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Unstoppable Class of 2019

Mount Saint Mary’s celebrates the journeys, achievements and transformations of the Class of 2019

May 9, 2019

Mount Saint Mary’s celebrated the Class of 2019 during commencement ceremonies on May 6 at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

 “As you leave us today and begin the next chapter in your life, remember this place,” President Ann McElaney-Johnson told the graduates. “Remember the mission of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, commit yourselves to compassion, justice, and respect for yourself and others.”

This year, 238 graduate students were eligible for master’s degrees and 732 undergraduates were eligible to receive their associate and bachelor’s degrees. Among those who participated in commencement were students of now-closed Argosy University who completed their master of science degree in clinical psychology through Mount Saint Mary’s.

For photos from the day, click here. 

The University featured two commencement speakers that day: Abby Maxman, president and CEO of Oxfam America for the undergraduate ceremony; and Kay Buck, CEO and executive director of the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST), for the graduate ceremony.

Maxman told the Class of 2019, “I stand here in awe of the university’s culture of innovation for excellence and commitment to social good that seeks to prepare students to be global leaders and pursue lives filled with purpose. You don’t just stand on the sidelines. You get involved. You reach out and pay it forward. You speak up and make a difference in the world.”

Buck implored the Class of 2019 to “dream the impossible.” She said, “We are not passive bystanders. We are active investors of a vision. Helping to lift up more people … Today I am filled with so much hope for your futures. And if you do decide to continue your journey for social justice, I’m filled with hope for our world. Commit to your journey relentlessly. Be resilient. And unstoppable.”

Maxman and Buck both received honorary degrees from the Mount.

“I entered Mount Saint Mary’s University as a girl hoping to find all the answers to my life’s purpose. I was determined to create the best version of myself and leave behind the worries of my past life,” said Syniah Featherstone ‘19, who served as one of the student speakers and received her associate of arts degree in liberal studies. “I could have never predicted the power I would discover within me by attending the Mount.”

The other student speakers were:

  • Ashley Lipkins-Scott ’19, master of science in education;
  • Ana Lucia Valdes ’19, bachelor of arts in liberal arts;
  • Natalie Moore ’19, bachelor of arts in psychology.

During commencement ceremonies, the University traditionally presents the Carondelet Medal, the highest honor given by the Mount, and the Sister Magdalen Coughlin Award, given to an outstanding graduate student for outstanding volunteer service in their communities.

The recipient of this year’s Carondelet Medal was Genevieve Castellanos Denault ’53, who had a distinguished career as a research chemist, medical technician and aerospace consultant. After graduating in 1953 with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and a minor in medical technology, she began working as a research chemist, a profession into which few women had ventured. She went on to work first at Hughes Aircraft, then spent the next 30 years at the Aerospace Corporation, where her forensics lab work led her all the way to Scotland Yard. In 1976, Denault was honored by the Aerospace Corporation as Woman of the Year for her superior contribution to her profession and her community. She has served on Mount Saint Mary’s Regents Council for over 20 years. 

The 2019 recipient of the Sister Magdalen Coughlin Award is Brian Hanson ’16 MFA. Hanson earned his master of fine arts degree in film and television at the Mount in 2016 and is currently working on his second degree at the University, an MFA in Creative Writing.


Live streaming videos of the two ceremonies had over 2,400 unique views from all over the world. The videos are still accessible at