Under rainy skies, nearly 1,500 students received their degrees last weekend from the Province’s two sponsored colleges in Upstate New York.
Siena College in Loudonville, where Kevin Mullen, OFM, is the president, graduated 832 students, while another 650 received diplomas from St. Bonaventure University in Allegany.
The graduates reflected on the journeys that brought them to their special day, listened to the advice of a keynote speaker, and congratulated those who received honorary degrees, including Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, archbishop emeritus of Washington, D.C., and affiliate of Holy Name Province.
At Siena, Kenneth Paulli, OFM, read the citation for an honorary degree recipient, and Gregory Jakubowicz, OFM, the campus chaplain, gave the invocation. At SBU, Christopher Coccia, OFM, served as master of ceremonies.
St. Bonaventure University
SBU keynoter and alumnus James Walsh, former New York State congressman from Syracuse, urged graduates not to look back on their lives with any regret.
“Don’t look back on how you could have done more,” said Walsh, an SBU class of 1970 alum. “Find ways to connect with your community, to make a difference. Citizenship is about service.”
Walsh is the son of former Syracuse mayor and longtime congressman William Walsh, a 1934 St. Bonaventure alumnus who died in January at the age of 98. The new science center at St. Bonaventure, opened in 2008, is named for him. James Walsh helped secure federal funding for the project.
“He was my hero and my role model,” Walsh said. “I am a very proud son of William Walsh.”
While Siena College didn’t have a keynote speaker, the students watched as honorary degrees were given to three accomplished people, including a man with close ties to Holy Name Province’s ministry to the poor in New York City.
Ralph Perez is executive director of Create, Inc., a non-profit service organization that works with the poor and marginalized in Harlem in New York City. He participated in community service with St. Francis of Assisi Church in New York City as a high school student and has maintained a close connection to Holy Name Province over the years. Create, which shares the mission of HNP to help those in need, receives Province funding.
Also honored were Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Diane Ravitch, a New York University research professor of education. Fauci was recognized for his contributions to the medical field and for his role as an adviser to the White House and Department of Health and Human Services.
Ravitch is a critic of the standardized-testing system for students in this country and author of the book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choices are Undermining Education. Daniel Horan, OFM, a friar based at Siena over the past year, is a follower of Ravitch’s philosophy and wrote about her in his blog.
Words of Advice
Siena class president Thomas Gelok reiterated the Franciscan mission: “Siena has provided us an opportunity to engage in a rigorous course of study in order to be contributors and competitors in the chaotic world that exists beyond the golden dome of Siena Hall,” he said. “Siena sends us forward with an ability to be passionate and compassionate humanitarians and agents of change that the world so sorely needs.”
SBU honored Cardinal McCarrick, whose great-nephew Conor Walsh was among the graduates. The cardinal gave the homily at the traditional baccalaureate Mass. Fr. Robert Karris, OFM, a member of the research and publications faculty of St. Bonaventure’s Franciscan Institute, was also honored.
Senator Charles Schumer also stopped by to give a short talk, encouraging graduates to find a job that they love — and to utilize technology to do so.
“Technology has overtaken our world. In 1993, when you were in kindergarten, the World Wide Web had 12 websites. It (technology) gives you an amazing advantage — that and your degree from St. Bonaventure University,” Schumer said.
Cardinal McCarrick is shown above receiving his honorary degree from SBU president Sr. Margaret Carney, OSF.
— Wendy Healy, a freelance writer based in Connecticut, is a frequent contributor to this newsletter.
Editor’s note: Photos of the commencement services of both colleges can be found on the Facebook pages of Siena College and St. Bonaventure University.