While Framingham State's commencement ceremony on Sunday was primarily about celebrating the next generation of highly educated young people who will drive the Massachusetts economy, the two loudest cheers of the day came in recognition of the accomplishments of a pair of older residents.
During the graduate ceremony, Ralph Pfeiffer of Natick received a standing ovation as he accepted his Master of Education in History at the age of 90. Pfeiffer also received his bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies from Framingham State in 2006, at the age of 84.
“Mr. Pfeiffer is truly a model for lifelong learning,” said Scott Greenberg, the associate vice president for Academic Affairs and dean of the Division of Graduate and Continuing Education.
The other deafening cheer of the day came during the undergraduate ceremony, when Framingham State President Timothy J. Flanagan presented a special service award to Edith Brown, who works as a cashier in Framingham State’s dining commons. This year, Brown, who lives in Natick, celebrated her 25th anniversary working at Framingham State, as well as her 90th birthday.
Other special guests included Carolyn Mugar, who accepted an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters on behalf of the organization Farm Aid. Mugar has been executive director of Farm Aid since its founding in 1985 by Will Nelson, Neil Young and John Mellencamp. The organization is dedicated to keeping farm families on their land.
“Family farm agriculture is still at risk,” Mugar said. “You now have the skills and experience to bring about positive changes to our food system.”
Framingham State Food and Nutrition Professor Patricia Luoto served as the graduate commencement speaker and encouraged the students to develop their character, give back to others and never forget where they came from. Luoto is director of Framingham State’s John C. Stalker Institute of Food and Nutrition and has played a major role in influencing nutrition standards and best practices at schools throughout Massachusetts.
Also during the graduate ceremony, the University presented Citizen Laureate awards to Paul Mina, President and CPO of the United Way of Tri-County, and Katie Millett, executive director of the Office of Nutrition, Health and Safety Programs at the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
The Citizen Laureate award recognizes individuals in the community who have consistently supported Framingham State University and whose work exemplifies the highest level of commitment to service and to the well-being of others.
The University recognized Mina this year for his vision and leadership in establishing Framingham’s Pearl Street Cupboard and Café, which provides food and assistance to local families in need.
Millett, a member of Framingham State’s class of 1978, was honored for her more than 30-year commitment to children and families through her work expanding child nutrition programs.