Sacred Heart University Celebrates 50th Commencement

News Story: May 15, 2016
Sacred Heart University's 2016 Undergraduate Commencement at the Webster Bank Arena

View photos from commencement week here. Watch video here.

More than 1,900 Sacred Heart University students began a new journey this weekend after receiving diplomas and words of advice and encouragement from business and religious leaders, scholars and classmates.

President John J. Petillo reflected on the students’ past four years and how their time spent at the University transformed them in substance and in spirit. “Continue to chase your dreams unfettered by the naysayers. May the knowledge and experiences you gained here enable you to be women and men for others,” Petillo said.

The president also thanked the students for their dedication to SHU. “Class of 2016, you have made your mark upon this University,” he said. “I thank you for that gift. Through your learning, your community service and your student participation in athletics, performing arts and clubs, you have enriched our culture for future classes to build upon.”

Carly, Darla and Joe Doorhy accepting
Kaitlyn's posthumous degree

Before the eager undergraduates were called upon to receive their diplomas, Petillo handed out a posthumous diploma to the family of Kaitlyn Doorhy, a student who died in 2014 just before the start of her junior year.

“Almost two years ago while on her way to campus to help freshmen move in, Kaitlyn Doorhy was tragically struck by a car,” Petillo said. “In those few days following, I witnessed a community gathering in prayer and support. Even in her death she enabled four transplant recipients to live.”

Petillo told the crowd that he was overwhelmed to find out on Christmas Eve that Doorhy’s sister, Carly Doorhy, would be attending SHU in the fall of 2016. Petillo said he called the family. “I shared my gratitude for now trusting Sacred Heart with Carly.”

“So today, with the class of 2016, we would like to honor Kaitlyn,” Petillo said. Doorhy’s parents and her sister went up to the podium to accept the honorary degree for their loved one.

Victoria Sweet, former award-winning historian and associate professor of medicine at the University of California, delivered the keynote address at SHU’s undergraduate commencement. She also received an honorary Doctor of Science degree. 

Sweet talked about how fast-paced life has become and advised students to “take back your time. And if you're rushed and harassed; if your day is filled with things you have to get through, then no matter how much you want to be mindful and present, caring and compassionate, you will not be able to do that. You just won't,” Sweet said. “So my challenge to you, to your generation as a group, but also to each of you individually, is to be mindful of what you spend your time doing. And make sure that every day you take some time to do nothing—vacant time, vacation time—they both come from the same root.”

At the same ceremony, Brad Evans, senior adviser at Morgan Stanley, was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree.

Brianna Grills, president of the class of 2016, reminisced about her classmates’ past at SHU before she led the ceremonial turning of the tassel.

“About four years ago, each of us came to Fairfield as individual puzzle pieces, not exactly sure how or where we fit into big picture we now see as the Sacred Heart University Class of 2016,” Grills said. “Remember freshman move in? When we first entered our new living quarters and the upper classman carried all our belongings up to our rooms? And remember the amazement when we collected so much by May that it no longer fit into one car?”

Grills continued to outline the many happenings the class of 2016 experienced, from major snowstorms, to athletic events, to concerts, internships and service work.

“Today, as we graduate, we feel a sense of satisfaction that the puzzle we began working on about four years ago is now complete,” Grills said. “But we also feel a sense of loss that our time at SHU is over, and we are ready to move on and begin working on a new puzzle.”

Marissa Carbonara of Montgomery, N.Y., received her bachelor’s degree in communications.

“She had a great time at Sacred Heart,” said Carbonara’s mom ChrisAnn. “I’m really happy for her.” ChrisAnn said her daughter joined a sorority, made many friends, received good grades and met her boyfriend at school. “She made a good choice.”

Carbonara said four years ago she chose to attend SHU because she was impressed by the campus and the people. She said it lived up their expectations.

William Caldarola, of Long Valley, N.J., received his bachelor’s degree in sport management. Before commencement began he said the occasion was nerve-wracking, but mostly exciting.

“I’m happy to be done and move on to the next chapter of my life,” Caldarola said, who transferred to SHU in his sophomore year. “SHU was my number one school. Once I was accepted, I loved it.” Caldarola said he was very involved in the University’s student events team and was happy to help make an impact on SHU.

During Saturday’s graduate commencement, the keynote speaker was Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga, archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Maradiaga explained the importance of receiving an education at a Catholic university. “For me, one of the most important aspects of Catholic university education is that it empowers you with an expanded capacity for ethical and moral perspectives to make good decisions and act compassionately in the dynamic, modern world.” 

He also posed the tough question that was likely on many graduates’ minds, “What do you want to do with the rest of your life? I will not tell you what kind of job to get or where to work; instead I urge you to strenuously consider your roles as global citizens in the 21st century,” Maradiaga said. “In this respect, your challenges and duties are much greater than that of your parents and previous generations. And I know that this Catholic university has prepared you for it.”

Maradiaga, who received an honorary Doctor of Theology degree from the University, said that students aren’t only educated for their own well-being or egoism, but are educated to make the world better. 

An honorary Doctor of Humane Letters was also bestowed on Leo Melamed, chairman emeritus of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange Group, at the graduate ceremony.

Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Robin Cautin awarded a posthumous diploma to former SHU student Jose Labrador. Paul Broadie, president of Housatonic Community College, where Labrador worked, participated in the procession in Labrador’s memory.

Graduate student Derek Moore, assistant wrestling coach at SHU, represented his graduating class and gave an inspirational speech to the crowd.

“I want to touch on two themes that have shaped my life – embracing discomfort and surrounding myself with great people,” said Moore, who is also SHU’s assistant wrestling coach.

Moore, a California native who received his master’s in business administration, said the lessons he learned derived from his years involved in wrestling. He talked about the discomfort of getting into a spandex uniform, and while he never felt good in it, he knew he was not alone because he always had the support of his teammates and coaches.

Moore had plenty of enriching words for his classmates. “My encouragement to all my fellow graduates here today is to continue to seek out both uncomfortable situations and amazing people that inspire personal growth,” he said. “As I look back on my life, any of my past failures or successes can be easily connected to the people in my life at that time. My hope for all of us is that we align ourselves with people who bring out our best, for it is from these individuals that we will learn the most. Most importantly, continue to find the people who embody the values and morals on which this institution is built.”

“I’m very excited,” said New Milford resident Christina Marcinko before the ceremony. She received her master’s in occupational therapy. Marcinko said the two-year program went by really fast and she enjoyed all of her professors who shared their expertise and knowledge with her class. “I really liked their approach to learning,” she said.

Marcinko’s mom, Ibel Hartlett of Newtown, said she was very happy for her daughter. Hartlett said her daughter completed the rigorous program while planning a wedding. She got married last February and honeymooned during her spring break. “Sacred Heart is a great school,” Hartlett said. “It has a great reputation. I’m very proud of her.”

Watch video from undergraduate commencement below.

Watch video from graduate commencement below.

View photos from undergraduate commencement below.

UG Commencement 5/15/16

View photos from graduate commencement below.

Graduate Commencement 5/14/16