Celebrating the First Commencement as a University

Felician’s 52nd Annual Commencement - the first as a University - was a resounding success and an inspiring day for graduates and their families, faculty and staff alike.

Following the academic procession, invocation by salutatorian, Vanessa DeLuca, and national anthem led by Dr. Barbara Gordon, honorary degrees were presented to keynote speakers, John Sexton and Philip Murphy during the morning and afternoon sessions for the Schools of Arts and Sciences, Education, Nursing and Business. 

The spirit of love was palpable as the words of valedictorian Julia Sheridan echoed through Breslin Auditorium in Obal Hall on the University’s Lodi campus.  “Being here today proves we don’t have to be the product of past circumstances but rather be the product of our aspirations.”  These were heartfelt words, so reflective of the nurturing, caring environment ever present at Felician University.

As reported in the Bergen Record the following day in a sectional page-one story, Julia’s message “was anything but mundane.”  The Record reported: “…Sheridan who has phonological dyslexia, said she didn’t even learn to read until she was 12 while attending Community High School in Teaneck.  But on Saturday the Hasbrouck Heights native graduated, not only as Felician’s top student, but also as its reigning female Student-Athlete of the Year for her exploits on the soccer field and a beloved member of the student body.”

Julia’s words were inspiring as were the words of keynote speakers, John Sexton and Philip Murphy, who encouraged Felician’s Class of 2016 to take a proactive role in bringing positive change to the world.

Sexton, former NYU president and dean of NYU’s School of Law, spoke of “sins of omission” in telling the heartening story of his mentor, Charles Francis Winans, known affectionately as “Charlie.”  Charlie was Sexton’s English teacher at Brooklyn Preparatory High School, an all-boy Jesuit school.   Encouraging graduates to embrace Charlie’s “emancipation gene,” Sexton shared his mentor’s mantra: “Play another octave on the piano.  If there are notes you haven’t touched, reach out and touch them.”

Murphy, former U.S. Ambassador to Germany, executive at Goldman Sachs and renowned business and community leader, told graduates that what haunted him most was not his failures but his failure to act. “Don’t be haunted,” he advised Felician’s graduates. Quoting Martin Luther King Jr., Murphy said: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”   He advised graduates to follow the arc.

Felician University President Dr. Anne Prisco charged the class of 2016 to focus on embracing diversity and respect for human dignity. “You have learned from experience that once you get to know someone he or she is no longer the other – but rather a fellow student…perhaps even a new friend,” she said.  “Lead lives that reflect the values so dear to the mission of our Felician Franciscan heritage, which calls on you to have a commitment to peace, justice, and solidarity with the poor.  In all you do, act with competence, character, and compassion.”