Fairfield University awards 1,247 diplomas at two separate commencement ceremonies


 

On an overcast morning, Fairfield University awarded diplomas to 927 undergraduate students at the Universitys 60th commencement exercises today; 921 bachelor's degrees and six associate degrees. For the first time, three graduates were honored with the Bellarmine Medal for the highest four-year academic average. This was the second time in Fairfield's history that a separate commencement ceremony was held for graduate students, with the first being held last year. Commencement for students in graduate programs will take place this afternoon.

Image: Katherine LappSpeaking at the undergraduate student ceremony was Fairfield alumna and the recipient of an honorary Doctor of Laws degree, Dr. Katherine Lapp '78, executive vice president of Harvard University, where she oversees all financial, administrative, human resources and capital planning functions as well as the administrative aspects of information technology for the university.

Dr. Lapp spoke of the differences in the manner in which the graduating class of today - which she said has been labeled the "Millenials" - experiences the world as opposed to her world and that of the other "baby boomers," including "many of your parents." Her generation of "college graduates was largely homogeneous, yours is wonderfully diverse - racially, culturally and intellectually." She noted "In the immediate aftermath of Watergate and the revelations of illegal government eavesdropping and spying, we were obsessed with our right to privacy, while you're more likely to tell your Facebook friends and their friends' friends, where you're going to dinner, who you are dating."

She acknowledged that "The world you are inheriting is not without challenge, but in that challenge lays endless opportunities - and a call to action." She detailed recent life-changing events from the past ten years that the class of 2010 has witnessed, including the horrors of 9/11, the unfolding of two wars, the ever-increasing threat of climate change, the disaster of seeing "a major American city literally disappear under water and ... the world's economy take its greatest plunge since the Great Depression." Yet, she noted, "in spite of all of that, you have maintained your optimism." She urged the graduates to "see this as your time to change the trajectory of this nation, this world.

She said she envisioned members of the class "heading off for Teach for America and the Peace Corps working to save the environment, joining the World Health Organization ... the world needs you; the problems facing us are too complex and too persistent to not have as many smart and talented minds as possible tackling them."

She impressed upon the graduates, "we have all been blessed to receive a Jesuit education ... you have been taught to think. You have been taught to take a 360 degree view of every problem ... not to accept simple solutions ... but always see the right solution ... You have been taught ... that to do well you must do good."

Emmanuel Ephie, whose family immigrated to the United States from Africa and who did not know English when he arrived in Bridgeport in 1996, knows first-hand, the value of a Jesuit education.

As the young immigrant, he searched out ways in which to build on his successes as salutatorian of his elementary school class at Bridgeport's Longfellow Elementary. As a high school student at Bassick High School, he observed his environment and culture and expanded his extracurricular activities while also taking part in the Business Magnet program and became a part of the principal's Leadership Team. Through the Bridgeport Public Education Fund's Mentoring for Academic Achievement and College Success program, he became familiar with Fairfield University, earning an academic scholarship and enriching his growing love of finance. "Fairfield University helped give me a solid foundation," Ephie said.

Ephie, who graduated Magna Cum Laude and captured a plum position at Goldman Sachs in New York that he begins in July, did service trips to Jamaica with Campus Ministry as a student and studied abroad in China. "That was a great experience to reflect on who I am and who I am called to be."

Image: Staysniak brothersChristopher Staysniak of Ridgefield, Conn., and his twin brother Geoffrey both graduated Summa Cum Laude, but it was Christopher who delivered the valedictory address. Staysniak recalled his class' "freshman move-in day" that was dominated by an ill-timed power outage. In looking back, he said, "I feel that the darkness of that ordeal symbolized the fact that we, too, were in many ways in the dark ... [and] the enlightenment of our Fairfield experiences and the totality of our Jesuit education awaited us in so many, many ways."

Since those first days, Staysniak continued, "we have all been touched, challenged and transformed ... I have witnessed the way in which instances inside and outside the classroom have provided the sort of education that illuminates the mind and lights a fire deep within the soul ... We have, at Fairfield, been provided with the space to learn ... discover ... Thanks to the Jesuit guiding principles ... we have become the beneficiaries of an education that has helped us discover our passions, maximize our talents and abilities and at this juncture challenges us to take all we have learned and all we have become, in the words of Saint Ignatius, 'to set the world aflame' ... We stand here as well-equipped as any to take on the world before us."

Staysniak joined Frank Romano of Briarcliff Manor, New York and Briana Woods-Conklin as honored recipients of the Bellarmine Medal as well as the John and Veronica Gleason Award for the highest academic average. Sarah Gatti of Peabody, Mass., was honored with the Saint Ignatius Loyola Medal for outstanding University service.

Fairfield will award diplomas to 320 graduate students at the afternoon ceremony. Speaking at the graduate ceremony will be Fairfield alumnus and Hartford, Conn. native Dr. James Abbruzzese '74, a recognized leader in the field of pancreatic cancer research and treatment and chairman of the department of Gastrointestinal Medical Oncology at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

In the morning, the University also conferred honorary Doctor of Laws degrees on Dr. Mayra Luz Pérez Díaz, the first woman to be named president of the Universidad Centroamericana (UCA) in Managua, Nicaragua; art historian Emily Rafferty, the first woman to be named president of New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art; and Rev. Daniel J. Harrington, S.J., professor of New Testament at the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry.

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Media Contact: Joan Grant, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2950, jgrant@fairfield.edu

Posted on May 23, 2010

Vol. 42, No. 298