St. John’s celebrated its 140th Commencement Exercises this afternoon before more than 19,000 graduate and undergraduate students, faculty, friends and family members on the University’s Great Lawn in Queens. Bob and Suzanne Wright (Co-Founders of Autism Speaks) gave the Commencement Address and received Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters Degrees.
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Paul J. Evanson, Chairman, President and CEO of Allegheny Energy, Inc., received an Honorary Doctor of Commercial Science Degree and Most Rev. Guy A. Sansaricq, Auxiliary Bishop and pastor of St. Gregory the Great parish in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, received an Honorary Doctor of Sacred Theology Degree.
Rev. Donald J. Harrington, C.M., President of St. John’s University, presided over the graduation ceremonies amid a sea of red and black caps and gowns on a picture-perfect May afternoon. He had a direct message for the Class of 2010 as he welcomed them to the ranks of St. John’s alumni.
“I urge you today, don’t sell yourselves short – be hopeful, be bold and believe in yourselves” said Rev. Harrington, C.M., to the more than 2,600 graduates in attendance. “See what you can do for our world and go for it! Take the values we have shared here at St. John’s and be faithful to them – and you will go far. The world will be better for it, just as St. John’s has been better for your vibrant presence in our midst during these years.”
Bob and Suzanne Wright both gave a meaningful Commencement Address and spoke of true potential, the willingness to succeed, the trappings that may detour ones path and their passion for Autism Speaks, which they both co-founded back in 2005.
“As the next generation of future leaders, the burden is on you,” said Bob Wright, former Chairman and CEO of NBC Universal. “Many of you will be tested. Pride, greed and ambition are dangerous traps but the question is -- Do you have what it takes to stand firm? You have to love what you do in order to be successful.”
“My wife and I have been on our own crusade and have made Autism Speaks our life’s work, not only for our grandson but for the millions of children like him around the world,” he added. “I hope you all find your own cause to be a crusader for – and may you all be crusaders in a success.”
The Wrights were named to the Heroes and Pioneers Time Magazine 100 list of most influential people in the world for their commitment to global autism in 2008.
Fellow honorary degree recipient Paul Evanson received a B.B.A. degree magna cum laude from St. John’s University in 1963. Along with his duties as President and CEO of Allegheny Energy, Inc., he recently joined a group of investors to become part owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers. A member of St. John’s Board of Trustees, Paul along with his wife Carol recently endowed the Evanson Chair in the Tobin College of Business.
Bishop Sansaricq is the first and only Haitian-born American bishop who currently serves as pastor of St. Gregory the Great parish in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Named a Prelate of Honor by Pope John Paul II in 1999, Bishop Sansaricq has worked tirelessly to keep the challenges the Haitian people face in the forefront of our national consciousness. He is also co-founder of Haitian-Americans United in Progress.
Approximately 2,600 undergraduate and graduate students received their degrees at this ceremony. Among the graduates was Walter Berry, 1986 Wooden Award (given to the Player of the Year in NCAA Division I men’s basketball) recipient and St. John’s star, who returned to earn his degree after 25 years away from the classroom. He earned his degree from the College of Professional Studies with a B.A. in Sports Management.
To conclude the formal portion of the program, senior Hadia Sheerazi (St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences) gave the Student Address. Her emotional thank you to her family – watching the graduation live on video stream from Pakistan – was heartfelt and appreciative and captured the hearts and sentiments of her fellow classmates.
“To my parents who could not be here today, I love you so much and think about you every day. I wish you could have been here to see me graduate. I don’t have the words to thank you for the sacrifices you have made for me,” said Sheerazi, her voice breaking up. “I hope I have made you proud.”
For more information contact Dominic Scianna, Assistant Vice President for Media Relations, at St. John’s University by calling (718) 990- 6185 or e-mail inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.