On Sunday, May 19, graduates and their loved ones gathered in the Nerney Field House of the Dixon Center for Cabrini’s 59th Commencement Exercises, celebrating undergraduates at a 10am ceremony and post-baccalaureate degree recipients at a 2:30pm ceremony.
The Commencement ceremonies wrapped up a weekend of celebrations, including a VIP Reception for donors from the Class of 2019 and Senior Send-Off, Commencement Mass, a Who’s Who ceremony, and the Senior Awards and Hooding ceremony.
The post-baccalaureate ceremony marked Cabrini’s first Doctor of Organizational Development recipients, as well as the second-ever set of Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership (EdD) recipients. In spring of 2018, Shirley Walker Dixon (’84, MEd’89, EdD’18) became Cabrini’s first doctoral degree recipient when she earned her EdD from Cabrini and became a three-time graduate of the institution.
“As you embark on your next journey, you take with you the foundation of a Cabrinian education—one rooted in academic excellence, leadership development, and a commitment to social justice,” said Cabrini President Donald B. Taylor, PhD, during his welcome address.
“A Cabrinian education stays with you,” continued President Taylor. “It has instilled in you Cabrini’s core values of respect, vision, community, and dedication to excellence, values that you will return to throughout your lives. … And a Cabrinian education is a promise—a promise that you will live lives of purpose, that you will carry with you always the light of the Cabrini spirit and serve as stewards of what is good in the world.
“I am truly honored to be here with you today, celebrating this achievement, and I’m truly excited to see the successes I know the future holds for you.
“Go forth and do great things. Make your mark on the world. Live with Purpose. Believe in yourself.”
Alumni Association President Nicholas J. Luchko (’01, MS’04) presented the Mother Ursula Award—an annual award given to a nominated senior who is voted by fellow classmates as having best fulfilled the ideals of the University through academic achievement, participation in extracurricular activities, leadership, and service to fellow classmates and to the institution—to Catherine Fazio. As Founder and President of Cabrini’s Food Recovery Network, Fazio works to unite students on college campuses to fight food waste and hunger by recovering perishable food that would otherwise go to waste from their campuses and communities and donating it to people in need.
Kimberly Boyd, PhD, Associate Professor, Biology, and Associate Dean for Student Success, introduced valedictorian Anna Russo, who graduated with a 3.97 grade point average as a Sociology and Criminology double major with a minor in Leadership Studies. Active in Cabrini student life organizations and as a youth mentor, Russo will attend the Higher Education and Student Affairs graduate program at The Ohio State University after graduation.
“Looking out at the sea of graduates in front of me, I am reminded of how far we have come and the true magnitude of this event in our lives,” said Russo. “Although we all sit in the same room now, each of our paths to this point has been unique in its own way. We make up countless identities, speak beautiful languages, practice varying religions, and call different countries home, but there is a shared experience among us all. First, we all are members of the Cabrini family, a community that sees no value in using our differences to divide but celebrates the incredible, diverse experiences each of us brings to the table. Second, in one way or another, each of us has defied the odds, achieving something that someone once told us was only a lofty dream. At some point in our lives, someone stood in our way and told us no, that we were too ambitious or that we simply weren’t good enough.
“In my life, it was my battle with addiction that stood in my way, holding my future hostage. Yet today I stand in front of you with over six years of sobriety, about to receive my college diploma,” said Russo, who received a standing ovation for her sentiment.
“I’ve come to learn the power of one day,” said Russo. “Each day we wake up holds immeasurable promise; promise of happiness, of growth, of challenges and of love. While the world’s problems may not be solved in a mere 24 hours, it only takes a moment to change a person’s life for the better.
“As we go out into the world as proud Cabrini graduates, I leave you with this: May we continue to fight for what we believe in, no matter the obstacles in our way. May we embody the selflessness and compassion of Mother Cabrini to stand up to injustice and use our voice to advocate for those in need. May we inspire others through our hard work, dedication, and passion. May we go forth and live with purpose. And, most importantly, may we never forget our time together as Cavaliers.”
Peter J. Gonzales, Esq., President and CEO for the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians, provided the Commencement address for both the undergraduate and graduate ceremonies. The Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians is a nonprofit promoting inclusive economic growth through immigrant integration—very much following the spirit of Cabrini’s namesake, Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, the Patron Saint of Immigrants.
“Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages … Get ready for the greatest show on earth!” opened Gonzales.
“I’ve been wanting to do that my whole life,” he joked.
In addition to touting key insights like, “Find a job that will help you pay your bills and open up new opportunities for learning—something that will expand your horizons. Something that will expose you to something new” and “Investing early will create more opportunity later,” Gonzales also elaborated on his own family history and his family’s involvement with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Gonzales’s family history boasts trapeze artists, acrobats, and even the Strong Lady.
“It occurs to me that the circus is a metaphor for life,” said Gonzales. “The risks you’ll take, the wonder and variety of performances, the laughter and experiences. There will be times when you’ll feel like you’re spinning plates. So many plates. And you’ll keep them spinning somehow. Some of you have already felt that way. Believe me, you’ll get better at it as you go.
“Keep setting goals for yourself and building on them. Eventually, you’ll be swinging on the trapeze with ease. As you build relationships, your safety net will stretch far and wide.
“As we celebrate your graduation from Cabrini, you are all well on your way. With educated hearts and minds, family and friends supporting you, you are ready for the next act. Congratulations, and welcome to the greatest show on earth.”
Unable to attend Sunday’s undergraduate graduation ceremony were nine players from Cabrini’s men’s lacrosse team, who were playing in the 2019 NCAA Division III Men’s Lacrosse Tournament Semifinals—the first time in program history that the team advanced to the Final Four. With the team’s victory, they will play in the program’s first Division III NCAA Championship game on Sunday, May 26, at Lincoln Financial Field. Tickets are available.
The graduating seniors—Timothy Clinton Brooks; Cassius Alexander Christie; Kevin Thomas Delaney; Drew M. Hanna; Jordan Anthony Krug; Nick LaBanca; William F. Morgan III; Nicholas Vass; and Riley White—were honored in a Commencement ceremony on Tuesday, May 21, at 4pm in the Mansion.
View our Graduate Commencement photos on Flickr.