Marian L. Heard, founding director of Points of Light Institute, exhorts Class of 2011 to “do something!” at University of Bridgeport’s 101st Commencement


“I’m the only thing standing between you and that precious piece of paper, so listen up!” Marion L. Heard told the Class of 2011 as she launched into her keynote address at the University of Bridgeport’s 101st Commencement, held at the Arena at Harbor Yard on Saturday.

Listen up, they did.

Heard, who has mobilized millions of Americans to volunteer as the founding chairman and CEO of the Points of Light Institute, energized the 1,470 graduates and their families by calling on them to “do something” for positive change in the world.

She wasted no time, either, to remind graduates that getting their degrees would not have been possible without the support and sacrifice of their families who “gave something up so you could be here today with your cap and gown. Don’t forget it. You did not do it alone.”

Heard’s humor matched her candor. In speaking of the dangers of hubris, for example, she recounted the time that heavyweight champ Muhammed Ali refused to fasten his seat belt on a plane because “Superman don’t need no seat belt.”

Heard continued, “the flight attendant, a woman, responded, ‘Superman don’t need a plane, either.’”

And thus it went.

She admonished those with cell phones: “I see you texting! Text this and send it out to everyone on your contact list: A-M-Z-G- S-P-K-R. Amazing speaker! … People like me do notice. So remember ESP – Elegant Self-Promotion. Carry yourself with pride. Carry yourself with focus and force.”

Striving and achieving excellence, she continued, would enable graduates to produce effective change for others’ benefit.

“Every 16 seconds a child dies because of lack of water … In America today, a child drops out of school every 26 seconds. So I need you to—”

“Do something!” graduates called out, finishing the sentence.

Heard’s message was echoed by University President Neil Albert Salonen, who told graduates “You cannot look out at the problems of the world and wait for ‘them’ to solve them. Today, you have become one of them.”

Both addresses resonated with graduates like Sandra Granath, who earned her bachelor’s in International Policy and Development. Granath, 25, is moving to Taiwan over the summer to learn Mandarin on a grant this summer. ”I want to work with the development of third world projects.”

Graduates were joined by members of the Class of 1961, who were honored as Golden Knights on the 50th anniversary of their graduation. Dressed in bright yellow cap and gowns, the group marched across the stage to robust applause.

A separate Commencement ceremony will be held for 131 health science degree candidates on May 22.

Dorothea E. Brennan, a member of the Connecticut Board of Governors of Higher Education, also spoke. Jose Ricardo Aguilar delivered the senior class Commencement address.

Media contact: Leslie Geary, (203) 57604625,