'Not an End But a Beginning' for 937 Seniors

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By Daniel Drew
SHU Correspondent

FAIRFIELD, Conn.—Sunday’s 42nd undergraduate commencement was bittersweet for Kevin Hannigan, who will begin a Ph.D. program in medicinal chemistry in the fall.

“It’s four years you’ve been with your friends and now you’re finishing,” said the 22-year-old native of Floral Park, N.Y., a neighborhood in the Borough of Queens. “It’s sad, but it’s also exciting because you’re moving on.”

>>Multimedia from Commencement 2008

Hannigan earned his bachelor’s in business administration on Sunday and was awarded a master’s in chemistry during the graduate commencement on Saturday. He walked with his classmates on Sunday wearing an honors program medal and two silver medals for the second-highest averages in chemistry at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. He hopes to become a researcher at a pharmaceutical company. Hannigan combined an undergraduate business degree with a graduate chemistry degree to be competitive throughout his career.

Hannigan’s path mirrors an observation Bishop William E. Lori of the Diocese of Bridgeport made to undergraduates at University Field: “Here at Sacred Heart University, you can be encouraged to give even more to a world and church that needs you.” Bishop Lori is chairman of the University’s Board of Trustees.

The University bestowed a total of 1,465 degrees this year, including 23 Doctor of Physical Therapy degrees, 422 master’s degrees, 937 bachelor’s degrees, 29 associate’s degrees and 54 professional certificates.

The ceremony’s three commencement speakers, each of whom was awarded a Doctor of Humane Letters degree, offered the students advice about how to give to the world.

The graduates are armed with a powerful education, but must always persevere to give to the world, according to Mark E. Freitas, a Sacred Heart trustee and president/CEO of Frank Crystal & Company, one of the top 20 insurance brokerage firms in the United States. The students will soon move to positions in companies or graduate schools in which they will have to prove themselves and earn their way up.

“You’re coming here [to graduation] at the top. Next week you’ll be at the bottom again,” said Freitas. “You need to believe in yourselves. Don’t quit and don’t take the easy route because it will never get you anywhere.”

Giving to the world requires sharing education with people less fortunate, according to Jane E. Ferreira, the president and CEO of Mercy Learning Center of Bridgeport, a non-profit organization that educates disadvantaged women with the view that educating a woman means educating a family. “When you combine your mind and your heart, you become passionate educators.”

But graduates also must remember that the world is filled with paradoxes. Sacred Heart Trustee Hans J. Gram, a native of Oslo, Norway, and retired CEO of R.S. Platou, an international shipbroking company, told the students about his childhood during the Nazi occupation. During British bombing raids, Gram’s parents took their children to the basement to avoid the explosions and told them that those dropping bombs were their friends and the bombs’ targets were not.

Understanding paradoxes leads to knowledge, he said.

“Knowledge contemplated leads to wisdom,” Gram said, encouraging graduates to use their educations to serve mankind. “You were not invited here to study for a career. You were invited to seek the truth.”