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Saint Peter’s Celebrates 124th Commencement

“Today is a special day – a day we have been waiting for, a day of transition, a day that divides lovely memories of yesterday and expectations of tomorrow. It is a bitter sweet transition, a transition from becoming proud Saint Peter’s students to proud Saint Peter’s alumni,” said Prajwal Niraula ’15, co-valedictorian of the Saint Peter’s University Class of 2015.

On May 18, thousands filled the amphitheater at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, N.J. for the 124th Commencement of Saint Peter’s University. Years of hard work, dedication and determination came to fruition when the University awarded 21 doctoral degrees, 255 master’s degrees, 477 bachelor’s degrees, and 16 associate’s degrees. The Class of 2015 also included the first students to graduate from the master’s programs in public administration and strategic communication.

Prajjwol Gautam ’15 and Niraula were co-valedictorians for the Class of 2015. Each spoke of the gratitude they felt for their professors and friends as well as members of their family. “In the past four years, Saint Peter’s has been my home and I am grateful to this community for that,” said Gautam.

While the graduates celebrated their accomplishments they also gained some excellent advice for their future during the commencement address given by Cornell William Brooks H ’15, president and chief executive officer of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

Brooks praised the students for their community service and social justice efforts and encouraged them to continue to follow the examples of those before them in order to continue their hard work and transform the world. “You, as members of this class, have the opportunity to study, to conquer the great questions of our time,” he said. “You have the opportunity to shape the hopes, the dreams, the aspirations of your mothers and fathers, your family members and your heritage, and make this real,” he said.

Brooks received an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters, honoris causa. In addition, the University also bestowed an honorary degree upon Daniel A. Altilio H ’15, president and CPO of United Way of Hudson County (UWHC).

In May 2014 Brooks became the 18th president of the NAACP, the nation’s oldest, largest and most widely respected grassroots-based civil rights organization. A longtime lawyer and human rights activist, Brooks previously served as president and CEO of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, based in Newark. During his time with the Institute, he led successful efforts to win the passage of three landmark prisoner reentry bills in 2010, which were hailed by The New York Times as “a model for the rest of the nation.” Brooks is also a fourth-generation ordained minister, who has successfully pushed for state legislation to reduce the effects of widespread foreclosures and has worked to develop social impact investing tools to employ more people in higher wage work.

Brooks served as senior counsel for the Federal Communications Commission, executive director of the Fair Housing Council of Greater Washington and as a trial attorney with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. He has also campaigned tirelessly as an advocate for public education, affordable healthcare and fiscal responsibility. He earned a Bachelor of Arts, with honors, in political science from Jackson State University and a Master of Divinity from Boston University School of Theology. Brooks went on to earn a Juris Doctorate from Yale Law School.

The second honorary degree recipient, Altilio, has worked tirelessly to improve the lives of the most vulnerable residents in Jersey City and the surrounding communities for nearly 19 years with the United Way of Hudson County (UWHC), a community-based non-profit organization that serves the basic needs of economically insufficient individuals. Presently, UWHC serves the women, men, and children residing in the communities of Bayonne, Guttenberg, Hoboken, Jersey City, North Bergen, Secaucus, Union City, Weehawken and West New York. UWHC is dedicated to ending homelessness in Hudson County by supporting effective programs that change the lives of our working poor and their families.

To view the complete photo album from the ceremony, please click here.