Seton Hall University awarded degrees to 1,028 undergraduates at its 153rd Baccalaureate Commencement Ceremony on Monday at the IZOD Center in East Rutherford.
University President Msgr. Robert Sheeran gave the keynote address. He is set to step down from the presidency this June after 15 years at the post.
“There is still a much larger world out there for you and for me, as President Emeritus, to discover,” Sheeran said during his address. “Let me end this, my last Seton Hall graduation…my friends, know that wherever you go, wherever this marvelous odyssey of life takes you, Seton Hall is there at your side.”
In introducing Sheeran to the audience, Rev. Paul Holmes called the president “an engagingly personable leader” and used the title “Seton Hall’s father” to describe him.
Graduates and much of the audience gave Sheeran a standing ovation at the beginning and end of his address.
To mark Sheeran’s final Commencement Ceremony, graduates wore blue caps and gowns. The Seton Hall ROTC and Color Guard also donned blue berets and gloves.
Additionally, the ceremony awarded two individuals with honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degrees, Sister Sara Butler and Eric F. Ross.
Butler is one of the first two women to be appointed to the International Theological Commission in 2004 by Pope John Paul II.
Ross, a South Orange resident, is a Holocaust survivor. He and his late wife have given “many millions of dollars in charitable contributions to numerous causes throughout the world,” according to the Commencement Ceremony program.
Msgr. James Cafone, the vice chair of the Board of Trustees and an assistant professor of religious studies, delivered what would have been Newark Archbishop John J. Myers’ remarks to the graduates.
Myers could not attend because of “back problems,” according to Cafone.
Throughout the crowd of Seton Hall seniors who became alumni on Monday, several reflected during the ceremony on their time as students.
“It feels like only yesterday I was a freshman, but I know I’ve changed so much through the classes I’ve taken and people I’ve met here,” said Grace Chung, who received a Bachelor of Science in International Relations.
“You feel really grateful. All the people – professors, friends, family – are here that made you who you are. That’s what’s most important for me,” Chung said. She will be working at the Star-Ledger and then traveling to Indonesia to teach English to high school students.
Jackie Taylor, who received a Bachelor of Arts in journalism, said she was ready to graduate but would miss Seton Hall.
“It’s been a home for the past five years,” Taylor said.
The student speakers shared remarks during the ceremony to inspire their peers. Jonathan Chowansky gave the salutatory address that held a theme of “hard times.”
“The harder the times, the better the story,” Chowansky said in his address.
Valedictorian Era Murzaku challenged students to overcome those moments of adversity.
“In the face of difficulties, try to demolish them,” Murzaku said in her address.
Murzaku also reflected on the Berlin Wall and the different types of barriers throughout the world, closing her speech by saying, “let’s go tear down some walls.”
She also reminded the graduates to thank the people who supported them throughout their lives.
At the end of the Commencement Ceremony, graduates threw beach balls and confetti as well as enthusiastically sang the university’s Alma Mater. Many shouted the final line of the song about their university, “her name is Seton Hall.”
A total of 2,080 undergraduate and graduate students will earn degrees from Seton Hall this year. Ceremonies to honor graduates will continue until June 16.
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