Sacred Heart University celebrates 49th commencement

More than 1,900 Sacred Heart University students set off into the world this weekend after receiving diplomas and words of advice from business and political leaders, scholars and classmates.

University President John J. Petillo reminded the graduates that he was inaugurated as president at the same ceremony four years ago where they were installed as freshmen. “At your installation, I strongly suggested that you use these four years to discover and be curious—about the liberal arts, your prospective profession and, most importantly, yourself. Today’s celebratory event should be a point of reflection for each of you,” he said. “Today’s passage is a gateway for you to continue to be curious. Be hungry for learning; build on what you have learned here. The books that you have used here should be kept as a reminder not only of what you have learned, but of what is still out there to be understood.”

George Mitchell, former U.S senator from Maine and former senate majority leader, received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree, before addressing the class of 2015. “It’s a great honor to receive this degree from such a growing and vibrant University,” he said.

Mitchell provided the students with some background on U.S. history before noting that with the collapse of Communism and the Berlin Wall, “American ideals are now valued worldwide. The United States was a great nation long before it was a military or economic power,” he said. “No person or county is perfect, but we are lucky to live in this society with all its imperfections.”

He concluded by advising the students to give back throughout their lives. “You have an important role to play in preserving and improving our way of life…What you do is important, but more important is how you do it. For most human beings, life is a never-ending search for respect,” he said. “There are many ways to gain respect, but none is more important than public service. The more successful you are, the more money and status you achieve, the more evident it will become that there is more to life.”

Cheryl Janus ‘01 ‘03 MAT, president of the SHU Alumni Association, encouraged the graduates not to leave Sacred Heart behind. “As you continue your career path and take important steps into the next chapter of your life, I encourage you to always keep Sacred Heart close to your heart, remembering all of the knowledge, experience and memories it has given you over the past few years,” she said. “This is a gift that cannot ever be replaced or taken away from you, and I invite you to show your gratitude to your alma mater by attending events and wearing your SHU apparel with pride. It is never too soon or too late to come back to the heart.”

Class President Hayley Pereira ‘15 advised her classmates to “make the best of all you have been given, and continue to strive to do your best. It’s always a great day to be a Pioneer!”

Nicole Campbell, a Gales Ferry resident nursing graduate described her SHU experience as “unbelievable. From the day I stepped on campus, it was home,” she said. “The people that I met and the warm, friendly atmosphere of a small school is not something I would have found anywhere else.”

Added Elias Gharios of Mystic, who picked up a degree in finance, “I would do it all over again exactly the same way. I love this school so much. It comes down to all the things I was able to get involved with while I was here and that I created a family here. I will miss them.”

During Saturday’s graduate commencement, the keynote speaker was Mark Thompson, president and chief executive officer of The New York Times Company.

He compared today’s time of bewildering change and fragmentation with the period described in Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall trilogy and the adaptation that recently aired on PBS. “Businesses, public institutions, families and individuals find themselves confronting opportunities and threats that didn’t exist 10, even five years ago.

He shared some of the changes that the New York Times has experienced, noting that while the newspaper has more subscribers than ever because of the digital pay model launched in 2011, revenue from classified ads has dwindled by more than 90 percent. “Without constant big bets we would soon be history,” he said.

He told the graduates that if they want to be successful in today’s environment, they will need skills in addition to expertise, talent, focus, a willingness to work hard and ambition. They will also need adaptability, resilience and to know what they stand for.

“Values are more relevant than ever in today’s turbulent age—values that can speak to all of us, whatever our beliefs and however often we fail to live up to them. Values that Sacred Heart University stands for,” Thompson said.

Thompson was also presented with an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree.

Milford resident Martha DeFeo, who received her MBA from SHU’s Jack Welch College of Business, said the things she learned at Sacred Heart have already been valuable at her job at Energizer in Milford. “The capstone project that combined the various disciplines was especially helpful,” she said. “It helped me understand the needs of the other departments at my job and the importance of all of us working together.”

Sacred Heart University celebrated its 49th Undergraduate Commencement on Sunday, May 17, at the Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport. Student Government President Nicole Gittleman, right, and Taylor Magnotti were part of the procession—Tracy Deer-Mirek photo.

Sacred Heart University celebrated its 49th Undergraduate Commencement on Sunday, May 17, at the Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport. Student Government President Nicole Gittleman, right, and Taylor Magnotti were part of the procession—Tracy Deer-Mirek photo.

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