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Fairfield University awards 861 diplomas at commencement ceremony

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A Fairfield University graduate shows off her diploma during Saturday’s commencement ceremony.

Fairfield University awarded diplomas to  861 undergraduate students at the 63 commencement exercises on May 19, as 5,000 family members and friends watched on Bellarmine Lawn.

In keeping with tradition, the Jesuit institution celebrated students and honorary degree recipients who have led inspired lives. The Rev. Michael J. Garanzini, president of Loyola University Chicago and a national figure in Jesuit higher education, gave the commencement address, asking graduates,  “Who will help heal the world, if not for you? Some people can’t help themselves. Who will help create a just and right society, if not for you?

Garanzini encouraged graduates to find inner peace. For him, that has involved staying in touch with God. He laced his address with humor, noting that the honorary doctor of laws degree he received came in part for living in a freshman dorm for the past 25 years.

The valedictory speaker was Kevin Reda of Pleasantville N.Y., a politics and international studies double major with a minor in economics, with plans to pursue an MBA. A lacrosse coach at Fairfield Prep, he shared advice from the late North Carolina State University coach Jim Valvano concerning the benefits of laughing, thinking and crying daily.

“Think about it, if you laugh, you think and you cry, that’s a full day, that’s a heck of a day,” Reda said.

Reda also spoke of events that have moved him, including Sept. 11, 2001, when his father survived the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. He  spoke about the outpouring of support from the Fairfield community when he ran a 5K race in support of MS awareness. A family member has fought the disease for a decade.

“I have learned that being a man or woman for others is not as much about the impact it has on us individually, but the ability of our selfless actions to move and inspire those that we are serving,” Reda said.

Fairfield University President Rev. Jeffrey P. von Arx presented Daniel Jones, of South Portland, Maine with the St. Ignatius Loyola Medal, bestowed annually by the Fairfield University Alumni Association to the senior who best exemplifies the true spirit of a Jesuit education. A politics major, he plans to become an educator and hopes to attend graduate school to study anthropology or comparative politics.

The Bellarmine Medal, awarded to the student with the highest four-year academic average, was presented to two Courtney Anne Onofrio of Hopkinton, Mass., a School of Nursing graduate who plans to be a registered nurse, and Caitlin Hill Stote of Stamford, an English major who minored in educational studies and religious studies. She plans on pursuing a master’s degree in elementary education at Fairfield. Both were also given the John and Veronica Gleason Award for the graduating senior with the highest academic average.

The William J. Kramer ‘60 Humanitarian Award recipient was Sarah Joseph of Cambridge, Mass., an English, communications and intercultural studies major who has truly epitomized the Jesuit notion of the Magis.

The Class of 2013 Student Achievement Awards were given to a group of students for their commitment to the university, most notably through service work, mentoring and student club involvement. Recipients included film/television major Michael O’Keeffe, of Christchurch, New Zealand; environmental studies and communication major Alexandra Tarabour of Red Bank, N.J.; nursing major Morgan Zachary of Somers; and Courtney Onofrio.

An honorary doctor of laws degree was bestowed on Sister Maureen Clark, a sister of St. Joseph from Pittsburgh, Pa., who worked in the correction system in Pittsburgh and then the Massachusetts correctional system.

Fairfield graduate William P. McDonald of New York City, who has been with The New York Times since 1988, received an honorary doctor of humane letters degree. He was part of a team that won the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for National News, for the series “How Race Is Lived in America.”

Also on Saturday, a commencement ceremony was held in Alumni Hall for 418 graduate students. Fairfield graduate Dr. Patrick W. Kelley of Silver Spring, Md., a director with the U.S. National Academies’ Institute of Medicine, spoke at the graduate ceremony, as well as received an honorary degree.

The graduate student valedictory speaker was Erin Radocchia of Westbrook, who, like both of her parents, graduated from the School of Nursing.

Loretta Egan Murphy of Monroe, who earned a master’s degree in nursing, received the St. Ignatius Loyola Medal for outstanding university service. She works in the Intensive Care Unit at St. Vincent’s Medical Center, and plans to continue her work in the service of people in the greater Bridgeport community after graduation.

An honorary doctor of laws degree was bestowed on Sister Patricia Farrell, a sister of St. Francis of the Holy Family in Dubuque, Iowa. She committed her life to pastoral work, working in Texas and Latin America. She is the immediate past president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious.

Fairfield University awarded a total of 1,279 degrees on May 19, including 858 bachelor’s degrees, 396 master’s degrees, 19 certificates of advanced study from the Graduate School of Education & Allied Professions, three doctor of nursing practice degrees and three associate’s degrees.

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