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Richard Rohr, OFM, Lauds GCU Class of 2017 at Commencement Ceremony

Commencement day

Father Richard Rohr delivers the Commencement address at the GCU Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony on May 25.

Father Rohr Addresses GCU’s First Fully Coeducational Graduating Class

Richard Rohr, OFM, globally recognized ecumenical teacher, author, and founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, New Mexico, was the speaker for the Georgian Court University Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony on Thursday, May 25, 2017.

In his speech, Father Rohr compared graduation to a rite of passage in our society, telling graduates that “you have just completed your survival dance.” But he urged them not to confuse that with their “sacred dance,” which he said, comes after they experience setbacks that will teach them their true path in life: “You have to go down to go up; even a bird must do this before it learns to fly.”

Students wearing cap and gown and smiling
Thomas C. DeNoville ’17, Jordan A. Eugenis ’17, Phillip M. Zimmermann ’17, and Michael V. Pontrelli ’17 all entered in the Fall of 2013 when GCU went fully coeducational and became members of the first men’s athletics teams at the university.

GCU President Joseph R. Marbach, Ph.D., opened the undergraduate ceremony by noting the importance of the Class of 2017: “Freshmen who entered in the fall of 2013 will forever be noted as the first fully coeducational class in The Court’s storied and illustrious history. With this graduating class, a coeducational student body becomes the norm,” he said. “The student experience has been changed forever.”

Three hundred ninety-seven bachelor’s degrees were granted to the Class of 2017. These included August 2016, December 2016, and May 2017 graduates from the School of Arts and Sciences, the School of Education, and the School of Business and Digital Media.

President Marbach also presented two honorary degrees: a Doctor of Business Administration degree to Deacon James J. Knipper ’15 and a Doctor of Ministry degree to Father Rohr.

Commencement 2017 Marrone
Brianna Marrone ’17

Basketball player and business administration major Luka Zgonjanin ’17 of Serbia received two awards at the ceremony: the Academic Excellence Award for attaining the highest grade point average and the Julia Blake (Class of 1919) Alumni Award for outstanding loyalty and service, and business administration major Grace Talian ’17 of Bayville received the Kingdon Gould Jr. Award for contributing the most to the general welfare of Georgian Court in the opinion of her fellow students.

Brianna Marrone ’17, Jackson, president of the Student Government Association Executive Board, delivered an address on behalf of students. She shared the three most important lessons she learned at GCU: To be present, to listen with the intent to understand, and to be there for someone. She spoke about the effect “being there” for her “nanny” when the older woman was sick. That experience defined her life, because it was in being there for someone else that she realized she wanted to apply to the GCU nursing program.

Commencement 2017 Gradys
Susan Stavres Grady ’82 and daughter Chloe Grady ’17 at the Baccalaureate Mass

Each graduate has their own story of their journey to the “survival dance” of graduation. For Chloe Grady and her mother, Susan Stavres Grady, the story includes comparisons and contrasts of having had the experience 35 years apart. Chloe Grady graduated with a degree in English and her teaching credentials exactly 35 years after her mother, Susan Stavres Grady ’82, finished Georgian Court.

“GCU gave Chloe the self-confidence and belief that she could do this,” her mother, a veteran art teacher, said. “She’s going into education, and I’m a little nervous about that, but she’s so well prepared—more prepared than I ever was.”

The younger Grady, who had a successful internship at Lake Riviera Middle School, has applied for teaching jobs.

“Looking back, I’ve gained a great respect for learning,” she said. “When I first got to college I felt like school was something I had to do.

“Now I have a true respect for what it takes to educate students. I really have a love for children,” she said. “They remind me why I wanted to be an educator.”

Two faculty members received recognition at the ceremony. President Marbach conferred the title of professor emerita of sociology upon Kasturi “Rumu” DasGupta, Ph.D., and history professor Scott H. Bennett, Ph.D., was presented the Virginia Graham ’31 Award for Teaching Excellence.

President Marbach’s final words of advice to the Class of 2017 were: “Always live the values of this Mercy university. Be a people of compassion and integrity who respect others, and live lives in service to the cause of justice.”

Graduate Commencement Ceremony

Commencement 2017 Graduate
Sister Barbara A. Williams, President Marbach, and Adam Lowy

On Wednesday, May 24, master’s degrees were granted to 172 students who graduated in August 2016, December 2016, and May 2017. Nearly 50 percent of the degree granted were to School of Education graduates. Degrees were also granted in six fields in the School of Arts and Sciences and to 33 M.B.A graduates from the School of Business and Digital Media.

An honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters was given to Sister of Mercy and President Emerita Barbara A. Williams ’63 for her extraordinary dedication to the call of Mercy and for her service to Georgian Court for more than 55 years, including 20 years as president. She currently serves an archivist and assistant librarian for science and mathematics at the university.

Adam Lowy, founder of Move For Hunger, was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Public Service and delivered the Commencement address. He shared his experiences with leaving a steady, enjoyable job to take on the challenge of starting a nonprofit at the age of 23, and finding his mission and purpose in helping address the issue of hunger. He reminded the audience that “the only way you can fail is if you let yourself fail. So your goal is not to fail.”

Commencement 2017 Beach
Daniel Beach ’17

Daniel Beach ’17, M.B.A. graduate, spoke on behalf of the graduate students. He encouraged his fellow classmates to not just “think,” but to think differently. “We have invested time, money, and most importantly, ourselves. By continuing to think differently, we can ensure that we will be a success. By continuing to see things differently, we will ensure that we stand out.”

Story contributed by freelance writer Michele Hujber, APR.

Aerial view of GCU.

About Georgian Court University

Founded in 1908 and sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy, Georgian Court University is Central and South Jersey’s only Catholic university. GCU is a comprehensive, coeducational university with a strong liberal arts core and a historic special concern for women. As a forward-thinking university that supports diversity and academic excellence, GCU is known for expanding possibility for more than 2,100 students of all faiths and backgrounds in 35+ undergraduate majors and 10+ graduate programs. The GCU Lions compete in 15 NCAA Division II sports in the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC). In 2020, GCU was named a Best Value College by and a Best Bang for the Buck (Northeast) by Washington Monthly. High student retention and graduation rates also make GCU a Top Performer on Social Mobility on U.S. News & World Reports rankings. The main campus is located in Lakewood, New Jersey, on the picturesque former George Jay Gould estate, a National Historic Landmark. Georgian Court, which is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, also serves students at other locations, such as GCU at BrookdaleGCU at Rowan College of South Jersey–Cumberland Campus, and through multiple online certificate and degree programs.

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