More than 440 receive degrees at 62nd Fairfield University Graduate Commencement, including first doctorates in University history

More than 440 receive degrees at 62nd Fairfield University Graduate Commencement, including first doctorates in University history

Image: Wrights at Commencement Amid sunny skies and high spirits, Fairfield University awarded 419 master's degrees, 21 advanced study certificates and five doctor of nursing practice degrees - the first doctoral-level degrees in University history - at its 62nd Commencement ceremony on Sunday, May 20.

The crowd on Bellarmine Lawn included three honorary degree recipients Bob and Suzanne Wright, co-founders of Autism Speaks, who were the commencement speakers; and Sister Clare Fitzgerald, S.S.N.D., Ph.D., founding director of Fairfield University's American Studies Program and a "doyen of Catholic education."

The University conferred graduate degrees from its College of Arts and Sciences, the Dolan School of Business, the School of Engineering, the Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions and the School of Nursing, which recognized the first five graduates of its Doctor of Nursing Practiceprogram.

Commencement for the University's 883 undergraduates took place Sunday morning.

In their commencement address to the graduate degree candidates, Bob Wright, the former vice chairman of General Electric and chief executive officer of NBC and NBC Universal, and his wife, Suzanne Wright, each called on the graduates to follow their passions and to take action. Both mentioned their first grandson, Christian, and how his diagnosis with autism led them to found Autism Speaks, the world's leading autism science and advocacy organization.

"When you welcome your first grandchild into the world, the last thing you expect to learn is that you may never have a conversation with him," said Bob Wright. "In the months after Christian's diagnosis I reflected a lot on my Jesuit education, and the morals it instilled in me. Much like Fairfield, my college, Holy Cross, also taught me the importance of service. It was aneasy decision to create Autism Speaks, so that we could help our grandson - and the millions of children and families around the world like him. Solving the mysteries of this disorder has become one of the most important endeavors of my life."

The Wrights, Fairfield residents for more than 30 years, founded Autism Speaks in 2005. It is dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism; increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders; and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families. In the seven yearssince its formation, Autism Speaks has brought the condition to national and global attention, which has led to increased funding, more research, and assistance for those affected by autism.

"What we think is what we become," said Suzanne Wright. "My passion and dedication started with a little boy named Christian. I hope each of you finds your own mission. And remember: it's never too late to discover your life's work."

The Wrights are part of the Fairfield University community. Their son Chris graduated from Fairfield Prep in 1991, and the Dolan School of Business dedicated a chair in Business Law, Ethics, and Dispute Resolution in Bob Wright's name.

Image: J Allegreto Commencement Jenna Allegretto, of Ansonia, Conn., delivered the graduate class address, remembering how, as a child, she donned her first Fairfield sweatshirt, a tribute to her father, who received his Fairfield diploma more than 30 years ago with his classmates. "I grew up aspiring to one day be just like them - just like my father - holding that Jesuit degree in my hands, knowing that this institution transformed me into a confident, intellectual leader."

She called on her classmates to see the day as a celebration of academic achievement coupled with personal and spiritual growth. "As we call to mind our time devoted to Fairfield, we come to appreciate the gifts our education has presented - the gift of knowledge, the gift of faith, the gift of personal and professional values - gifts that cannot be priced, but rather will transcend the years we have committed to Fairfield University."

Allegretto earned her bachelor's degree in three years and her master's degree in accounting in one year from Fairfield's Charles F. Dolan School of Business.

School Psychology graduate Alyssa Beit, of Preston, Conn., received the St. Ignatius Loyola Medal for outstanding University service. Graduate student service awards went to: Deborah Kellogg-Van Orden, of Norwalk, Conn., Dolan School of Business; Jillian Eve Liptak, of Bridgeport, Conn., College of Arts and Sciences; Alexander Santiago, of Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, School of Engineering; John DiGiacomo, of Shelton, Conn., School of Nursing; and Elaine Mattern, of East Lyme, Conn., Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions.

Image: Commencement 2012 A dedicated educator for more than 60 years, Sr. Clare Fitzgerald, S.S.N.D., Ph.D., who, like the Wrights, received an honorary degree, has served as president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious and was the first woman to give a retreat to the seminarians at Huntington Seminary on Long Island, New York. She was appointed to the Vatican Commission on the Study of Religious Life and won the National Catholic Education Association award.

Among the many outstanding graduates was Kristin Golia, of Stamford, Conn., a third-grade teacher at Osborn Hill School in Fairfield, Conn., who received her master's in Teaching and Foundations. She is one of the top five finalists in the third annual Top Teacher Search on television's "Live with Kelly!" She was nominated by a Fairfield family that was touched by her caring ways when their son, one of Golia's students, was battling cancer. She will find out Tuesday if she's won the title, a Ford Fusion and $25,000 for her school.

As the ceremony came to a close, University President Jeffrey P. von Arx, S.J., asked the parents, grandparents and spouses of graduates whowere also Fairfield graduates to stand. "I just want to thank you forencouraging your son, daughter, grandchild or spouse to pursue their education at Fairfield," he said. "Fairfield University is a community, and we are proud that so many Fairfield graduates pass on their affection and regard for Fairfield to their family. So thank you very much."

Image: Commencement 2012


Fairfield University graduate Commencement ceremony speakers Bob and Suzanne Wright of Fairfield, Conn.

Fairfield University Graduate Valedictory Speaker Jenna M. Allegretto of Ansonia, Conn.

Soon-to-be Fairfield University graduates process up the hill the graduate commencement ceremony on Bellarmine Lawn.

A view of the Fairfield University graduate commencement ceremony with Long Island Sound visible in the background.


For press, highlights and B-roll of Fairfield University's undergraduate and graduate commencement ceremonies will be available for downloading within two hours after each of the ceremonies ends - by 2 p.m. for the undergraduate footage and by 6:15 p.m. for the graduate footage.

To download the footage from the undergraduate commencement, please go to the following site:

To download the footage from the graduate commencement, please go to:

It's best to use Firefox to link to this site, but regardless of which browser you use, the files will end up in your "Downloads" folder on a Mac, while PC users will get a choice to "Open" or "Save" the files. You will find .mov files available.

Posted On: 05-20-2012 11:05 AM

Volume: 44 Number: 300