Choate Hockey Legend Angela Ruggiero Gives Commencement Speech
On a sunny, blue-sky Sunday morning, 240 Choate Rosemary Hall seniors sat in front of the Archbold Building for their commencement ceremony, ready to receive their diplomas and pose for pictures with Headmaster Alex D. Curtis. They listened to motivating speeches from peers, faculty members and a certain 1998 Choate graduate who followed her dreams, took risks, accomplished — and scored — many goals.
Angela Ruggiero — a 32-year-old four-time Olympian, author and retired professional hockey player — gave the commencement speech.
“It’s an honor for me to be here,” Ruggiero said. “The four years here changed my life.”
Ruggiero, originally from California, remembers her pre-Harvard University days like they were yesterday. She recalled days in the Choate library and dormitories and, of course, the senior prank that involved unleashing hundreds of rubber ducks into the school’s pond.
As Ruggiero reminisced about her time at Choate, she told the soon-to-be graduates three things to do in life.
“Take risks, take many risks,” Ruggiero said. “You’re building confidence in yourself each time you put yourself out there.”
When Ruggiero was a senior at Choate she participated in the Olympic Games in Nagano, Japan, on the U.S. women’s hockey team. She said she was nervous and scared to be participating in such an important event at such a young age. Before being sent out on the ice, her coach asked her if she could do it. Ruggiero told her audience she went for it and didn’t choke. The team won a gold medal.
“If you don’t risk it, you don’t know what you can truly do,” she said.
Pursuing passions and believing in yourself were the other two tips Ruggiero offered the crowd.
“Strive toward your passions and do what makes you happy,” she said.
As she congratulated the seniors for working hard, she told them to not forget their parents, who have been supporting them for their entire lives, arousing a round of applause in honor of their families.
After the applause from the crowd, prizes and diplomas were awarded. A few more speeches were made before the graduates went from the green grass to the embrace of their families and friends.
Ruggiero received handshakes from former teachers and faculty who were happy to see her again. One star-struck girl walked over to Ruggiero to tell her she also plays ice hockey. Ruggiero made the young girl feel comfortable and told her to keep playing. Ruggiero said she’s always willing to talk with fans; she remembers being their age, meeting National Hockey League players and being in awe.
Over the past decade, Ruggiero said, she’s made her way back to Choate at least six times.
“Every time I come back, it feels like I never left,” she said. “It’s great to see faculty and staff.”
She retired from professional hockey last December. As she was making this decision she thought about giving back and reaching out to Choate, a school that had a large effect on her. Choate reached out to her and asked if she wanted to take part in the 2012 graduation.
She connected with Headmaster Alex D. Curtis and it was decided she would be speaking.
“I don’t mind public speaking,” Ruggiero said. “I want to inspire others and share my experiences.”
While Ruggiero no longer plays hockey she is active with the International Olympic Committee Athletes’ Commission as well as consulting. She will be going back to Harvard to obtain her master’s degree in business administration.
Curtis, who just finished his first year as headmaster at Choate, said he came to the school knowing of Ruggiero.
“I got to know her quite well,” Curtis said. “It’s extraordinary to rise to the level of Olympic athlete, but it’s not just about being an athlete. She’s got an extraordinary mind.”
Curtis said she’s intelligent as well as a great role model, leader and teammate. It’s good for the seniors to see that Ruggiero is living proof that with hard work and positive goals, dreams can come true, he said.