May 17, 2009
John’s 139th Commencement Exercises began today with overcast skies
and the threat of rain in the forecast, but nothing could dampen
the excitement shared by the Graduating Class of 2009, who received
their degrees before a crowd estimated at more than 18,000 on the
University’s Great Lawn in Queens.
Immaculee Ilibagiza, Rwandan genocide survivor, gave an
inspirational and touching Commencement Address about her faith and
beliefs amid tragedy that took the lives of her mother, father and
two brothers during the vicious 1994 attacks in her homeland.
greater the sacrifices – the greater the lessons,” said Ilibagiza
as she spoke to a sea of students in black caps and red gowns. “I
think God allows me to see what I didn’t get a chance to see with
my family (referring to her own graduation ceremony which never
occurred because of the Rwandan attacks). I especially feel
privileged to celebrate with you and your families today.”
Rev. Donald J. Harrington, C.M., President of St. John’s
University, presided over the ceremonies as approximately 3,245
undergraduate and graduate students received their degrees before
family, friends and faculty.
“Today’s graduates have made the University a better place,” said
Rev. Harrington, C.M. “Your commitment, your own extraordinary
gifts of faith and of fidelity, your multiple personal gifts and
strengths all bode well for the future of this University as well
as the future of our city, our nation and our world.”
In addition to the graduates, the following individuals were
honored by St. John’s University during the ceremony:
- Immaculee Ilibagiza, one of world’s top speakers on peace,
faith, and forgiveness, received the International Medal.
- Michael Repole, St. John’s alumnus and co-founder of private
drink maker Glaceau (the successful maker of Vitaminwater),
received the President’s Medal.
- Joseph Schwartz, St. John’s alumnus and retired Partner of
Wellington Management Company, received an Honorary Doctor of
Commercial Science Degree.
procession of graduates, faculty and honored guests began just
after 11 a.m. and concluded three hours later. Joseph Sciame, Vice
President for Community Relations, served as Master of Ceremonies
for the afternoon.
The Student Address was given by senior Thomas J. Wasilowski II,
Class of 2009 from the Peter J. Tobin College of Business. He had
sound advice and fond memories of his time at the University.
“St. John’s University has not only provided us with an exceptional
education, but also life skills that we will take with us wherever
we go and now it is our responsibility to take what we’ve been
given with us into the working world,” said Wasilowski. “Always
remember that whatever comes our way……..WE ARE ST. JOHN’S.”
Ilibagiza closed her remarks to the graduates with some of life’s
lessons that she hoped they would take with them as they embark on
their future endeavors.
your life you have to be able to forgive and you have to have the
will to let go. Once I was able to do that, I began to feel great
joy and pass the message on to others,” added Ilibagiza, whose
words ring true with St. John’s and its Vincentian Mission.
For more information on St. John’s University’s Commencement
Exercises please contact Dominic Scianna, Assistant Vice President
for Media Relations at (718) 990-6185, or (917) 374-8266 or e-mail
inquiries to email@example.com.