From Dream to Reality: The Class of 2010 Receives Degrees at Commencement


On May 23, 2010, the Saint Peter’s College class of 2010 was celebrated by their families, friends, and members of the College community at Saint Peter’s 119th commencement exercises. This year, 743 degrees were awarded to students at the graduate and undergraduate levels.

The College also conferred honorary doctorate degrees, honoris causa, upon Alfa Demmellash, the chief executive officer and co-founder of Rising Tide Capital, Inc., and Dr. H. Friedrich Holzapfel, the chief executive officer of 234 Moonachie Corporation, who also assisted the College in gaining its United Nation’s non-governmental organization (NGO) accreditation.

Inspiration filled the audience at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, N.J., as Demmellash discussed passion as the driving force behind any achievement. A native of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Demmellash came to the United States at the age of 12 and took a personal interest in poverty alleviation and conflict resolution after seeing her mother struggle as an emerging entrepreneur. When she graduated from Harvard University in 2003, she focused on economic empowerment as a strategy for achieving peaceful societies, and a year later, she and her husband, Alex, co-founded Rising Tide Capital.

Demmellash stressed that no matter what the graduates’ dreams are, they can turn them into reality by embracing their passion with perseverance, as she and Alex did to develop Rising Tide Capital: a nonprofit, microenterprise development organization that supports struggling entrepreneurs in the low-income urban communities of northern New Jersey.

“Passion is not some overwhelming emotion that sweeps you off your feet and carries you through life and all its obstacles. Passion is endurance. Passion is what you do on the rainy days. It isn’t always easy and it isn’t always glorious… but you might just be able to find a way to get paid for it and to touch the lives of thousands of people by doing what you most love to do,” said Demmellash. 

She encouraged the graduates to be unafraid of the unknown. “I cannot tell you how much of life boils down to the decision to step out into the unknown. It is extremely frightening, but having faith means trusting there is always ground underneath your feet after you step—you just don’t get to see it ahead of time.”

The 2010 valedictorian, Michael Massey from Jackson, N.J., had a similar message as Demmellash for his fellow classmates, and said, “We do not need to fear the unknown, or to fear what comes next, for we are products of the history and strong foundation of Jesuit education – of a Saint Peter’s education.”


Mariya Marinova, a graduate originally from Bulgaria, who received the salutatorian designation, shared how the Jesuit tradition and mission helped her evolve throughout her time at Saint Peter’s. “The Jesuit tradition teaches us how to be human in the best possible sense,” said Marinova in her remarks.

 At the end of the ceremony, President Eugene J. Cornacchia, Ph.D., conferred the degrees upon the class of 2010 and encouraged the graduates to be confident in themselves and take pride in their alma mater, and said, “We have prepared you not only to earn a living, but to also lead a life worth living and to be a light for others… keep connected to Saint Peter’s, and carry our hopes and dreams for you into the future.”