For the first time in its history, Fairfield University holds separate commencement ceremony for graduate students


 

Image: Commencement 2009
Graduate Sahiti Yallapragada, of Illinois, waves after receiving a Master of Science degree in engineering at Fairfield University's Fifty-Ninth Commencement on Sunday. It was the first time in Fairfield University's history that a separate commencement ceremony was held for graduate students.

For the first time in its history, Fairfield University held a separate commencement ceremony for graduate students. Commencement exercises for undergraduates took place this morning.

Among the many outstanding graduates was the inaugural class of the Fairfield University School of Nursing and the Bridgeport Hospital Nurse Anesthesia Program. This select group began the program in January of 2007. All with critical care experience in nursing from top hospitals throughout the country, some moved their families across the country and left prominent positions to take part in the unique program. It is the only nurse anesthesia program in Connecticut to offer the Master of Science in Nursing to its students.

Speaking at the graduate student ceremony - the University's 59th commencement exercises - was Mathy Mezey, EdD, RN, FAAN, a leader in geriatric care whose career has been dedicated to improving healthcare for older adults.

Dr. Mezey, director of The Hartford Institute for Geriatric Nursing in the New York University College of Nursing, encouraged the 358 graduates to live lives fulfilled by volunteering, civic engagement and community service, both on a local and global level: "You have been fortunate to experience the nearly 500-year Jesuit vision of not only integrating the intellectual and spiritual, but also of the awareness that academic achievement brings with it a responsibility to serve," she said. "With a Jesuit and Catholic Mission at its core, Fairfield University has sought to help you examine your sense of calling and mission in both your personal life and in your career choices."

Dr. Mezey told graduate students that by being among the only 4.6% of Americans who have graduate degrees, they should consider themselves a "scarce national resource." So as a scarce resource, you have earned an IOU, a social obligation to society," she explained. "You are fortunate that, by virtue of having attended Fairfield University, a Jesuit School with Jesuit values, your education has instilled in you the need to meet your social obligation to society. While a graduate student, you have been exposed to the University's vision and mission of social justice and global citizenship."

She emphasized, "(Your diploma) not only gives you a leg up in your chosen profession, it also gives you a leg up in how long and how well you will live."

Robert T. Morton, Jr., a Stratford, Conn., resident who grew up in Monroe, Conn., delivered the valedictory address, telling his fellow graduates that he's spent nine years on the Fairfield campus. A graduate of Fairfield Prep, he earned a master's degree and a bachelor's degree in accounting from the Dolan School of Business. "A hallmark of Jesuit education is the sharing of knowledge to enhance learning," he said. "This is especially apparent in Fairfield's graduate programs, where those coming back to school with a wealth of professional and real-world experience share a classroom with more recent graduates... this blend of academic and experiential knowledge creates an environment in which every student benefits."

Maryann LaBella, from Redding, Conn., a Marriage and Family Therapy major who attended the Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions, was awarded the very first Saint Ignatius Loyola Medal given to a graduate student. It recognizes outstanding university service, and is presented by the Alumni Association.

Earlier in the day, Fairfield awarded 940 diplomas at the undergraduate commencement ceremony. Dr. Peter J. Pronovost, a 1987 Fairfield graduate who grew up in Waterbury, Conn., delivered the undergraduate address. A critical care physician at Johns Hopkins Medical Center, he was presented with an honorary Doctor of Science degree. He was one of the 25 MacArthur Fellows selected this year by The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation for a "genius grant." He developed a healthcare safety "checklist" that is saving countless lives around the world. He was also named one of the "most influential people of 2008" by Time Magazine.

The University also conferred honorary Doctor of Laws degrees on Monsignor Ralph W. Beiting, a Roman Catholic priest and founder of the Christian Appalachian Project (CAP), who has devoted his life to helping those marginalized by poverty; and Bryan A. Stevenson, executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative of Alabama. He has made it his mission to help those wrongly convicted by crimes and those who are up against an unfair judicial system.

Photo by B.K. Angeletti

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Media Contact: Meg McCaffrey, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2726, mmccaffrey@fairfield.edu

Posted on May 17, 2009

Vol. 41, No. 338