Celebratory members of the Class of 2024 toss their graduation caps in the air and cheer and smile.

Bucknell Honors Class of 2024 Graduates

May 12, 2024

by Matt Jones

Members of the Class of 2024 celebrate their graduation at Bucknell's 174th Commencement ceremony. Photo by Emily Paine, Marketing & Communications

​The Bucknell community gathered together on Malesardi Quadrangle Sunday, May 12, to celebrate the academic achievements of the Class of 2024, a group of graduates whose educational journey was distinguished by passion, resilience and poise.

"Today we celebrate you, our degree candidates, and your years of hard work and perseverance," University President John C. Bravman said in his address to the Class of 2024. "You remained focused on your goals and today join a community of more than 56,000 Bucknell alumni worldwide.

"You rose above the challenges to discover your passions and pursue your interests. As a class, you came together and succeeded … we salute you for your academic achievements — and so much more. We honor your courage and fortitude, your patience and persistence, and your deep capacity for friendship and care."

John Bravman stands at a podium and speaks at the Class of 2024's Commencement

Bucknell President John C. Bravman praised the Class of 2024 for rising above challenges and demonstrating courage and fortitude. Photo by Emily Paine, Marketing & Communications

Bucknell's 174th Commencement ceremony awarded 874 degrees — 862 bachelor's degrees and 12 master's degrees — to students from 32 states and 21 countries. The College of Arts & Sciences conferred 544 undergraduate degrees, the College of Engineering conferred 157, and the Freeman College of Management conferred 161.

University leaders, faculty, family members and friends — including Buckell benefactor Doris Malesardi — gathered at the heart of campus to celebrate the graduates. Doris and her late husband, Bob '45, P'75, P'79, P'87, G'08, for whom Malesardi Quadrangle is named, expanded access at Bucknell by generously supporting need-based financial aid, promising to transform the lives of future generations of Bucknellians.

The ceremony began in accordance with Bucknell tradition, with graduates passing through the Christy Mathewson Gates on the way to Malesardi Quad, as the Penn Central Wind Band, under the direction of Professor William Kenny, music, performed the commencement staple "Pomp and Circumstance." Traditionally played at high school graduations, the song was chosen by Kenny as an appropriate selection for the Class of 2024, who because of the pandemic did not have traditional high school graduation ceremonies.

Under a slate gray sky and amid light rainfall, Alexandra Slofkiss '24, a biology major from Marlboro, N.J., opened the ceremony by singing the national anthem. Following the presentation of degrees, student speaker Lea Tarzy '24, an accounting major from Medford, N.J., provided the class response.

"A well of strength and resistance"

In her speech to classmates, Tarzy recounted the serendipitous moment that led her to enroll at Bucknell. While at the airport returning from a recruiting visit during her first year of high school, she met an alumnus who explained how a Bucknell liberal arts education broadened his mind and allowed him to pursue many different interests at once. This encounter, coupled with her encouraging interactions with coaches and professors on campus, sealed the deal. "I made a decision, stuck with it, and consider myself lucky with how true that initial impression turned out to be," she said.

Lea Tarzy stands at the podium and speaks into a mic while wearing a cap and gown and colorful honor cords.

Student speaker Lea Tarzy '24 reflected on how her classmates found strength and unity and forged friendships despite the challenges of the pandemic. Photo by Emily Paine, Marketing & Communications

Tarzy's journey wasn't without its hardships, as the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the early days of her college experience, when so many new relationships were just beginning to form. But she and her classmates discovered a well of strength and resilience within their campus community.

"Amid frequent reminders to maintain our social distance, we began building our social networks. We made friends through muffled masks and formed connections that withstood contact tracing and hotel quarantines," she said. "The pandemic brought us closer as a class in many ways.

In March, the class' resolve was again tested by the loss of a classmate, Christian Samay '24, who was honored with a moment of silence and the conferral of his degree during the ceremony. "Each one of us is different, complex and beautiful, and our interactions have impacted one another in so many ways," Tarzy said. "As we leave Bucknell and move beyond, we take the best of each other wherever we go."

"Push boundaries and provoke change"

Keynote speaker, creative producer and documentary filmmaker Nadia Sasso '11 channeled the legacy of her family's fierce and tenacious spirit to impart to the nearly 900 graduates just how important it is to be persistent in the face of adversity. The recipient of Bucknell's Young Alumni Award in 2021, Sasso earned a master of arts from Lehigh University and a doctorate from Cornell University. Her work has been recognized by former President Barack Obama and former network news anchor Katie Couric, and her app BlaytorBlox works to connect companies, brands and filmmakers to BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and other people of color) professionals working in creative fields.

While she has achieved success across different creative industries, Sasso shared the trials and challenges that marked the early stages of her journey at Bucknell. "I took on multiple jobs on campus to support myself and contribute to my family's needs. By day, I worked at the career center and the alumni relations center; by night, I was a barista at the 7th Street Café," she said. "This balancing act was exhausting."

Nadia Sasso '11 speaks on the Commencement stage behind a podium and microphones and in front of a Bucknell University logoed backdrop.

Keynote speaker Nadia Sasso '11 emphasized the importance of persistence and tenacity while encouraging graduates to work toward meaningful change. Photo by Emily Paine, Marketing & Communications

But hard work taught her about the importance of resilience and relying on others for support, especially the network she found in Bucknell's Posse Scholars Program. Years later, she would draw on those lessons after the pandemic upended her career, and amid the unrest that followed the murder of George Floyd. "This convergence of personal and global upheaval brought into focus the enduring lessons of tenacity and community I've carried with me," she said. "It reminded me that sometimes, the support we need does not just come from the immediate community but also from our inner strength, honed by years of overcoming obstacles."

Sasso, who majored in English and sociology with a concentration in media and culture, asked the graduates to consider how they will use tenacity to make important contributions, not only to their own lives, but also to the causes that mean the most to them. "The true measure of tenacity isn't merely about persistence — it's about fostering meaningful change and questioning systems that fail us. Every act of steadfastness, no matter its scale, contributes to a larger narrative of transformation," she said. Tenacity is about "trusting in that instinct to push boundaries and provoke change, even when it's uncomfortable."

While leaving college can feel like a scary step, she reminded the graduates to lean on Bucknell's alumni network to help them navigate the world: With their degrees now conferred, the Class of 2024 joins Sasso as part of the more than 56,000-strong Bucknell alumni network, a worldwide community that's ready to support its newest members as they step out into the world.

"Building a supportive community is key. With the right people around you, any challenge can become a stepping stone to success," she said. "Embrace the complexity of this time. Lean into the discomfort. And through it all, hold onto the knowledge that you are not alone in this journey."