By Steve Vivona
Nearly 3,000 students received their graduate and undergraduate
degrees during St. John’s University’s Commencement weekend held
May13-15. The 135th annual celebration was marked by several
special honorees and a solemn reflection of events that helped
shape their St. John’s careers.
An honoree of special note was Louis Goodman, a 93-year old
“Lifelong Learner,” and recipient of an honorary Doctor of Humane
Letters degree, who has audited classes at St. John’s for over 25
years. Had he pursued a degree he would have over 200 credits to
his name. However his only goal was bettering himself and gaining a
better understanding of the world in which he lives.
On the Staten Island campus Catherine “Mac” O’Callaghan was
awarded the St. John’s University President’s Medal for over 60
years of selfless service to her community that included opening
the doors of her own home to the needy and thousands of hours of
volunteer service to charitable organizations throughout Staten
Other honorees included New York City Police Commissioner Ray
Kelly who received the Medal of Honor and Staten Island Borough
President James Molinaro who received an honorary Doctor of Laws
degree. Both men served as Commencement speakers for the Queens and
Staten Island ceremonies, respectively.
In his speech Mr. Kelly noted that most of the graduates began
their college experience shortly before September 11, 2001. “When
we look back to that terrible day, it is hard not to measure New
York by what we lost. But when I look out to you, the graduates, I
see only hope and optimism,” Mr. Kelly observed.
He added, “Everyone in the St. John’s community, from Manhattan
to Staten Island to Queens, was deeply affected. Yet, nearly four
years later, we come together to celebrate. And you, the graduates,
are the reason why. Some of you are native New Yorkers. Others come
from across America and around the world. But on September 11, in
one way or another, you each earned the title, ‘New Yorker for
Mr. Kelly spoke of the resilient spirit of St. John’s students
who immediately sprang into action that terrible day, donating
blood, gathering much-needed donations for recovery workers and
holding campus vigils.
He proudly noted that over 100 new St. John’s alumni have chosen
to join the ranks of the NYPD. “They will join the 700 St. John’s
alumni, myself included, already serving. All of this tells me a
lot about the character of the Class of 2005 -- about your
resiliency; about your dedication; about your deep commitment to
the Vincentian tradition of service woven into the fabric of this
Mr. Kelly stressed, “After all we have been through together,
the proudest boast is, ‘I am a New Yorker.’ We are proud our
freedom, of our diversity, of our creativity and of our tolerance.
And New York will not be cowed by an act of terrorism, no matter
how horrific. Yes, I am proud to be a New Yorker and prouder still
that the Class of 2005 and all of St. John’s, stood with New York
City, shoulder to shoulder, in our darkest hour.”
During his remarks Mr. Molinaro echoed the sentiments of Mr. Kelly,
noting that graduates were living in a world much different from
the one that existed the first week of their freshman year. He
stressed that the theme of duty is especially resonant in the wake
of that tragedy. “As you go into our world, make it better. There’s
always room for improvement.” He offered Mrs. O’Callaghan as a
shining example of duty and service.
Reverend Donald J. Harrington, C.M., President of St. John’s,
reminded graduates that they now joined in the proud 135-year old
tradition of the University. “Be faithful to that tradition. Work
hard and do well. Make a difference in the world and never forget
those who will follow you at this, your University. For the rest of
your lives you will carry the name St. John’s with you. Be proud of
that name and, as you succeed, never forget the role that St.
John’s played in that success.”