Fairfield University awards degrees to 1,233 graduates at 2008 commencement ceremony


Image: Fr von Arx

Read the 2008 Commencement Address

Fairfield University President Rev. Jeffrey P. von Arx, S.J., told the more than 1,200 graduates at Fairfield University's 58th commencement exercises today, "The very best advice we can give you in these times of uncertainty, and the very best thing you can do, is to abide in a loving and trustful anticipation of what is to be."

Under sunny skies from the commencement stage on Bellarmine Hall Lawn, he reminded undergraduates and graduate students of the "strong and steady current in Jesuit education" of personal moral responsibility. "It is far from inevitable that our confusing and uncertain world will be a better place, but it will be if you accept your responsibility to make it so and act on that responsibility."

It was a full circle moment for Fr. von Arx, as well as for the Class of 2008. He was named the eighth President of Fairfield University in July, 2004, just before the 2008 graduates began their freshman year. He wanted to speak to 'my graduating class' at their commencement and share in their accomplishments, because they have been so welcoming and helpful to him during his years at Fairfield.

Image: Students at 2008 CommencementHe expressed his hope that graduates' lives will be infused with faith, hope and love - and not just romantic love. "I also mean love of neighbor and love of God and, most relevant to our task here as educators and yours as learners, the love of something that you will do with your lives: your passion, your vocation."

Fr. von Arx emphasized that love works on its own timetable, suggesting, "you can be watchful and expectant, and hopefully we have given you an ability to read the signs of the times and ways to know yourselves, so that as the object of your love presents itself, or himself, or herself, you will know and be able to respond."

The past four years have seen great gains in the University's efforts to become a more diverse community, which is a major goal of its strategic plan and a goal Fr. von Arx has championed.

He has striven to establish a campus-wide strategy to help students integrate their living and learning experiences. His concern for student life stems in part from having lived in undergraduate residence halls throughout his years at Georgetown and Fordham.

Fr. von Arx noted, "The complexion of the institution has changed dramatically, and you leave Fairfield a much more diverse institution than you found it. We have made a commitment to a more integrated vision of education, and as young alumni, you will see Fairfield recognized as a leader in the integration of life and learning."

Stacey M. Molski, an Art History major and theater minor from Middletown, N.J., delivered the valedictory address, urging graduates to find their passion in life and to not postpone pursuing their dreams. "Your Jesuit education has enabled you to develop personally so that you now have the power to do what you wish with what you have been given. Do not allow yourself to wait for that day in the future to create your happiness."

The University awarded 1,233 degrees to the Class of 2008, including 890 bachelor's degrees, 321 master's degrees, 19 certificates of advanced study and 3 associate's degrees.

Laura E. Hastings, a mathematics major and computer science minor from East Bridgewater, Mass., received the Bellarmine Medal, which is given to the student with the highest four-year academic average.

The Saint Ignatius Loyola Medal for outstanding university service, the highest Alumni Association award presented to a senior, was awarded to Timothy G. Dee, a mathematics major and business minor from Pembroke, Mass.

The University also conferred honorary Doctor of Laws degrees on several individuals who have devoted their lives to service and learning:

Fairfield University Assistant Professor Sister M. Julianna Poole, S.S.N.D., Ed.D., of Fairfield, is now retiring after a 60-year career in education that has centered around increasing cultural appreciation and bilingualism. She has been a tremendous proponent of bilingual education during her 20-year career in Fairfield University's Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions at Fairfield University.

She was most recently chair of the Foreign Language & Bilingual/Multicultural programs. As a supervisor of student teachers she saw the need to provide Initial Educator Certification in TESOL and Bilingual Education and in 1994 Fairfield University was accredited in these areas. Sister Poole also wrote training grants for bilingual and ESL teachers, resulting in Project BET, Project BELL, and Project TELL (from 1995 to 2006) which provided training of candidates from the Priority Districts of Bridgeport, Norwalk, and Stamford along with teachers from surrounding districts. Earlier in her career, she served as Vice Principal at South Catholic High School in Hartford and Principal of St. Francis School in New Haven

Image: Francis T. VincentFrancis T. Vincent, Jr., of Williamstown, Mass., and Vero Beach, Fla., is a former Major League Baseball Commissioner and former President and CEO of Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. He served on the Fairfield University Board of Trustees from 1991 to 2002. An advocate for need-based scholarships, he created the Alice Lynch Vincent Scholarship Fund at Fairfield in memory of his mother in December 1996. His career achievements are considerable. In 1982, following the acquisition of Columbia by The Coca-Cola Company, he was promoted to Executive Vice president of The Coca-Cola Company, responsible for all its entertainment activities. Mr. Vincent served as the eighth Commissioner of Major League Baseball from September 13, 1989 to September 7, 1992. Mr. Vincent is a member of the Board of Directors of Time Warner, Inc. and is an Advisor to GGCP, Inc. He has been honored by the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum for his assistance to Negro League Alumni.

David Amram, of Putnam Valley, N.Y., is an American composer, musician, and writer whose eclectic use of jazz, ethnic and folk music led him to work with the likes of Thelonious Monk, Willie Nelson, Charles Mingus, Leonard Bernstein, and Jack Kerouac throughout the course of his career. He received an honorary doctor of humane letters. Mr. Amram is working with author Frank McCourt on a new setting of the Mass, "Missa Manhattan." One of his latest pieces, "Giants of the Night" is a flute concerto dedicated to the memory Charlie Parker, Jack Kerouac and Dizzy Gillespie, three American artists Amram knew and worked with.

Last September, Symphony Silicone Valley opened its sixth season at the California Theater in San Jose, Calif., with Amram's "Symphonic Variations on a Song by Woody Guthrie," a work commission by the Guthrie family several years prior to its premiere. His composing career includes more than 100 orchestral and chamber music works, and many scores written for Broadway theater and film.

Rev. John Halligan, S.J., is founder of the Working Boys Center in Quito, Ecuador, which began as a space in the attic of a Jesuit High School and grew into a life-changing facility for thousands of families. The Center's first decade saw it evolve from a place offering low-income adolescents lunch to an instructional school in carpentry and metal crafts, providing medical and dental care.

In 1974, Fr. Halligan was able to move the program into a new center and introduced one major change in the rules: Any boy wanting to enroll in the center had to enroll his whole family as well. Out of this has grown "A Family of Families" program in which everybody, parents included, are expected to complete grammar school classes and then go on to one of several trade schools: metal and auto mechanics, carpentry, toy making, baking, sewing, and beauty care. Father Halligan says the program's success "is synonymous with personal development, family cohesion and elimination of poverty through decent jobs." Volunteer recruitment is by word of mouth, mostly at Jesuit colleges and universities, including Fairfield University, Le Moyne in Syracuse, and Marquette in Milwaukee.

Bookmark and Share

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

Posted on May 18, 2008

Vol. 40, No. 268