Sacred Heart University Celebrates 44th Commencement

News Story: May 1, 2010
Dick Ebersol speaks to the crowd during undergraduate Commencement.

More than 1,500 Sacred Heart University graduates were sent out into the world this weekend, armed with diplomas and words of wisdom from corporate, sports and education leaders.

Dick Ebersol, chairman of NBC Universal Sports and Olympics, told 861 degree recipients at Sunday’s undergraduate commencement ceremonies, not to be victimized by business disappointments and personal tragedies. “Dust yourself off. You get up and move on. If you allow yourself to become a victim it’s like taking poison … no pity parties,” said Ebersol. He underscored his point with anecdotes about the early criticism of Saturday Night Live, which he co-created, his battle to convince Olympics officials to have Mohammed Ali light the torch at the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta, and he mentioned the painful loss of his son Teddy in a 2004 plane crash.

“Even the worst of human broken-ness can be overcome,” said University President Anthony Cernera. “Hope is forged, not when things are at their best; hope comes about when things are at their worst,” he said.

Class of 2010 President Katie Higgins cheers after she receives her degree.

Senior class president Kaitlin A. Higgins said it is the end of an era but the beginning of a new chapter.

Shamese Shular, 27, of Norwalk, said her new chapter includes spending more time with her daughters Taila Roberson, 11, and Mariyah Stewart, 8. As a non-traditional student, Shular said it took longer to get her accounting degree, and made for some long days. “They used to miss me a lot but now it’s over and they’re really proud of me. They want to go to college too,” said Shular, who is among only a few college graduates in her family.

In Sunday’s ceremonies, Cernera bestowed upon John Vales, 21, the Bishop Walter W. Curtis Medal of Honor. The first student to receive the Curtis Medal in SHU history,Vales, of Somers, New York, donated a part of his liver last October to a fellow student he didn’t even know.

SHU nursing student Alison Cubbelotti, 20, of Trumbull, recipient of Vales’ generosity, was in the front row with her family to cheer as Vales received his degree in business administration.

In addition to Ebersol, two others received Doctor of Humane Letters degrees Sunday – Sidney Callahan, an author and senior fellow at the Center for the Study of Law and Religion at Emory University, and Most Rev. Norberto Strotmann, M.S.C., Bishop of the Diocese of Chosica, Peru.

From left, Kathleen Johansen receives her degree from Hub Schlafly and President Cernera.

During Saturday’s graduate commencement, at which 551 Master’s degrees and 48 doctoral degrees were awarded, retired GE executive Bill Conaty received an honorary degree and delivered the commencement address.

“Today, in this complicated world you read about ethical lapses in business everyday … It seems like our heroes in business and sports have let us down a bit lately … Taking shortcuts on integrity to either get rich quicker or to enhance performance skills in sports just isn’t the way to get there,” Conaty said. Conaty told graduates they have a chance to influence the world for the better. He urged them not to compromise their integrity, to safeguard their reputation, be passionate about their work, become a problem solver, have a sense of humor and show compassion to others.

President Cernera presents Bill Conaty with his honorary doctorate.
At right is Dr. Thomas Forget.

Laura Beier, 22, of Port Jefferson, New York, who received a Master’s degree in education Saturday, said she has attended many SHU commencements since 2007 as a member of the University Concert Choir, “and Mr. Conaty was definitely one of the best speakers I’ve heard. He talked about things that impact our lives and told us to enjoy our life, work hard, give things a try and take every day as it comes.”

Angela Williams, of Randolph, Mass., who graduated Saturday with a Master’s degree in occupational therapy, said she feels the same way. “I’m nervous and anxious. I don’t want to leave all my friends here but it’s a new chapter in my life.”

At the graduate commencement ceremony, Dr. Thomas V. Forget, Sacred Heart University’s provost, praised Claire Paolini, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, and said the University community was “eternally indebted” to her for 13 years of service. She retires this year.