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.' And, yes... start with your name and do your homework early!!!"
Awarding the Degrees
Following his introductory remarks, Dr. Hulnick welcomed his wife and the University' s Chief Academic Officer, Dr. Mary Hulnick to the stage. The audience of students and guests alike roared their approval as she stood at the podium. " I love you too," she said, as she beamed a radiant smile to the graduates and guests in the auditorium. Dr. Hulnick spoke about the Spiritual Psychology Programs and commented that this year' s class is the largest in the history of USM.
She shared her gratitude to the University' s Founder, John-Roger, who said, " 'When you get a degree from the University of Santa Monica, it won' t be that you just passed a prescribed line of curriculum, it will be because you can do what the degree says you can do.' This event is a joyful commemoration of your remarkable achievements. I' d also like to thank the families of the graduates who are in the hall today, as well as those individuals that are present today who support the University in ways seen and unseen."
Master of Arts Degrees in Spiritual Psychology were conferred upon 171 students, with 24 more receiving Certificates of Completion in Spiritual Psychology. Those receiving Master of Arts degrees in Counseling Psychology numbered 15. Master' s Degree recipients were honored with the traditional hooding ceremony after which they received their degrees and stepped to the front of the stage to move their tassel from left to right, signaling that they were moving from the realm of " student" to " graduate."
After the 210 graduates of 2008 received their certificates and degrees, there were special awards given to the Students of the Year and Angels of the Year.
Next, psychotherapist, philosopher, and author Piero Ferrucci was invited to the stage to deliver his address to the graduates and guests. Two of Dr. Ferrucci' s landmark books are used as textbooks in the Spiritual Psychology Program: What We May Be, a book on Roberto Assagioli' s work with the technique of Psychosynthesis, and The Power of Kindness.
The Class of 2008 had developed a special relationship with Dr. Ferrucci, as several of the students traveled to Italy to meet with him in person during the past year. Given their enthusiastic sharing of their encounters with him, it was only natural that USM would do whatever they could to engage Dr. Ferrucci as the graduation speaker for this class. He traveled from Florence, Italy with his two sons to give the commencement address.
" Mama Mia!!!"
This was Dr. Ferrucci' s first statement, when he was met with the thunderous applause by the students seated in the graduate section. " I' m overwhelmed," he shared, as the audience quieted down in anticipation of his speech.
The theme of Dr. Ferrucci' s talk was Beauty. " What can beauty do for us?" he asked. " Beauty moves us, transforms us in such a way that the old self can disintegrate. Beauty is much more than just surface enjoyment, much more than words can impart. Beauty is a vacation from the ego, an experience of timelessness during which we forget about our worries."
He talked about beauty in its many forms: natural beauty, art, music, as well as the inner forms of beauty to be found in people in such qualities as honesty, kindness, intelligence, etc. " This is the opposite of what I will call the 'cult of beauty' in which those who have great physical beauty are thought to be superior to the rest of us. Everyone has their own inner beauty. We all have to be trained and open enough to see it."
" We can learn to see beauty anywhere," he continued. " It only depends upon how large our range is. We can see the beauty in one thing and then expand our perception to see it in everything, and on into the Universe!" He also stated that we have to be willing to do the difficult work of reflecting on " ugliness," which he referred to as " disruptive and harmful." " Without our reflecting on the ugliness in the world, our appreciation of beauty becomes merely sentimental."
Dr. Ferrucci talked about the many benefits of celebrating beauty in our lives, and one benefit in particular that took on a deep meaning, in terms of the ongoing work of evolution in consciousness that we study at USM. He shared, " Beauty makes us happy. We want to be alive when we perceive the world as beautiful." A psychological task that all of us need to undertake in order to lead fulfilling lives is to " step over the line" and make a conscious decision to live in this world. " If people only look at the challenges and difficulties of being alive, they might decide not to step over that line. Many of us have not made the conscious choice to be here. We think we don' t belong here, that we are aliens."
" I tell people to think of beauty and its 10,000 wonders of music, art, nature, spirit, etc. â€” to picture that. When they connect with that, then they will say 'Yes. I will step over. I want to be here.' "
In closing, Dr. Ferrucci advised: " Beauty is born in sharing. We can appreciate beauty in the mind, but it is most powerfully felt in the heart and through sharing it with the ones we love." He brought forward a Navajo saying, " May you walk in beauty. My wish for you is that you may live in Beauty."
Mortonette Jenkins " USM' s angel," as Sherry introduced her, closed the ceremony with a song that echoed the remarks by Piero Ferrucci. Her voice invoked an experience of beauty, both on the level of sound and lyrics. She sang, " No two people in this world are exactly the same/We are the colors of the heart/A perfect work of art/Love is every shade of beautiful."
The End of a Beautiful Day
The Class of 2008 was encouraged to go forward, living their lives by demonstrating the ultimate competency of a USM Graduate: an unconditionally loving consciousness. At the conclusion of the ceremony, grads and their families celebrated on the patio where light refreshments were served. It was a beautiful ending to a beautiful day.
Through the principles and practices of Spiritual Psychology, the graduates of the University of Santa Monica have been provided with personal transformation to equip them to make a meaningful contribution to their world. The principles and practices of Spiritual Psychology, as delivered through the unique method of Soul-Centered education, have a powerful influence in raising the frequency of the planet and bringing more loving and beauty into our lives and the lives of those we touch.
Congratulations Class of 2008–YOU ARE THIS UNIVERSITY OF SANTA MONICA! Thank you for your wholehearted participation. Each one of you is a precious gift. We cherish and celebrate you!