“How good is it that we are here together?” Dr. Karen Boroff, interim provost and executive vice president, asked the crowd of families, faculty, administration, supporters and the Class of 2017 on Monday, May 15 at the baccalaureate commencement ceremony, which took place at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, N.J.
The ceremony featured a commencement speaker for the first time in three years, despite concerns that had arisen throughout the year that the goal of a united graduation ceremony was unattainable.
This graduating class put the University over 100,000 living alumni in the world. To commemorate the milestone, Ryan Duffy, president of the Alumni Board of Directors and member of the Board of Regents recognized Elianni De La Cruz, a graduate of the College of Arts and Sciences, as the official 100,000th alumna.
The excitement of the graduates at the beginning of the ceremony was palpable and cheers filled the room with energy.
Sister Mathilde (Katherine) DeLucy, who graduated from the College of Education and Human Services, sang the Star Spangled Banner once administrators, faculty and graduates took their seats. DeLucy will teach music at St. Francis Cathedral School in the fall and said that Seton Hall allowed her to find the connection between music and the soul that she hopes to impart on her future students.
Commencement speaker Matthew W. Wright, member of the Board of Regents, recipient of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. scholarship and SHU baseball alumnus, was presented by his former teammate, Robert Sheppard, the current head coach of the men’s baseball team. Sheppard presented Wright with his old jersey, No. 4, in a warm exchange before Wright addressed the graduating class.
Dominique J. Hamliton-Moore, a graduate of the College of Arts and Sciences with a degree in criminal justice and an MLK scholar herself, said she looked forward to hearing Wright’s remarks.
“My scholarship has done great things to push me and has taken me to where I am today, so I’m excited to hear how the scholarship has helped him,” Hamliton-Moore said.
Wright’s address, laden with jokes about the common struggles of recent college graduates, like whether or not it’s wise to splurge on Chipotle for dinner as opposed to ramen, drove home the importance of finding one’s purpose in life.
“I realized that my graduation day was not the liftoff to earning an income or self-sufficiency, but instead the completion of the preparation for uncovering my ultimate purpose,” Wright said. “When you ultimately find your purpose and operate within it, you will have a sense of peace and fulfillment that can never be measured in dollars and cents, along with a rewarding sense of accomplishment that your daily efforts are serving a greater good and meeting a higher calling.”
Later in the ceremony, Cardinal Joseph William Tobin, Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Newark, delivered a short speech to the first graduating class he has overseen at Seton Hall.
“Come back and see us. You know where we live,” Tobin said. “More importantly, you know for whom we live.”
Tobin’s remarks were much less controversial than the 2016 commencement speech by Archbishop John Myers, former Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Newark, which featured comments on the LGBTQ community. Myers said that family values were being attacked due to “mistaken ideas of what love and marriage mean, many of which are supported by the state and society.”
Despite the exhilaration at the beginning, hundreds of graduates left the ceremony early; some took off after symbolically moving their tassels from left to right, others immediately upon receiving their diplomas. Many graduates sought their families and friends from the crowd before the ending addresses.
Aside from the speeches from regents and administrators, three students also addressed the Class of 2017. Francesca Regalado, a graduate with a dual degree in Diplomacy & International Relations and Modern Languages, presented the greetings from the senior class. Teagan Sebba, a graduate of political science and former Student Government Association (SGA) president of two years, presented remarks from SGA. At the end of the ceremony, Augustine Glazov, a graduate from the College of Arts & Sciences with a degree in philosophy, delivered the valedictory address.
“I want all of you to remember this day, not because it’ll remind you of great it is to be a Pirate, but because it will forever serve as an example of how powerful our combined voices can be,” Sebba said in reference to the emails she received from many seniors. The senior class had expressed to the SGA that they wanted the entire class to graduate together in a venue that could accommodate all 1,465 of them. Prior to the announcement that declared commencement would be held at the PNC Arts Center, three separate graduation ceremonies were planned to take place on campus.
Despite a dwindling crowd of graduates, Glazov tied the Class of 2017’s collegiate experience together using fairy tales, posing thought-provoking questions to the degree receivers.
“Will you be the hero in the story of your life? Will you face the world, meeting adversity with your sword in hand, exemplifying virtue, and becoming the character you wish to be? Will you defeat your dragons?” Glazov asked. “Clearly, I am not alone in the belief that we can and we will. And if your life really is to be a story, then I think today can be chapter one.”
Brianna Bernath can be reached at Brianna.firstname.lastname@example.org.