St. Bonaventure, Siena Graduates Hear Encouraging Words

Rebecca Doel Around the Province

Holy Name Province’s two institutions of higher learning, Siena College and St. Bonaventure University, celebrated commencement May 17. It was Bonaventure’s 149th and Siena’s 69th graduation. Together, the two graduated more than 1,400.

St. Bonaventure University
CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer gave the commencement address at the Allegany, N.Y., university, telling students, “If at first you don’t succeed, try something else,” a lesson he learned while a freshman at the University of Buffalo. He also encouraged graduates to stay positive despite the troubled economy, and to look for a job they truly love.

“I only hope and pray that you end up with a job you love, that you are passionate about,” Blitzer said.

Ellen Grimes of Clinton, N.Y., addressed her classmates with a similar sentiment. “We need to make an obligation to ourselves to make sure that we always love what we do and that we do it with love,” she said. “Everything else will, without a doubt, fall into place.”

Blitzer, along with John “Jack” Butler, SBU class of 1951 and an all-pro defensive back for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1950s, and Marcia Marcus Kelly, niece of renowned Olean poet Robert Lax, received an honorary doctorate of humane letters.

Butler never played high school football and only tried out for SBU’s team at the urging of the late Silas Rooney, OFM, the school’s then athletic director. Silas reccommended Butler to his brother, Steelers’ founder Art Rooney. He was named to the Steelers’ 75th anniversary team in 2007.

Marcus Kelly has been dedicated to preserving the legacy of Lax and Thomas Merton, the revered 20th century spiritual writer whom Lax roomed with at New York’s Columbia University in the 1930s. Merton, who spent summers with Lax in Olean, taught English at SBU in 1940.

Marcus Kelly and her husband, Jack, live in New York City but maintain another home in Olean. Over the years, they have written about hundreds of monasteries and retreats, including Mt. Irenaeus, the Province’s mountain retreat sanctuary in West Clarksville, N.Y. The series is called “Sanctuaries: A Guide to Lodgings in Monasteries, Abbeys and Retreats of the United States.”

The commencement ceremony closed the university’s 15-month sesquicentennial celebration.

Siena College
Kevin Mullen, OFM, president and 1975 graduate of the Loudonville, N.Y., college, opened the ceremony with the words of St. Francis: “I have done what is mine to do. May God teach you what is yours.” If you share your life with others, serve your communities and help the less fortunate, he said, the class of 2009 will be able to look back on their lives and say, ‘I have done what the Lord has told me to do.’”

Two honorary degrees were conferred, to the Honorable Victoria Graffeo, who has served in all three branches of New York State government, and Dr. Robert Paeglow, founder of the Koinonia Primary Care/Mental Health Practice.

Graffeo quoted President Abraham Lincoln, who once compared a tree to a person and its shadow to his reputation. “There is no easy way to build a solid reputation, and there are no shortcuts,” Graffeo said, “You build it a little each day in how you treat others.”

Dr. Paeglow’s practice provides medical care to the poor in Albany, N.Y. He was the first in his family to graduate from college and told students that he learned life is “all about joy.”

Dr. Rachel Stern-Marr, professor of biology, was awarded the Matthew T. Conlin, OFM, Distinguished Service Award. Matthew, former college president from 1970 to 1976, also served Siena as English department chair and vice president for academic affairs.

Samuel Ogden, chosen as the senior commencement speaker, rhymed his entire speech.

Bishop Howard Hubbard closed the ceremony with inspiring words. “Share your gifts and talents generously with others and you will mark an indelible path for the world,” he said. “Godspeed always.”

— Rebecca Doel is communications coordinator for Holy Name Province.