Fairfield University Celebrates the Class of 2023 at 73rd Commencement

Fairfield University Celebrates the Class of 2023 at 73rd Commencement

Harlem Children Zone President Geoffrey Canada, and Marcela Orvañanos de Rovzar, founder of international humanitarian organizations, delivered the Commencement addresses.

FAIRFIELD, Conn. (May 21, 2023)—Fairfield University celebrated the graduation of 1,171 undergraduates, 519 graduate students, 49 doctorate recipients and 20 sixth-year certificate recipients, at its 73rd graduate Commencement ceremony. The graduate ceremony took place on Saturday, May 20, at the Leo D. Mahoney Arena, and the undergraduate Commencement ceremony took place on Bellarmine Lawn on Sunday, May 21.

Graduate Commencement

The graduate ceremony speaker and recipient of an honorary Doctor of Laws degree was Geoffrey Canada, president of the Harlem’s Children Zone — a world-renowned education and poverty-fighting organization in New York City, and founder of the William Julius Wilson Institute. Canada, an innovator in the field of education who has made it his mission to help young people from under-resourced communities succeed through education, has been hailed as one of the world’s most influential people by Time, and one of the 50 greatest leaders by Fortune.

Canada shared how his experience growing up in the South Bronx sparked his promise to God to use his education “to rescue the children trapped in our urban ghettos.” His role models taught him that courageous acts could change the world, and that “the best of America is yet to come. The work we don’t complete that attempts to make this a better country, the next generation will finish it.” Referencing Dr. Martin Luther King’s Mountaintop speech, Canada said, “Dr. King confirmed what I believe today—the work of making this a better country is often started by someone, but left to others to complete.” He urged the Class of 2023 to help him keep his promise. “Someone else will have to pick up the mantle and say, ‘no matter what I end up doing as a career, I will make sure I leave my country a better place than was left to me.’ I promised my kids. I need you to promise me.”

Graduate students were honored with degrees from the Marion Peckham Egan School of Nursing & Health Studies, the College of Arts and Sciences, the Charles F. Dolan School of Business, the School of Engineering, and the School of Education and Human Development.

A Doctor of Laws honorary degrees was bestowed upon Charles MacCormack, PhD. Dr. MacCormack is currently the senior fellow for the NGO Futures at InterAction, the national association of over 200 U.S. humanitarian and development organizations.

Undergraduate Commencement

The Most Reverend Frank J. Caggiano, Bishop of the Diocese of Bridgeport offered the invocation to open the undergraduate ceremony on Sunday, May 21, on Fairfield’s picturesque Bellarmine Lawn overlooking the Long Island Sound. Student commencement speaker Renée Danielle Levesque ’23 followed, and reminded classmates, “What matters is that you choose to do everything from a place of love,” quoting Saint Ignatius of Loyola who said that “Love is shown more in deeds than in words.”

This year’s undergraduate ceremony speaker and recipient of an honorary Doctor of Laws degree was Marcela Orvañanos de Rovzar, founder of several social and humanitarian organizations in Mexico and the U.S., including New York City based Qualitas of Life Foundation, dedicated to teaching financial literacy to Hispanic families. Orvañanos de Rovzar also established Fondo de Estrategia Social, A.C. (FES) in Mexico City, whose mission is to invest private resources in causes promoting social investment, and the consulting firm Fondea Asesorías, S.C.

Orvañanos de Rovzar asked the graduates to take a measure of the opportunities they have been given and decide today that they “will not forget or ignore or disdain those who do not have the opportunities to build and share with their loved ones a dignified, secure and hope-filled life.” She asked them to remember that “…we make mistakes, but we learn so much from them and this is what allows us to grow. We learn how to do things better, how to improve. Sometimes we even learn how to let things go.” Recalling her own life, and how she never dreamt that one day the humanitarian organizations she founded would touch the lives of 200,000-plus people in Latin America, the U.S. and Philippines, Orvañanos de Rovzar inspired the Class of 2023 “to dream beyond what seems reasonable or even possible.”

Following Orvañanos de Rovzar’s speech, undergraduates received bachelor’s degrees from the College of Arts and Sciences, Egan School of Nursing and Health Studies, Dolan School of Business, and the School of Engineering.

A Doctor of Laws honorary degree was bestowed upon Catholic Medical Mission Board (CMMB) President & CEO Mary Beth Powers at the undergraduate ceremony. Powers has dedicated her career to addressing the inequities in health and wellbeing around the world, serving with international organizations, including Save the Children.

Fairfield University President Mark R. Nemec, PhD, offered heartfelt congratulations to the graduates of the Class of 2023, and closing remarks: “Our work here…is to educate individuals to go set the world on fire. For we as a Jesuit Catholic institution are committed to universal truth and justice. We as a Jesuit Catholic university most humbly acknowledge that no one individual or collective owns this truth, or knows the path, and thus we commit above all else through faith to the fullness of truth.”
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