Graduation 2021: Disrupters Get Their Due

At the conclusion of a school year quite unlike any that went before, the Johns Hopkins School of Education conferred 48 doctorates and 749 master’s degrees during a two-hour virtual commencement ceremony on the morning of May 26, 2021. In all, 961 graduates, including degree and certificate recipients, were recognized.

In her address to her classmates, student speaker Anna Ketterling, from Lake Oswego, Oregon, who earned her MS in elementary education, noted that the pandemic may have disrupted the process of getting a graduate degree, but it did not diminish the purpose of those degrees. In fact, if anything, the lessons learned steeled the graduates for the realities of their chosen field, perhaps in ways yet to be revealed. The past year, she said, has turned the disrupted into “disrupters”—educators uniquely qualified to change the world. Ketterling encouraged her fellow graduates to turn their resilience into resolve.

“[Y]ou are bound to meet resistance … [but] you wouldn’t be here if you didn’t work harder every time someone discounted your ability to change the world,” she said. “Never stop the fight. Be a disrupter. Never stop using what you have learned here to advocate for the individual.”

Keynote speaker, Marjorie Jenkins, MD (MEHP ’15), dean of the University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville and a recognized expert in women’s health and sex- and gender-based medicine, then picked up the theme and turned it in a new direction. Challenging Horace Mann’s declaration that education is “the great equalizer,” Jenkins said: “I believe it is the educators who are the great equalizers … What awaits you tomorrow is opportunity to change the world as we know it … Embrace your opportunity … you are an equalizer and that is something our world needs more of.”

The Alumni Association then honored several past graduates and a current faculty member:

  • Brian Garibaldi (MEHP ’18) received the Distinguished Alumnus Award for his work as medical director of the Biocontainment Unit at Johns Hopkins, as a clinical educator as the associate program director of the Osler Medical Residency Program, where he leads curriculum development and implementation.
  • Peter Kannam (MS ’99) was acknowledged with the Community Champion Award for his work as principal of the Elmer A. Henderson School in the Baltimore City Public Schools System and as co-founder of America Achieves, the national education nonprofit.
  • Alejandro Diasgranados (MS ’18) received the Outstanding Recent Graduate Award for having been named “Teacher of the Year” by National University, among other early career accomplishments.
  • Olivia Marcucci, an assistant professor in the School of Education with specialization in racial justice and equity, was honored with the Excellence in Teaching Award for her influential teaching style.

Last, but not least, Dean Christopher Morphew presented the Champion in Education Award to Nancy Grasmick, EdD, co-director of the Center for Innovation and Leadership in Special Education at the Kennedy Krieger Institute. Grasmick served a distinguished career as state superintendent of Maryland Public Schools from 1991 until 2011. Education Week ranked Maryland number 1 in public education the year she left that post. In her career, Grasmick served 24 districts, 1,424 schools, and 869,113 students. Dean Morphew declared Dr. Grasmick, a Baltimore native and Johns Hopkins alumna, to be a living legend.

“Education makes every other profession possible,” Grasmick said. “Thank you for this very important and meaningful award.”