Fairfield Announces 2024 Commencement Speakers

Fairfield Announces 2024 Commencement Speakers

Graduates in gowns stand facing Bellarmine Hall at Commencement

For the first time in University history, international graduates from the Charles F. Dolan School of Business Shanghai MBA program will receive their diplomas in person at the graduate ceremony in Connecticut.

Fairfield University’s 74th Commencement ceremonies will take place May 18 and 19, 2024. Graduate exercises will be held at the Leo D. Mahoney Arena on Saturday, May 18 at 9:30 a.m., and undergraduate exercises are scheduled for Sunday, May 19 at 9:30 a.m. on Bellarmine Lawn.

For the first time in the University’s history, international graduates from the Charles F. Dolan School of Business Shanghai MBA program will receive their diplomas in person at the graduate ceremony on the North Benson campus in Fairfield, Connecticut. The Dolan School’s nationally ranked MBA program has been available to professionals in Shanghai since 2020, in partnership with Golden Education, one of the largest management training companies in China.

The Most Reverend Frank J. Caggiano, Bishop of the Diocese of Bridgeport will address Fairfield University’s undergraduate Class of 2024 and will be presented with a Doctor of Humane Letters honorary degree by University President Mark R. Nemec, PhD.

As a distinguished leader in the Catholic Church, Bishop Caggiano has dedicated his life to embodying the values of faith, compassion, and service, and has tirelessly worked to build faith communities of solidarity and inclusion. In addition to his pastoral duties, Bishop Caggiano has been actively involved in World Youth Day. He serves on several committees of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, is the Chaplain for Legatus International, and has served as the chairman of the board of directors for Catholic Relief Services for three years. In 2018, he represented the United States at the Vatican during the 15th Ordinary General Assembly, which was dedicated to the theme of "Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment."

As a longtime friend and supporter of Fairfield University, Bishop Caggiano was instrumental in the opening of Fairfield Bellarmine, the University’s new associate’s degree program, which has expanded access to Catholic higher education in the region. In 2019, he received the prestigious Bowler Award from Fairfield University’s Murphy Center for Ignatian Spirituality, in recognition of his pastoral contributions to the Diocese of Bridgeport and his exemplification of the spirit of St. Ignatius Loyola.

Bishop Caggiano was educated in the Jesuit ethos of intellectual inquiry and social justice. After graduating from Regis High School in Manhattan in 1977, he was admitted to Yale University and transferred to Cathedral College of the Immaculate Conception, where he graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor of philosophy degree. He earned a master of divinity at Immaculate Conception Seminary in Huntington, New York. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1987, and in 2006 was named auxiliary bishop of Brooklyn and titular bishop of Inis Cathaigh by Pope Benedict XVI. In September 2013, he was installed as the fifth bishop of Bridgeport.

The graduate ceremony speaker will be Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de León, who will be honored with a Doctor of Laws honorary degree in recognition of his unwavering commitment to economic reform, social justice, and international cooperation in both governance and academia, and visionary leadership.

Zedillo served as the president of Mexico from 1994 to 2000, and prior to his presidency, held prominent positions within the Mexican government, including deputy director at the Central Bank of Mexico and minister of education, where he spearheaded initiatives to improve access to quality education for all citizens.

Zedillo has been a leading voice in global affairs, serving in leadership roles for numerous boards and organizations, including the United Nations, the World Economic Forum, the Global Commission on Elections, the London School of Economics, the Natural Resource Governance Institute, the International Commission on Global Public Goods, the Kofi Annan Commission on Elections and Democracy in the Digital Age, and the Global Development Network.

As the director of the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization, a senior fellow at Yale’s Jackson School of Global Affairs, a professor in the field of international economics and politics, and an adjunct professor at the Yale School of the Environment, Zedillo has dedicated himself to the education of young people on both the theory and practice of sustainable development, and positive economic interdependence.

He received the Fairfield University Distinguished Leadership Award in 2004. An endowed scholarship in his name, the Ernesto Zedillo Scholarship, recognizes academic achievement for Fairfield students of Mexican heritage with financial need. Zedillo earned his undergraduate degree at the National Polytechnic Institute of Mexico and his master's and doctoral degrees at Yale University.

Doctor of Laws honorary degrees will also be bestowed upon Patrick J. Waide Jr. at the undergraduate ceremony, and Carolyn M. Vermont at the graduate ceremony.

Patrick J. Waide Jr. '59, is a distinguished alumnus who has made a positive impact on the University community and beyond, through his exemplary career, commitment to service, and ethical leadership. Waide rose to prominence as a trailblazer in international professional services, first as a certified public accountant and culminating in his role as vice chairman, international and senior partner at Deloitte. He guided multinational clients through the complexities of global commerce, earning widespread acclaim for his strategic acumen, integrity, and unwavering commitment to excellence. 

Subsequently, Waide was executive vice president for finance and administration of The Bessemer Group, Incorporated, president and CEO of the Peter F. Drucker Foundation for Nonprofit Management, and a director of the Mutual of America Institutional Funds and the Mutual of America Investment Corporation. His nonprofit work includes serving as the National Catholic Publishing Company director and the president of the Advisory Board for the Little Sisters of the Poor Jeanne Jugan Residence for the aged poor in New York City.

Waide has had a transformative impact on the Fairfield community, most notably through his generous support of the Center for Applied Ethics at the Dolan School of Business, renamed The Patrick J. Waide Center for Applied Ethics. Waide has worked to advance the University's mission, through his service as a University Trustee, and as a member of the Dolan School of Business Advisory Board and the Fairfield Awards Dinner Committee. He received the Fairfield Awards Dinner Alumni Professional Achievement Award in 1974, the Alumni Service Award in 1989, and the Fairfield University 50th Jubilee Medal in 1993.

Waide graduated from Fairfield University with a bachelor of business administration degree in accounting, and was the 1959 valedictorian and the Bellarmine Philosophy Award recipient. He earned an MBA in banking and finance at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business.

As the CEO of Habitat for Humanity of Coastal Fairfield County, Carolyn Vermont ’82, MA’84, leads initiatives that provide affordable housing solutions and empower families to build brighter futures. Previously, Vermont served as the mayor's community liaison for the city of Bridgeport, where she played a pivotal role in fostering collaboration between local government and grassroots organizations. In addition to her role as vice president and public relations chair for the West Indian-American Association of Greater Bridgeport, Vermont has worked with Upward Bound and INROADS, where she helped recruit, train, and place students of color in corporate internships that led to full-time jobs.

Vermont’s volunteer leadership positions span local, statewide, and national organizations. She has served on the Fairfield University Board of Trustees, Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions Advisory Board, Reunion Committee, and Annual Giving Committee, and has championed efforts to promote diversity and inclusion. Vermont has served as a First Lady Michelle Obama Women’s Roundtable representative and was honored as a White House Changemaker at the 2016 United State of Women Summit. As president of the Rotary Club of Bridgeport, she helped fund scholarships and grants for deserving students, teachers, and local nonprofits.

Vermont has been recognized with the 2008 Fairfield University Alumni Service Award, the Bridgeport Regional Business Council Susan L. Davis Community Leadership Award, Rotarian of the Year, and Cardinal Shehan Center Volunteer of the Year.

She earned earned her bachelor’s degree in fine arts in 1982, and her master’s degree in education in 1984 from Fairfield University, and pursued doctoral studies at the University of Bridgeport before immersing herself in her work with the community.

For more information about Fairfield University and the 74th Commencement ceremonies, visit: fairfield.edu/commencement.

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