Saint Peter’s Celebrates Commencement for its “First Class”

Commencement is a time for celebration and recognition of the academic achievements of a hard-working group of graduates. Saint Peter’s has celebrated 122 commencement ceremonies in its history, graduating more than 30,000 alumni. While each and every ceremony has been a tremendous celebration, the 122nd commencement, which took place on Monday, May 20, truly marked a momentous occasion as it celebrated the first graduating class of Saint Peter’s University.

The excitement of this important distinction was felt and heard throughout the entire amphitheater at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, N.J. The arena was filled with faculty, staff, graduates and their families and the mere mention of the word “university” sent cheers through the crowd. The audience had the opportunity to hear various words of wisdom, which included: don’t take yourself too seriously, be ready to meet challenges head on, live for something greater than yourself and to remember the teachings of Saint Ignatius.

The first pieces of advice came from the commencement speaker, Rev. James Martin, S.J., editor of America Magazine and best-selling author. Fr. Martin is the author of many books, including The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything, My Life with the Saints, and Between Heaven and Mirth, among others. His commentary in the national and international media is well known and he has appeared on all major radio and television networks. His advice to the Class of 2013 was to lighten up and laugh at yourself. “Humor and laughter have often been deemed inappropriate in religious settings, but when you are deadly serious, you are seriously dead. The great spiritual masters from every tradition knew the value of humor and laughter,” he said.

These words of wisdom were followed by an inspiring address from the Class of 2013 valedictorian, Taofik O. Oladipupo. He urged each and every one of the students not to waste their lives.

“If we progress through the course of life living only for personal satisfaction and material gain, our lives have surely been wasted,” said Oladipupo. “In the spirit of Saint Peter’s mission, our education has led us to be men and women for others. As we prepare to go out in the world, I encourage you all to remember the principles of service, education and faith that have been instilled in us. I have the sincere hope that every graduate in this amphitheater will live for something much greater than themselves. With the teachings of Saint Peter’s University firmly entrenched in our hearts, I am certain that this will be the case.”

Eugene J. Cornacchia, Ph.D., president of Saint Peter’s University, also addressed the crowd with encouraging words to the graduates. “You now have the tools to build your future on a strong foundation. You will face challenges, but be ready to meet them head on, confident in your own gifts,” he said.
As the graduates made their way across the stage, with their caps decorated with words and images that were personally meaningful, some did dances of excitement while others had tears in their eyes. The celebration of their accomplishments was certainly well-deserved and the wise words spoken at the ceremony served as a reminder of the foundation they built at Saint Peter’s University and as a source of confidence as they “go forth and set the world on fire.”

To view Fr. Martin’s commencement speech, please click here.