NEW YORK — The Province’s two Franciscan colleges in New York state prepare for graduations this month, in ceremonies that include commencement addresses by a Fortune 500 corporate executive and a survivor of Rwandan genocide.
St. Bonaventure University will hold its graduation May 11 in the Reilly Center Arena, while Siena College graduates its students on May 18.
SBU 1979 alum Edward Bastian, president and chief financial officer of Delta Airlines, will be the university’s keynote speaker. He will receive an honorary degree, along with Msgr. William Shannon, professor emeritus at Nazareth College in Rochester, N.Y.; and Sr. Maureen Avril Chin Fatt, OSF, congregational minister of the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany.
Bastian joined Delta in 1998 as vice president of finance and controller, and is credited with leading the airline through its recent Chapter 11 restructuring. Recently, Delta and Northwest Airlines announced merger plans that would make it the world’s biggest air carrier. Bastian will lead the merged company. Earlier in his career, he held senior management positions with PepsiCo, and was a partner at Price Waterhouse.
Workplace Creativity Garnered at SBU
“To be the president of a company as large as Delta, and be so respected down through the ranks during such difficult economic times, says a lot about Ed and the culture he’s helped to redefine at Delta,” said Sr. Margaret Carney, OSF, SBU president. “I’d like to think a little bit of that workplace creativity and compassion rubbed off on him during his time at St. Bonaventure.”
At Siena’s graduation, author Immaculée Ilibagiza, a survivor of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, and James Barba, president and chief executive officer of Albany Medical Center, will receive honorary degrees. Ilibagiza will give the commencement address.
Ilibagiza is recognized as a witness to human dignity and the power of forgiveness. Born in Rwanda, she studied electronic and mechanical engineering at the National University of Rwanda. In 1994, her life was transformed dramatically, as she and seven other women huddled silently in a cramped bathroom of a pastor’s house for 91 days. Ilibagiza entered that time a vibrant 115-pound university student with a loving family; she emerged at 65 pounds, to find her family brutally murdered, except for a brother studying outside the country.
Prays the Rosary in Hiding
Rather than succumbing to the anger and rage that she felt, she turned to praying the rosary, with beads given to her by her father. She used her time in hiding to teach herself English. Once freed, she got a position with the United Nations.
Siena College will also recognize the achievements of James Barba, Esq., Siena class of 1966, president and chief executive officer of Albany Medical Center. Barba is responsible for the medical education, biomedical research and patient care activities of this large medical center.
“We look forward to honoring these two very accomplished persons, as inspirations for our graduating students,” said Kevin J. Mullen, OFM, Siena president.
SBU’s commencement weekend will include a candlelight ceremony on May 9, and a baccalaureate Mass at 4:30 p.m., May 10. Commencement exercises, which will also recognize St. Bonaventure’s 150th anniversary, will begin at 10:30 a.m. May 11.