RINDGE — Franklin Pierce University’s Class of 2022 is thankful. For their classmates, for their educators, and — maybe most importantly — for an in-person commencement.

On Saturday morning, the graduating Ravens moved their tassels to the left with loved ones cheering from the crowd. This year marks the first occasion since 2019 that non-graduates were allowed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“You were simply unwilling to give up your desire to have a meaningful and memorable academic and student life experience on this campus, all while caring for one another in unprecedented ways ... ,” said President Kim Mooney, who presented each of the degrees. “You are Raven Nation at its best.”

Under clear skies in an outdoor ceremony at the university’s Rindge campus, roughly 519 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students received their degrees.

Undergraduate Valedictorian Viridiana Vasquez Kloss told the class she is grateful to have called Franklin Pierce her home (despite, she joked, it being “literally in the middle of nowhere.”)

“FPU tries to bring out the best in us and has helped us get to this point in our lives; it has prepared us for what will come next,” she said. “Thanks to FPU, we know that it will not be easy, but we know that it will be worth trying as many times as necessary until we achieve our goals.”

Originally from Veracruz, Mexico, she signed her first professional soccer contract and is currently playing for the Puebla women’s football club in Liga, Mexico. On Saturday, she received her degree in management with a minor in marketing.

Other 2022 graduates included Preston Warren of Gardner, Mass.

The 22-year-old psychology major said he has “a lot of mixed emotions” about leaving Franklin Pierce.

“It’s really hard to take in, I think,” he said. “But I’m also excited to move on to the next chapter of my life, whatever that’ll be.”

With plans to go to graduate school after taking a gap year, Warren said his hope is to become a pediatric therapist.

Florisbeth Joseph, of Lake Hopatcong, N.J., is the first person in her family to graduate from college. That comes with a lot of emotions.

“I’m proud of myself,” she said.

Joseph, who received her Bachelor of Science in biology, is coming back to Franklin Pierce to get her master’s in health care administration. After that, she hopes to attend physician assistant’s school.

Joseph was also one of the 2022 recipients of the university’s Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King awards, which celebrate the diversity, equity and inclusion work of students.

“I’m very honored,” she said. “It felt unexpected.”

In addition to the students, Franklin Pierce also conferred two honorary degrees Saturday on Richard Griffiths and Joyce Maynard.

Griffiths is a media ethicist with more than 40 years of journalistic experience. He has worked with several media outlets, including extensively with CNN. There, among many other accolades, he led the network’s coverage of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and provided editorial oversight to its fact-checking during several presidential elections.

Griffiths has taught journalism ethics, investigative reporting and editorial management throughout the country, including at Franklin Pierce.

Maynard has been a novelist, memoirist and journalist for more than four decades. A New Hampshire native, she began publishing her stories in magazines at only 13 years old.

Since then, her work has been featured in several national outlets, including The New York Times, Vogue and National Public Radio. She is the author of 18 books, including The New York Times bestselling novels “Labor Day” and “To Die For,” both of which were adapted for film.

“Go live your story,” Maynard said. “But also live it knowing it is important, it is valuable. There is somebody else out there, who, when they hear your story, will feel less alone with their own. And it is not the heroic moments that are going to bring your reader to that, it’s the places where you are brave enough, fearless enough, and shameless enough to tell the truth.”

The university also gave out its annual Honorable Walter R. Peterson Citizen Leader Award, which recognizes commitment to public service and higher education.

Peterson served two terms as governor of New Hampshire and was president of Franklin Pierce from 1975 to 1995.

This year’s honoree, James Brett, has been a leading voice for public policy issues on health care, education, financial services and sustainable energy throughout New England.

In 1996, he was appointed president and CEO of the New England Council, the nation’s oldest regional business association which focuses on initiatives and policy advocacy.

Most recently, Brett was chosen by President Joe Biden as the chair of the President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities, a role he has served in previous administrations.

Olivia Belanger can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1439, or obelanger@keenesentinel.com. Follow her on Twitter @OBelangerKS.

Olivia Belanger is the health reporter for The Sentinel, covering issues from the opioid crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic to mental health services in the region. A N.H. native, she joined The Sentinel team in August 2019.