Downie and Lemire selected as Commencement speakers

Courtesy of PBS and the Barr Foundation

Pine Street Inn President Lyndia Downie and Associated Press Reporter Jonathan Lemire will address the Class of 2020 during commencement ceremonies May 24. 

Downie will address the undergraduate class, while Lemire will give the graduate commencement address.

Since 1984, Downie has worked at the Inn, which provides assistance and services to the homeless community in Boston. Serving as president and executive director, Downie helps the Inn assist more than 2,000 homeless individuals and prepare 2,700 meals daily. 

“We are honored to have her address our graduating Class of 2020,” said FSU President F. Javier Cevallos in a press release Feb. 19. 

“I’m certain she will leave them inspired to head out into the world and do good for others,” he added. 

Pine Street Inn’s mission is to help homeless individuals move from the streets and shelters into secure homes. It also strives to assist formerly homeless individuals with the opportunity to retain housing. 

“Under Lyndia Downie’s leadership, no organization has done more to assist the most vulnerable population in Greater Boston,” Cevallos said. 

Fifty years since its founding, the Pine Street Inn continues to work with homeless individuals to provide emergency services, permanent housing, and workforce development, among other resources. 

In an email to The Gatepost, FSU Communications Director Daniel Magazu said, “As someone who has spent her life helping others, I think she will probably encourage our graduates to do the same.” 

The Class of 2020 will also be fundraising in order to present Downie with a donation to Pine Street Inn as a thank you. 

Downie will also be presented with an honorary degree from the University during the undergraduate ceremony. 

Jonathan Lemire, Associated Press White House reporter and political analyst, will speak at the graduate ceremony. 

“Journalists like Jonathan Lemire are critical to helping the public separate fact from fiction, so that they can make informed decisions,” Cevallos said.

A native of Lowell, Lemire was a former New York Daily News reporter, who covered the 9/11 terrorist attacks and 2012 presidential election. He joined the Associated Press in 2013, where he now reports on presidential campaigns, as well as the daily happenings of the Trump administration. 

According to the press release, Lemire is the nephew of FSU professor Stephen Lemire, who is the coordinator of the Master of Healthcare Administration Program. 

“He has a fascinating career that I’m sure will be of interest to our graduate students. I suspect he will discuss how he got to where he is in life, and what important lessons he’s learned along the way,” said Magazu.

Cevallos added, “We are so thankful to him for taking time out of his hectic schedule to address our graduate students.”

During the graduate ceremony, Lemire will be presented with an honorary degree from the University.

The two speakers were selected by the Commencement Speaker Advisory Committee. The Committee is composed of FSU staff, faculty, and administrators as well as the Class of 2020 officers. 

Magazu, who is a committee member, said, “The group gathers to discuss different names, potential themes, and to solicit input from the student officers on whom they might be interested in hearing from. 

“We also work with the Student Involvement and Leadership Development Office to poll the senior class on speakers they would like to hear from. The responses are weighed into our decision making,” he added in an email. 

As for the Committee’s selection of speakers, Magazu said, “I can tell you that everyone who I spoke with on the committee felt very positive about Lyndia Downie and Jonathan Lemire.

“I am very excited to hear from our two speakers,” he added. 

President Cevallos said commencement planning is exciting.

“Commencement is my favorite day on the academic calendar,” he said. “Our students work hard to earn their degrees. To get the chance to celebrate this accomplishment with their family members who have supported them along the way is truly special.”

He added, “The thing I look forward to most that day is the joy on the students’ faces as they receive their degrees and the energy of the audience.”

Commencement will be held at the DCU Center in Worcester starting at 10 a.m. for the undergraduate ceremony and 2 p.m. for the graduate ceremony. 

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