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The Class of 2014 Goes Forth to Set the World on Fire

On May 19, thousands filled the amphitheater at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, N.J. for the 123rd Commencement of Saint Peter’s University. Some of the individuals in the stands were family members, some friends, some faculty and some administrators. Some of the guests came from places as close as Jersey City, while others made their way from across the country, even the globe, to be there. All of the attendees represented different walks of life, but one characteristic all of the guests shared was that they made up a community of supporters for the Class of 2014.

The importance of community was communicated a number of times throughout the commencement ceremony. Sandesh Bhandari ’14, Adam Gregory Purcilly ’14, Steven Joseph Sheftall ’14 and Animesh Singh ’14 were the valedictorians for the Class of 2014 and each of their valedictory addresses referenced the importance of community.

Purcilly expressed his gratitude for his family who encouraged and inspired him. He went on to share his appreciation for the community at Saint Peter’s. “The University is not the buildings, not the computers, not the books, not any of those things. The University is its people: the students, its faculty, its administration and its staff. It is those people, more than anything else, which makes Saint Peter’s so special,” he said.

Sheftall went on to express a similar sentiment. “Success is a shared accomplishment. Each and every graduate did not go through this journey alone and those that helped us deserve our recognition,” he said.

While the graduates celebrated their accomplishments, which led them to this momentous occasion, they also gained some excellent advice for their future during the commencement address given by The Honorable Steven Michael Fulop, the 49th and current mayor of Jersey City.

“Graduating means you are not a kid any more. You’ve just completed your senior year of college and began your freshman year of life,” said Fulop. “It is no longer the responsibility of your parents, your family, and society to take care of you. No longer do adults’ actions set an example for you, now, your actions set an example for children.”

Fulop went on to give advice on how to become the person you want to be. “If there’s any advice I can give about how to make that potential self real, it’s that your actions are primary… You will become what you do every day; you will build your identity out of your actions.”

Prior to serving as mayor, Fulop was the Ward E councilman of Jersey City for eight years. During that time he was a consistent voice in advocating for greater transparency in government, fiscal responsibility and education reform. For his first two years on the City Council, Fulop donated his council salary to the York Street Project in Jersey City, a non-profit that helps women and children break the cycle of poverty.

Fulop graduated from Binghamton University and completed his master’s in business administration at the New York University’s Stern School of Business and his master’s in public administration from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. While attending Binghamton University, he spent time abroad studying at Oxford University in England. Upon graduating, he began his career at Goldman Sachs, but left his position to enlist in the United States Marine Corps following the devastating attacks of September 11, 2001. As a member of the 6th Engineer Support Battalion, he was deployed to Iraq and his unit was awarded the Overseas Service Ribbon, Meritorious Masts and the Presidential Unit Citation.

During the commencement ceremony, Fulop received an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters, honoris causa. The University also bestowed an honorary degree upon Ronald W. Tobin, Ph.D. ’57, professor of French and associate vice chancellor for academic program at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Tobin, has written and edited more than 10 books with a particular focus on Jean Racine. Tobin has lectured throughout Europe, Canada and the United States on French classical comedy. He was elected to the Société d’Histoire Littéraire de la France and in recognition of his significant contributions to the arts and literature, he was made a Chevalier of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. In honor of his civil achievements, Tobin was also made a Chevalier of the Ordre National du Mérite. Tobin holds a bachelor’s degree in French from Saint Peter’s and a Ph.D. from Princeton University.

The Saint Peter’s University Class of 2014 was made up of 770 graduates, including the first students to graduate from the doctoral programs in education and nursing. These excited and inspired students left the celebration with the words of Eugene J. Cornacchia, president of Saint Peter’s University, “Commencement marks the end of your time as a student at the University. However, the story of your life is still being written. Its words will be inspired by the education you received here, the professors who guided your way, the good friends you made, and the dedicated staff that helped you throughout the years.”