Siena College President Kevin Mullen, OFM, celebrated his first commencement as head of the college on May 18, congratulating 812 graduates during the 68th graduation ceremony.
Kevin, a 1975 alumnus of the college, expressed a special closeness to the ’08 graduates, especially since their senior year was his first as president. “My sisters and brothers, congratulations,” he said, wishing them, “the goodness and peace of God.”
Earlier in the month, St. Bonaventure University (SBU) in Allegany, N.Y., graduated more than 700 undergraduate and graduate students in the school’s 148th commencement ceremony on May 11.
Both schools had impressive graduation speakers, alumni who attributed their career success to their alma maters. Siena invited James Barba, president and CEO of Albany Medical Center, who said that receiving an honorary degree from his alma mater 42 years after speaking from the same podium as a graduating student, was a special experience. He noted that Siena graduates have received three essential values: working hard, thinking critically and being fearless.
SBU gave an honorary degree to Delta Airlines President Edward Bastian, a 1979 alum, who attributed his foundation for success to the university. “The values that I learned here are what it took to save Delta Air Lines.” Bastian is credited with resurrecting the beleaguered Delta from bankruptcy.
A Recap of Siena’s Commencement
Academic Vice President Linda Richardson was master of ceremonies at the event, which began with the Albany Pipes and Drums’ traditional Pomp and Circumstance, accompanied by Gary Maciag, OFM, narrating recent college accomplishments.
College Chaplain William Beaudin, OFM, a 1976 Siena alumnus, gave the opening invocation and asked God to watch over the new graduates. Kevin greeted the crowd in the Alumni Recreation Center, and welcomed Daniel Dwyer, OFM, who represented Holy Name Province.
Timothy Hannigan ’08, senior class president and an American studies graduate, welcomed his peers and thanked them for their contributions to Siena College. “It is our time to go forward,” he said.
Timoth Lederman, Ph.D., who received this year’s Jerome Walton Award for Excellence in Teaching, shared wisdom from the Franciscan intellectual tradition, and his hope that the grads will consider their impact on the world. Fellow faculty member Raymond Boisvert, Ph.D., who received the Raymond Kennedy Award for Excellence in Scholarship (philosophy), was also acknowledged.
Honorary Degree Given
Author Immaculee Ilibagiza, who received an honorary degree, gave a keynote address about the importance of hope. She described surviving the genocide in Rwanda in 1994, and how prayer, faith and forgiveness helped her survive when most of her family was killed. Ilibagiza’s talk at Siena in March attracted nearly 1,000 students and others, and her spirit of life and message of trust in God bore repeating for the graduates.
Bishop Howard Hubbard of the Diocese of Albany presented Siena College diploma cases to the graduates crossing the platform, along with Kevin and Robert Cushing, chair of Siena’s board of trustees and executive vice president of TrustCo Bank.
As he has done most years since his own installation ceremony at the college in 1977, Bishop Hubbard prayed the graduating class farewell.
A Recap of the SBU Graduation
Keynoter Bastian said the university’s core values of discovery, community and individual worth helped him restructure the fledgling Delta Airlines.
“We made it a priority to make our people part of the solution,” Bastian said. “We brought 40,000 Delta employees to Atlanta, 400 people at a time, to apologize to them for past mistakes.”
“It was servant leadership, and they responded,” he said. “We had lost our way as a company but found it just in time.”
Bastian stressed that “service to others is the most rewarding thing you can do — for your world, and for our world.”
Marking the 150th Anniversary
In celebration of the school’s 150th anniversary, graduates wore bronze medallions that they received April 1 at the Anniversary Convocation.
“You carry a mark around your neck today, the 150th Anniversary medallion,” said John McGinley Jr., chair of the University’s Board of Trustees. “Always remember the mark you’ve made here and carry it close to your heart.”
Student speaker Stephanie Nikolaou of Rochester encouraged her classmates “to be fearless.” “Let’s not let our anxiety for tomorrow obstruct our view of today,” Nikolaou said. “We have the opportunity to live out our dreams and achieve as much as we can stand to achieve. We’re not always going to succeed at everything, but let’s pretend we can.”
Honorary Degrees Given
Also Receiving honorary degrees from SBU were Msgr. William H. Shannon, professor emeritus at Nazareth College in Rochester, N.Y., and a Merton scholar, and Sister Maureen Avril Chin Fatt, OSF, congregational minister of the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany.
Shown with Siena College President Kevin Mullen is Victoria Fernandes ’08 who gave the senior commencement address.