Fairfield Celebrates Commencement 2016
On the morning of Sunday, May 22, the weather for Fairfield University's 66th annual graduation ceremonies was intimidating, much like the class of 2016's first day on campus. But the clouds parted and the sun shone as they received their degrees and began their bright future post-Fairfield.
The morning's undergraduate ceremony and the afternoon's graduate ceremony celebrated the achievements of Stags, and featured addresses from the CEO of Bigelow Tea, Cindi Bigelow, and Rev. Agbonkhianmeghe E. Orobator, S.J., the principal and president of the Jesuit School of Theology and Institute of Peace Studies and International Relations in Nairobi, Kenya. He is the author of a number of books, the most current of which is Practicing Reconciliation, Doing Justice, Building Peace: Conversations on Catholic Theological Ethics in Africa.
The total number of degrees awarded by the University included 938 bachelor's degrees, 480 master's degrees, 17 Sixth-Year Certificates, and 28 doctorates. The graduates earned degrees from the College of Arts & Sciences, Charles F. Dolan School of Business, School of Engineering, Marion Peckham Egan School of Nursing and Health Studies and the Graduate School of Education & Allied Professions.
Following the invocation by the Most Reverend Frank J. Caggiano, Bishop of the Diocese of Bridgeport, Fr. Agbonkhianmeghe E. Orobator, received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree. He then took to the podium to address the class of 2016 by first singing a traditional prayer of gratitude in his native tongue. In his speech that followed, he urged graduates to never forget the love, support and sacrifices of their families, and challenged them to become ambassadors of the values and beliefs of Fairfield University.
“Work for a more humane, just, and sustainable world —for yourselves, your community, your university and your world. You are now part of another global family of Fairfield University. You do not go into the world alone, bereft of support. You step into a world of a family of global citizens.” He concluded, “As you go forth, never forget your solemn duty to keep Fairfield rising through faith and total truth.”
Following the conferral of degrees, and as the undergraduate commencement exercises came to a close, President Jeffrey P. von Arx, S.J., concluded, “You, our students, now our graduates, are the reason this place exists and the reason we, your teachers and mentors, have chosen the lives we have. You leave Fairfield the objects of our hopes and longings, of our dreams and aspirations. And you leave, of course, with our best wishes, our blessings and our prayers.”
Also at the undergraduate ceremony, honorary degrees were given to alumnus Julio Ramirez ’77, PhD. In 2011, Dr. Ramirez was awarded the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring by President Barack Obama, the Award for Education in Neuroscience from the Society for Neuroscience, and the Distinguished Mentor Award from the Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience; and to Don Gummer, a renowned modern sculptor, and Connecticut local. His major exhibit is currently on display at Fairfield University’s Walsh Art Gallery at the Quick Center for the Arts.
Cindi Bigelow, CEO of Bigelow Tea, delivered the commencement address for the graduate ceremony. Through her work in the community, Ms. Bigelow embodies the Jesuit emphasis on social responsibility and service to others. Among many other philanthropic initiatives, she works with teens in Appalachia to rebuild homes and supports numerous humanitarian causes.
In her commencement address, Bigelow shared words of wisdom with the graduates. “Passion unfolds as life unfolds, slowly, and it takes time to figure out what you’re good at and what’s important to you. With that comes a much greater appreciation for everything around you.”
Additionally, an honorary degree was bestowed upon Sr. Maureen Fleming, SSND at the graduate ceremony. She is currently the coordinator of Pastoral Outreach Activities at St. Luke’s Parish in Westport, Conn. She was formerly the director of Caroline House, a literacy center for immigrant women in Bridgeport started by her religious order. She is an advocate for the rights of women and children, for education, and for those in poverty. Sr. Maureen also works with the United Nations and participates in lectures and conferences dealing with the issues and rights of women and children.
The day closed with parting words from Fr. von Arx: “We have asked you to discern that along with the privilege of education comes the obligation to be of service to those who need what you have to give. That is what a Jesuit education is all about. There is so much good work that needs to be done in the world. I have every confidence you will find your place in it.”
Pictured: An excited student receives her degree at Fairfield University's 66th commencement ceremonies on Sunday, May 22; Credit: Gwen Pellegrino