Sacred Heart Celebrates 48th Commencement
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More than 1,600 Sacred Heart University students set off into the world this weekend after receiving diplomas and words of advice from business, religious and political leaders, scholars and classmates. This is the first time in SHU’s 50-year history that the Board of Trustees voted to award more diplomas to graduate students than to undergrads. The 48th commencement exercises concluded a year-long celebration of SHU’s 50th anniversary.
“It is exciting to reach this landmark in this anniversary year,” said Provost Laura Niesen de Abruna. “In 50 years, we have gone from a small, local liberal arts college with fewer than 200 undergraduates to an internationally recognized university with more than 50 strong program offerings for both graduate and undergraduate students.”
University President John J. Petillo advised the graduates to keep in mind the three words on the second bell in the Chapel bell tower—remember your dignity. “At times in your professional and personal life, you will inevitably be challenged to cross the line. Remember these years here where values, judgment and history offered you a context,” he said. “Never compromise your integrity, your name…Remember your dignity.”
In his address to the graduates, Ernie Anastos, news anchor for Fox’s flagship station, WNYW-TV in New York and creator and host of Positively Ernie, encouraged the graduates to choose happiness. “As we become happier, we become better people—more compassionate, creative and energetic. We also become financially successful, more emotionally and physically healthy and we live longer,” he said.
He offered some recommendations for happiness:
- Make happiness your personal success story. It’s an important goal that will set the tone for your life.
- Stay connected to your family, loved ones and friends. Share your lifetime dreams with these special people.
- Make service to others a part of your life; the reward is immeasurable.
- Believe in yourself; become all you be, without sacrificing your core values.
Anastos received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree. James Costello, retired comptroller for General Electric and former member of the SHU Board of Trustees, received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree, although he was unable to attend the ceremony.
Steve Dzik ’96, vice president of the Sacred Heart University Alumni Association, painted a very different picture of the campus he arrived on in 1992. As he welcomed the graduates to the club of more than 35,000 alumni, he said, “You’ve witnessed first-hand some very exciting changes to campus; the Linda McMahon Commons was built, ground has been broken and construction started on the new College of Business and Communication/Media Studies Building and, most recently, the University announced that it will be purchasing the land now occupied by the Jewish Home in 2016. It’s a pretty safe bet that when you return to campus in 10, five or even a year from now, that it will look just a little bit different from the way it does today.”
As part of SHU’s 50th anniversary celebration, alumni representing each of the past five decades participated in the procession.
Alison Cubbellotti of Trumbull, received her bachelor’s degree in nursing after taking two years off during her college years for a liver transplant. Her donor, John Vales ’10, assisted in the presentation of her degree. “After everything I have been through, it is wonderful this day has finally come,” she said.
“We have a lot to be grateful for,” added her mother, Karen. “Not only did Sacred Heart provide her with a wonderful education, coming here saved her life.”
During Saturday’s graduate commencement, the keynote speaker was Sr. Kathleen Deignan ’71, a professor of religious studies, director of the Iona Spirtuality Institute and a member of the Congregation of Notre Dame founded by Saint Marguerite Bourgeoys. Her remarks were perfectly attuned to the conclusion of Sacred Heart’s 50th anniversary celebration.
“I have had the gift of nearly a half century to realize the powerful legacy bestowed on me in 1971, when my first commencement ceremony sent me forth laden with the spiritual and intellectual richness of our University’s youthful, daring, visionary energy, the wisdom gifts of its exceptional faculty, the challenge of its world-embracing mission,” she said. “With sincerity, I profess in your presence that it was during my undergraduate education at the nascent Sacred Heart University that I was freed and formed in its pioneering spirit, which still pervades this educational enterprise and continues to mark my own life going forward.”
She encouraged graduates to be similarly inspired. “In each other’s hearing, let us thank this Alma Mater, this good Mother Sacred Heart, for all the seasons spent in her instruction and inspiration, in her myriad libraries of wisdom and with her remarkable faculties. Let us stay indebted for the friends she gave us, the sweet taste of knowledge and the worlds it opened to us, as she prepared us to be pioneers of new frontiers of creativity and hope, to be sent in mission to the world on her Via Cordis,” Deignan said.
Deignan was presented with an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree.
The students also heard from Senator Richard Blumenthal who encouraged them to be champions of human rights as well as pioneers.
Quaker Hill resident Heather Farnell, who received a master’s degree in applied psychology and earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from SHU, had nothing but praise for the University. “I love the campus and the small classes. After getting both degrees at SHU, I have come to know and respect the faculty in the Psychology Department,” she said.
Farnell will be working at an assisted living facility after graduation where she will help residents with computer activities and work in the dementia unit.
Her grandfather, Don Lusk, said he couldn’t put into words how proud he was of his granddaughter. “She is everything I ever wanted in a granddaughter,” he said.
“Sacred Heart was a wonderful experience for Heather,” said Farnell’s mother, Patty Strickland. “It’s been a great experience for the entire family. I never worried about Heather when she was there. I knew it was a school that was focused on education.”
To view photos from this year's commencement events, click here.
Videos from Commencement weekend