May 14, 2012
Saying the experience was “as good as it gets,” Steve Lavin, St.
John’s men’s basketball coach, addressed more than 3,000 new
graduates at the University’s two Commencement Exercises this
weekend, held at the Staten Island campus on Saturday, May 12, and
at the Queens campus on Sunday, May 13.
Staten Island Commencement saw 264 graduates receive their degrees,
while close to 3,000 walked across the stage at the Queens campus.
Bright, blue skies made for perfect weather conditions to end St.
John’s University’s 142nd academic year.
During Commencement, the Very Rev. Perry Henry, C.M., D.Min.,
provincial superior of the Western Province of the Congregation of
the Mission in the USA, received the degree of Doctor of Sacred
Theology, honoris causa. Patricia Ann Norris McDonald,
mayor of Malverne, NY, was awarded the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton
Medal. William L. Collins ’76C, a member of St. John’s Board of
Trustees, received the degree of Doctor of Commercial Science,
Rev. Donald J. Harrington, C.M., President of St. John’s
University, presided over both ceremonies and praised the honorees
at the Queens campus exercises.
Queens Photo Gallery
Staten Island Photo Gallery
“Today is one of my favorite days of the year, when we celebrate
the accomplishments of our students,” said Fr. Harrington. “And I
have to say that, in my 23 years as President, each year I’m more
proud of the students who walk across that stage. I can’t help but
reflect on how they’ve had such a great impact on our University —
and now will have a great impact on our world.”
Coach Lavin fashioned his addresses as “pep talks” to the
graduates, similar to those he offers during locker room sessions
with his team. Determined not to duplicate his efforts, he
delivered a fresh speech to graduates, their families and friends
at each campus.
“Although you’ve come to the finish line to celebrate your
graduation from St. John’s, there’s also new hope and a fresh start
on the horizon,” Lavin said before 2,500 attendees at Staten
Island. “Now you can strive to be at your best when your best is
needed. I call that competitive greatness.”
At Queens, Lavin addressed an overflow crowd estimated at 19,000,
which stretched the entire length of the Great Lawn on the
University’s main campus.
“There are no short cuts,” said Lavin. “Cancer has taught me about
humility and the ability to bounce back. Life is precious and
fragile. Don’t take it for granted. You can take pride in knowing
that you’ve prepared at St. John’s for the challenges ahead, and
you’re capable of striving for excellence and blazing your own
trail as St. Vincent de Paul did.” Diagnosed with cancer in 2010,
Lavin is now free of the disease.
This year’s Commencement honorees have diverse backgrounds. Yet all
serve as role models in their respective careers while giving back
with heartfelt service to their communities.
“We always try as best we can to choose honorees who, in a sense,
don’t need to be honored,” noted Fr. Harrington. “They’ve already
accomplished so much by themselves, but these individuals can be
role models for our students, for their families and for us. Our
students can look at these honorees and say, maybe someday (that
can be me).”
Before being appointed provincial superior of the Western Province
of the Congregation of the Mission in the USA, Fr. Henry was
assistant provincial of the Southern Province (2004-2008). He also
is former pastor of St. Joseph Parish in New Orleans. He served on
DePaul University’s Board of Trustees from 1995 to 2000.
Like Mother Seton, Mayor Patricia Ann Norris McDonald exemplifies
the grace, faith and courage of wives and mothers who lead
remarkable lives. Her husband, Steven, is a former New York City
police officer who was paralyzed in 1986 from a gunshot wound
suffered in the line of duty. Patricia and her husband overcame
this tragedy to launch a worldwide crusade for peace and
Trustee William L. Collins ’76C is founder, CEO and chief
investment officer of Brencourt Advisors, LLC. Since 2001, the
company has been engaged in fund management on a global basis, as
well as investment strategies for the firm dealing with merger
arbitrage, credit opportunities and event-driven activities.
Collins, a St. John’s alumnus, has served as Dinner Co-Chair with
his wife, Lesley, for the University’s annual President’s
In a fitting close to each ceremony, the student addresses were
delivered by Vincent Innocente ’12CPS (Staten Island) and Jordan
Powell ’12CPS (Queens).
Innocente had the full attention of his fellow graduates and peers
at the Staten Island campus, as he quoted the song “We Are Young,”
by the American indie pop band Fun. Drawing cheers from the crowds,
Innocente said, “’Tonight, we are young. So let’s set the world on
fire — we can burn brighter than the sun.’”
At the Queens campus, Powell brought his comments to a crescendo
when he declared that the current economic plight will not detour
the Class of 2012. “Every generation has to find the capacity to
respond to the challenges of its day,” he said, evoking former
President John F. Kennedy. “When we leave here, we’re going to
search for work in one of the worst economies since the Great
Depression. We’ll work in an increasingly globalized marketplace
and realize that we will have to compete like never before. I see
no better place to have prepared for this challenge than St. John’s