LODI, N.J. — Felician’s 52nd annual commencement — its first as a university — was a resounding success and an inspiring day for graduates and their families, faculty and staff.
Following the academic procession, invocation by salutatorian, Vanessa DeLuca, and national anthem led by Barbara Gordon, honorary degrees were presented to keynote speakers John Sexton and Philip Murphy.
“Being here today proves we don’t have to be the product of past circumstances but rather be the product of our aspirations,” said valedictorian Julia Sheridan, a Hasbrouck Heights native.
Sexton, former New York University president and dean of its 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 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.”
Felician University President 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.”