The Chaminade ‘ohana attending the 2016 Fall Commencement applauded loudly as the students, robed in graduation garb, processed into Neal Blaisdell Arena. Approximately 260 students achieved their degrees this semester.  The commencement ceremony was the culmination of hard work and a chance to publically celebrate their achievements.

Sharmaine Borja Doles (undergraduate representative) receiving her bachelor’s degree in Criminology and Criminal Justice and Derek Kiyoji Santos (postgraduate representative) receiving his Master of Education in Educational Leadership were the selected commencement salutatorian speakers. Though in different decades, Doles and Santos coincidentally both graduated from Farrington High School on the island of Oahu.

Born in a small province in the Philippines, Doles migrated with her family to Hawaii 15 years ago. Her passion to help and defend people faced with injustice had pushed her to major in Criminology and Criminal Justice. She received the Alakai Mentor Award in 2015. She spoke about the challenges of college life, the importance of choices, and the value of the “hill” in building determination to accomplishing the hard stuff.

Santos spoke about the two meanings of “blessed.” He spoke about being blessed and the blessings needed and received which help keep students afloat.Education was a calling for Santos. He had been a kindergarten and first-grade teacher and had also worked in special education. Three and a half years ago he took a leap of faith when his principal asked him to step into the role of vice principal. After a year as a vice principal, Derek was hooked and continued on with his educational journey at Chaminade.

Chaminade alumni and chief executive officer of Kapi’olani Medical Center for Women and Children, Martha B. Smith ’91 was the keynote speaker.  She inspired the audience as she spoke about her journey and the challenges along the way. The students identified with her, for like them, she was a proud graduate of Chaminade University. During her career, she has accomplished much. Her leadership role in healthcare and community service was extensive. Prior to joining Hawai‘i Pacific Health in 2004, Smith had worked in hospital operations and health care in Hawaii and Florida for 24 years. She held a Bachelor of Science degree in Respiratory Therapy from the University of Central Florida, a Master of Public Health from the University of Alabama-Birmingham and a Master of Business Administration from Chaminade University.  Smith also serves as a member of Chaminade’s Board of Regents.

As the speeches wrapped up, the graduating students readied themselves for their walk across the stage to receive their diplomas. Names were read, degrees were conferred, and the post-graduate students received their hoods. Each of them had their own personal stories, their own challenges on the road to this achievement.   The excitement rumbled as wild cheers roared through the seating. Once the tassels were moved, relief mixed with jubilation as the new alumni were applauded as the class of 2016.

The new alumni marched out of the arena into the exhibition hall and were welcomed by faculty members as colleagues.  The doors finally opened to the general public, allowing families and friends to swarm in with lei, bouquets of flowers and signs. This was the moment that not only the graduates had worked towards, but it was also the moment that the whole university community had sought for each student as well. Everyone shared in the jubilation.

 Yay, mom!

The hard work paid off for about 260 new graduates.
The night was filled with the pride of accomplishments,
​tears of happiness and big smiles for the bright futures yet to come