During St. John’s University’s 23rd annual Rome Commencement Exercises, graduates were touched by messages of hope, love, and tolerance. Most importantly, they were called upon to use their knowledge to make a difference in the world.
Held on June 8 at the University’s Rome, Italy, campus, more than 20 graduate degrees were conferred on candidates in St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and The Peter J. Tobin College of Business.
During his welcoming remarks, Conrado “Bobby” Gempesaw, Ph.D., President of St. John’s University, encouraged graduates to focus on two words: thank you. “Remember to say, ‘Thank you,’ to your parents, grandparents, guardians, and family members. They have supported you and made sacrifices for you.” He also reminded them to express their gratitude to faculty, staff, administrators, and mentors.
Dr. Gempesaw commended the Congregation of the Mission, the founders of St. John’s, for their influence in every student’s life. “They have made the provision of higher education for all, especially to those in need, central to St. John’s mission for the past 148 years. Without them, there would be no St. John’s.”
Commencement speaker Alfredo Ferrante, Ph.D. ’00G, Head of Unit in the Family National Policies and International Relations Department, Office of the Prime Minister, asked graduates what values they bring forth to the world.
“What you experienced here at St. John’s will be with you all of your life,” Dr. Ferrante observed. “Find your own way in life, but never forget what really matters at the end of the day: respect, dignity, and humanity."
Dr. Ferrante noted that the challenges facing today’s world are daunting, but not insurmountable. “That is why I hope you will do your part,” he said, noting that by virtue of their St. John’s education and exposure to its mission, graduates are particularly qualified in this endeavor.
“You will contribute to your communities in your own personal and valuable way; do not forget to focus on what you are doing and its meaning.” Dr. Ferrante aspired to work in the public sector and concentrate on social issues, including the rights of women, children, families, and persons with disabilities.
This year’s Commencement ceremony featured two student speakers: Desmond Asamoah, who earned his Master of Arts degree in Global Development and Social Justice, and Mohamed Khalil Larhrib, who earned his Master of Arts degree in Government and Politics.
“During the past two years, St. John’s gave us an education, reinforced the importance of love and respect, and provided a unique vision through which to understand the most vulnerable—and often hidden—side of society,” Desmond observed. He added that whatever role the graduates play in society, they are ambassadors for St. John’s and the cause of social justice.
Mohamed echoed these sentiments, stressing that graduates need to strike a balance between their own ambition and the needs of the community around them, while promoting diversity and openness.
“St. John’s taught me acceptance at a greater level,” Mohamed noted. “Living with people from different origins, religions, and cultures made us realize that deep inside, we share so much more than the insignificant differences that we think drive us apart.”
As he closed the ceremony, Dr. Gempesaw quoted St. Vincent de Paul. “Put your trust in the Lord, and following His example, always act humbly, graciously, and in good faith. You will see that all will go well.”