Fairfield University's 64th Commencement Exercises
On one of the most beautiful days of the year, and with thousands in attendance, Fairfield University’s 64th Commencement exercises were held on the Bellarmine Lawn on Sunday, May 18, 2014. The University conferred degrees from its College of Arts and Sciences, the Charles F. Dolan School of Business, the School of Engineering, the Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions, and the School of Nursing, continuing its tradition of celebrating “men and women for others.”
At the morning ceremony for undergraduate students, the University awarded 902 diplomas. The keynote speaker was Sharon M.K. Kugler, university chaplain to Yale University, and the first woman, first layperson, and first Roman Catholic to hold this position at Yale. She encouraged graduates not to worry if they don't feel ready to go out into the world yet. Kugler employed the words of Benedictine Sister Joan Chittister to convey there is "beauty in becoming" and that "God loves us for the seeking."
Kevin Greener '14 delivered the valedictory address. A physics major and mathematics minor, he was a stand-out member of the men’s swimming & diving team. “After four years, we emerge from this institution not just as college graduates, but as global citizens prepared to tackle whatever the world throws our way,” he said. “We are intelligent and hard working, but also generous and compassionate.”
Chaplain Kugler was presented with an honorary degree, as were two other distinguished individuals, The Rev. John W. Padberg, S.J., director of the Institute of Jesuit Sources, who also served as rector of the Jesuit Community at Saint Louis University, and John S. Santa, who, after a 40-year career in marketing, finance, and finally as CEO at Santa Energy, now serves as an independent director for four private corporations. His record as a community activist, as well as his ongoing commitment to social justice and community service, is substantial. University President Jeffery P. von Arx, S.J., presented the St. Ignatius Loyola Medal to Eric Lynch '14, a politics major with a minor in Peace & Justice Studies. Vladimir Ivanov '14, a double major in accounting and mathematics, and Laura Stakey '14, a double major in accounting and economics, were awarded the Bellarmine Medal for the highest four-year academic average.
The afternoon commencement for graduate students featured the awarding of 30 doctor of nursing practice degrees, 375 master’s degrees, and 14 certificates of advanced study. Graduate Commencement Speaker Mary Ann Christopher ’79, MSN, RN, FAAN, president and CEO of the Visiting Nurse Service of New York, told stories of how her Jesuit undergraduate education at Fairfield continues to inform her work as both a caregiver and an advocate. “And, so, each one of you in your own way will leave this commencement and – personally and professionally, in life’s joys and its challenges – you will envelop and be enveloped in a community of faith centered on cura personalis,” she said. “Cura personalis – Per Fidem ad Plenam Veritatem – how blessed we are to have been formed in the Jesuit tradition.”
The graduate valedictory speaker Paul Gerard Scheufele shared how he decided, after a successful, 25-year career on Wall Street, to go back to school for his master’s degree in American Studies and become a high school English teacher and lacrosse coach. “It wasn’t that I didn’t care to ask the big questions; it was that I didn’t have the time to explore the answers,” he said of a realization he had during one of his early philosophy courses at Fairfield. “The overwhelming question for me for the past 25 years was simple: How do I provide for my family the best way that I can? Now I was experiencing what it was like to think about Plato and Plotinus, Augustine, and Aquinas, with peers who were younger than my sons. Life in the classroom with smart young students was enriching – this time for the soul.”
Mary Ann Christopher was also presented with an honorary degree, as was Elizabeth A. Johnson, C.S.J., Distinguished Professor of Theology at Fordham University. Dr. Johnson is a groundbreaking theologian widely considered one of the architects of feminist theology. Alycia Crane received the St. Ignatius Loyola Medal for outstanding University service.