Much to the surprise of the Class of 2017, Matthew W. Wright, Seton Hall Class of 1989, will be the Baccalaureate Commencement speaker at the 160th Commencement Ceremony on Monday, May 15 at PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, N.J.
“It’s an honor and I was flattered to do it,” Wright said. “It’s a great way to give back to the institution.”
According to an email from the Office of the Provost on Tuesday, April 4, Wright’s ties to Seton Hall University run deep. He graduated from SHU with a B.S. in Business as a finance major, and while he was a student, he wore No. 4 as an outfielder on the baseball team. In 2015, he returned to his roots to serve as a member of the Board of Regents.
Wright received a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Rochester in 1991. He is the founder and president of Disciplina Group LLC, which includes a risk consultancy firm and investment advisory firm. Prior to that, he was the vice chancellor for investments and chief investment officer of Vanderbilt University.
Kerrin O’Connor, senior psychology major, said it will be beneficial for graduates to hear from such a successful alumnus in Wright.
“I really wasn’t expecting to have a speaker, so the announcement was a pleasant surprise,” O’Connor said. “I don’t know very much about him, but he seems like a successful alumnus so I’m sure he’ll have some good advice for the graduating seniors as we go out into the world.”
Bernadette McVey, director of Academic Events, Initiatives and Planning, said that the Office of the Provost and members of the Executive Cabinet set the goal to find “a speaker who is accomplished in his/her profession and whose life embodies the Seton Hall mission and spirit.”
She continued, “It was our desire to respond to the input of the Class of 2017. As a result we changed the venue to accommodate one ceremony and added a commencement speaker to the ceremony.”
Seniors like Jessica Plummer, a nursing major, were open about their disappointment about both the on-campus ceremonies and the lack of commencement speaker, so when changes started happening, so did their sentiments. Plummer was not planning to attend her commencement ceremony until she saw the amount of effort the student body put into making these changes happen.
“I expected not to have a commencement speaker since the planning was probably late notice,” Plummer said. “I think it’s cool that SHU pulled it off to at least get somebody.”
Student Government Association (SGA) President Teagan Sebba said that her role in the process was to communicate the desire to have a commencement speaker to McVey and Interim Provost Dr. Karen Boroff. She described the search process as “relaxed.”
Sebba said that she was permitted to invite other students to contribute to the cause, and with that permission she looped in Thomas Kraft, a senior philosophy and political science major, SGA finance chair and an employee of the Archdiocese of Newark.
Kraft said that McVey and Boroff worked with the Office of Mission and Ministry, specifically Msgr. C. Anthony Ziccardi, vice president for Mission and Ministry and the secretary designee to the Board of Regents, to conduct the “extensive search.”
“In terms of what Wright has to offer, I would imagine that the graduating class hopes that he may impart a modicum of wisdom as to what lies ahead, as he has a plethora of experience in a vast array of disciplines,” Kraft said. “The Provost’s office has heard him speak on more than one occasion, and they firmly believe that he has a great deal to offer the out-going class.”
Wright said that while he’s given thought to the message of his speech, he’s not willing to share it just yet. However, he’s hoping that the message will be one that resonates with graduates, families and the Seton Hall community at large.
Sebba expressed her gratitude to the administration for working diligently to improve the commencement ceremony.
“I am forever grateful to Bernadette McVey and Dr. Boroff for believing in me when I expressed the student voice and for working so hard to make even our wildest dreams come true,” Sebba said in an email. “I urge every senior to thank [them] as quickly and freely as we were to criticize them; these women are incredible.”
Brianna Bernath can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.