Commencement Season Celebrated

May 20, 2019

St. John’s University’s annual Commencement Exercises, held in May and June on the Queens, NY, and Rome, Italy, campuses, featured speakers who highlighted the virtues of hard work, leadership, and service—having modeled these principles in their own lives for recent graduates.

Held on May 19 on the Great Lawn, the Queens Undergraduate Commencement ceremony featured the conferral of 2,382 undergraduate degrees. During his welcoming remarks, Dr. Gempesaw noted that the Class of 2019 represents the largest graduating class from St. John’s University in the last three decades.

The Class of 2019 featured 60 student-athletes, as well as 128 international students from 35 countries. More than 600 students studied abroad. A total of 121 graduates served in the military; 13 were members of St. John’s Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) Red Storm Battalion. More than 40 percent of the class graduated with honors: 296 summa cum laude, 296 magna cum laude, and 428 cum laude. In addition, 22 students graduated with a perfect 4.0 cumulative grade point average.

Margaret M. Keane ’81C, ’87MBA, Chief Executive Officer of Synchrony, one of the nation’s premier consumer financial services companies, delivered the Commencement address at the Queens ceremony, and received an honorary Doctor of Commercial Science degree.

During her speech, Ms. Keane, Secretary of the University’s Board of Trustees, highlighted the many changes she has witnessed both at St. John’s and in the borough of Queens since her time as a student. 

“Today, this school has been transformed. You come from many different backgrounds, ethnicities, and cultures. This is one of the most diverse colleges in the United States,” she observed.

Carnesecca Arena was rocked by enthusiastic cheers from students and their families during the Staten Island ceremony held on May 18, which saw more than 250 graduate and undergraduate degrees conferred. 

Vincent P. Colman ’82CBA, Vice Chairman of the New York Metro Region, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, and a member of the Board of Advisors of The Peter J. Tobin College of Business, delivered the Commencement address for the Staten Island ceremony. “I am thrilled to be here at St. John’s,” the Staten Island campus alumnus said. “There is so much energy. I am a long way from my student days, but this brings me back.”

Mr. Colman encouraged graduates to forge their own path and be authentic leaders. “You need to be yourself. Others may take different paths in life, and use different means necessary to achieve their goals. Remain true to your goals, your values, and your experiences.”

In separate ceremonies in May on the Queens campus, the University conferred more than 1,300 graduate degrees to students in five of its schools and colleges: St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, The School of Education, The Peter J. Tobin College of Business, College of Professional Studies, and College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences.

Degrees were conferred upon 221 J.D. candidates and 78 LL.M. candidates at St. John’s University’s School of Law Commencement Exercises, held on June 2 on the Queens campus. Commencement speaker Jeh Charles Johnson, J.D., former US Secretary of Homeland Security, and Partner, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Garrison LLP, urged the graduates to serve the public interest during their legal careers.

“No matter what else I do for the remainder of my private life,” he said, “my public service will be the first paragraph of my obituary. It occupies the entirety of the scrapbook that I will one day pass to my kids.”

During the University’s 23rd annual Commencement Exercises at its international campus in Rome, Italy, 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. 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, and noted that the challenges facing today’s world are daunting, but not insurmountable.