Celebrating Fairfield U’s 68th Commencement

FAIRFIELD—On Sunday, May 20, Fairfield University’s Class of 2018 undergraduate and graduate students received their degrees during the University’s 68th Commencement exercises.

This was the first Fairfield University Commencement for Mark. R. Nemec, PhD, the University’s 9th President. He asked the graduates to commit to three things: to never stop learning, to always develop the mind, body and spirit, and to engage in broad conversation.

“Never forget that the world needs what you do,” he said. “Embracing the wider world as a partner in both our thoughts and our deeds is what civic and global engagement is certainly all about.”

Undergraduate speaker, Brother Guy Joseph Consolmagno, S.J., director of the Vatican Observatory and president of the Vatican Observatory Foundation, spoke to the graduates during the morning’s undergraduate ceremony, of the importance of conversation, and how integral listening and observation are in relation to the arts and sciences and life.

“Before we can join in, we have to spend time listening in, to find out what topics are current and what the jargon means. That’s called being a student. Only gradually do we know enough that we can get to enter the conversation; and that’s what you are now,” he said. “Only after you’ve been a part of the conversation for a while do you have the ability, and the right, to introduce new topics, and shift the conversation to new direction.”

As an astronomer, he conveyed his hope that each Fairfield student has found their own stars—moments that bring each person peace, joy, and wonder. “And then,” he said, “make time to tell your friends about the peace and joy and wonder that you’ve found; and make time to listen and appreciate their stories. Time for conversation is sacred time; and we’ve got a lot to talk about.”

William P. Egan ’67, P’99 was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree. Egan is an owner of the Boston Celtics and the Pawtucket Red Sox, the Triple A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. He is a former trustee of the University, and helped to open the new Marion Peckham Egan School of Nursing and Health Studies, which is named after his mother; honorary Doctor of Laws degrees were also given to Rev. James Michael Bowler, S.J., former Director for Fairfield University’s Center of Ignatian Spirituality and Facilitator for Catholic and Jesuit Mission and currently pastoral minister at St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Charlotte, NC; and M. Shawn Copeland, PhD, professor of Systematic Theology in the Department of Theology with a joint appointment in the Program in African and African Diaspora Studies at Boston College and the first African American woman to serve as president of the Catholic Theological Society of America, among many other accolades.

Senior Michael Harding gave the undergraduate class of 2018 valedictory speech and spoke about the meaning of Ubuntu, a South African term that means, “I am me because of who we are.” He said the institution embodies the term because it is a community forged, strengthened, and sustained by the bonds of the Jesuit mission.

“Though we will go on to craft our own individual narratives, we will always be united as brothers and sisters in this extraordinary Fairfield family. We are strong, gifted, and compassionate—and now, we are graduates of Fairfield University.”

Later Sunday afternoon, the graduate ceremony speaker, John R. Mitchell, chairman of Mitchell’s stores, referenced his personal and professional mantra, “hug your customers,” and how this philosophy embodies the Jesuit value, “cura personalis” or care of the whole person. He explained that hugs are any act or deed that makes a person feel as if they are cared for.

“Hugging is a mindset,” he told the graduates. “And one thing that you will come to appreciate as you move forward in your careers is that everyone loves a hug…and that one of the marvelous things about hugs is that the majority of them are free. And when you give them, most of the time, you get a return hug back.”

Also at the graduate ceremony, The Honorable Mark R. Dybul, MD, received an honorary Doctor of Science degree. Currently professor of medicine at Georgetown University School of Medicine and co-director of Georgetown’s Center for Global Health and Quality, Dr. Dybul is known as an expert and key leader in global health. He led the implementation of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the largest international health initiative in history for a single disease, and later served as executive director of The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Additionally, Dr. Dybul headed the International Prevention of Mother and Child HIV Initiative of the Department of Health and Human Services.

As the day of ceremonies concluded, President Nemec left the graduates with one last reminder: “You are the instantiation of Fairfield’s commitment to educate men and women for and with others in the pursuit of social justice and productive citizenship. Your education is ever relevant,” he said.