Honorary Degree Recipients Inspired Graduates on Commencement Weekend

News Story: May 23, 2007

Vince McMahon Tells SHU Graduates Not to Fear Failure

Learning from Mistakes Paves Path to Success

Vincent Kennedy McMahon opened his commencement address Sunday at Campus Field by telling the 994 graduates from Sacred Heart University’s Class of 2007 he had no pearls of wisdom to share with them.

Using self-deprecating humor to explain his choice as recipient of a Doctor of Humane Letters Degree and commencement speaker, McMahon, the Chairman of the Board of World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc., left most graduates and those in the audience with a sense of hope that anything is possible, even in the face of overwhelming obstacles.

McMahon spoke of his humble beginnings in a trailer park, his academic problems, personal bankruptcy and series of dead-end jobs to his meteoric rise in the entertainment world and his current status as a billionaire. Even after achieving monumental professional success, McMahon said he was not immune to failures, pointing out his unsuccessful venture in the XFL.

Many graduates felt McMahon did leave them with a pearl of wisdom when he concluded his speech by saying, “It’s important in life that you’re not afraid to fail. If you are not afraid to fail then you will be successful in life.”

“I’ve been a fan of the WWE since I was a little kid. It was really cool to hear his story. He came from nothing and worked his way up to one of the most renowned entertainers and businessmen in the world,” said Tim Bucolo, of Mt. Kisco, N.Y., who received his degree in criminal justice. “He’s an inspiration. If you work hard and put your mind to it you can accomplish anything,” Bucolo said.

Maureen Daly, mother of Jim Daly, president of the SHU Student Government and a member of the Class of 2007, was equally impressed with McMahon. “I think he was a good choice for the school considering how he started his career and how he has parlayed it into this multi-million dollar organization,” she said.

Even some of those who are not WWE fans found inspiration in McMahon’s remarks.

“I thought he was very honest. I think that it was true to form. He’s had a hard life and now he’s a billionaire,” said Tavio Hobson, of Seattle Washington, who received a diploma in political science.

Graduates also drew inspiration from other speakers. In his invocation University Chaplain Jean Ehret said each degree is “a call to mission, a call to make this world a better place to live for everyone.”

Because SHU’s 41st commencement coincided with Mother’s Day, Cernera first thanked all the mothers in the audience for their gifts of  “life and love and hope,” before sharing with graduates his own recipe for success, which includes four important lessons about life-long learning, humility, hope and love. “We want you to go from this place to go out into the world to repair it and renew it,” he said.

Cernera also bestowed an honorary degree upon Douglas Bohn, who began his SHU career in 1964 as an instructor of mathematics. Bohn will retire July 1 from his current positions as Registrar and Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs. Cernera called Bohn “a model of courage, faith, persistence and dedication” and thanked him for his lifetime of service to the SHU mission and students.

The weekend saw a total of 1,813 people graduate from the University, including 35 with Doctor of Physical Therapy degrees, a first for both SHU and the state of Connecticut. They received their degrees in a separate ceremony Saturday at which 655 others rece
ived master’s degrees in various disciplines.

In that ceremony, David B. Perini, Sr., chairman emeritus of the Perini Corporation, received an honorary degree and delivered the University’s Graduate Commencement address. His inspirational message encouraged the graduates to be true leaders by example. “Strive for balance in your lives, keep the faith, live for others and never forget in all your relationships with family and your business and professional lives nothing, nothing, is more powerful than your personal example,” he said.