More than 1,480 students graduated from Province-sponsored schools earlier this month with bright futures ahead and the teachings of Francis in their hearts.
St. Bonaventure recognized 232 graduate students and 421 undergraduates who completed their degree during the university’s 155th commencement exercises on May 17.
Former Provincial Minister John O’Connor, OFM, was among three distinguished guests receiving honorary degrees. St. Bonaventure recognized him both for his service to the university and to the Franciscan Order.
“Although he earned his degrees from The Catholic University of America and Washington Theological Union, Fr. John was a ‘Bonnie’ long before this official declaration,” said Francis Di Spigno, OFM, executive director of university ministries, as John was presented with the degree.
Indeed, many people thought John already was a Bonnie.
“Everyone has always assumed I was a Bonaventure graduate, and now this makes it official,” John said. “At the baccalaureate Mass, I told the students that they had it easier than I did. It took them only four years to get their degrees, and it took me 42.”
John’s first assignment after ordination was at St. Bonaventure, where he taught theology and assisted Daniel Riley, OFM, in building the Office of Campus Ministries. He served as a member of the board of trustees for nearly 28 years.
“Bonaventure has always had a special place in my life and in my heart,” John said. “This was a wonderful culmination of my experience of being on campus and on the board of trustees for so many years. I’m very grateful to Sr. Margaret, to the board and to the Bonaventure community for this honor.”
Tim Brown, president and chief executive officer of Nestlé Waters North America, delivered SBU’s keynote address. “He spoke of the Franciscan vision now beginning to take root around the world through the actions of Pope Francis and the people at places like St. Bonaventure,” according to a news release. Brown, a 1985 graduate, also quoted St. Francis, reminding graduates “wisdom is knowledge deepened by love.”
Franciscan Spirit at Siena
At Siena College, outside Albany, N.Y., 791 undergraduate and 39 graduate students received their degrees during commencement on May 10. Among the friars participating were chaplain Larry Anderson, OFM, who offered a prayer at the beginning of the ceremony, and president F. Edward Coughlin, OFM, who shook the hand of each graduate and provided closing remarks. HNP affiliate Bishop Emeritus Howard Hubbard of Albany, provided the benediction.
Ed, who was appointed president of the school last fall, thanked the graduating class for welcoming him to campus.
“You not only welcomed me as a freshman president, but I feel privileged and honored that I’ve gotten to know so many of you, had lunch with you, shared a laugh with you, and maybe fought with you or disagreed with you,” he said. “As sons and daughters of Siena, my final request is the one that I challenged you with the other evening. Go forward, wherever you go, whoever you meet, whatever you do, and begin every conversation with the greeting of Francis, ‘Peace and good.’ Let everything flow from that.”
Jeff Immelt, chief executive officer of General Electric, gave the commencement speech at Siena.
“More than 350 Siena graduates work at GE today,” he said. “I asked them before I came here what they appreciated and remembered most about their time at Siena. It struck me that among the most common responses was the people they met here. A friar who helped a student grieve the death of a roommate. A professor whose belief in a student helped them achieve what they never believed was possible.
“It sounds simple to say, but as much as the world changes, what doesn’t change is that work is ultimately about people,” he added. “Today, we need teamwork more than ever.”
Immelt’s speech was printed in full by TIME.com.
On the Thursday night of senior week before commencement, Daniel Dwyer, OFM, and Dennis Tamburello, OFM, led students in singing the Siena fight song. Ed Coughlin, OFM, also spoke at the event, which was begun by former president Kevin Mullen, OFM.
Meaghan Flatley, ’15, who delivered the senior commencement address, reminded her classmates that though graduates will work hard to turn their Siena education into successful careers, they’ll never lose sight of the lessons they’ve learned through the life of St. Francis, which guided their volunteer efforts in soup kitchens, shelters and hospitals.
“It’s what we do,” she said. “It’s what it means to be Franciscan, to be a Saint.”
— Maria Hayes is communications coordinator of Holy Name Province.