Morristown, N.J. (May 14, 2017) – Cheered loudly by friends and family, 366 students graduated from the College of Saint Elizabeth at its 115th Commencement on Saturday, May 13. This ceremony included CSE's first graduating cohort of 13 doctoral students in counseling psychology.
College President Dr. Helen J. Streubert described the importance of CSE's emphasis on service in her welcoming remarks.
"We believe it is our fundamental duty to teach our students how to serve others. In doing so, we believe deeply that we empower them to also love and respect those they serve and most importantly themselves," said Streubert. "This is what we believe distinguishes our graduates from other colleges and universities: we serve, love and respect those who have been marginalized because they are poor, because they come from different races, cultures, faith traditions, because they speak other languages and because they are disabled."
"I extended congratulations and best wishes to all of you," said Sister Rosemary Moynihan, chair of the board of trustees. "We believe in you and trust in your abilities. The greater majority of people, particularly women, are desperately seeking education and put their life at risk to achieve it. Don't forget that. Always remember: work hard; hold onto your strong values; be your best selves; always take the high road."
Keynote speaker Camelia M. Valdes, the first Latino county prosecutor in New Jersey, spoke about the hardships of growing up as a poor, Dominican woman in Newark where crime was part of her daily experience. She shared her journey from living in a four-room flat with her family, to financing college and ultimately earning her current position in which she manages a $20 million budget and staff of hundreds.
"The secret, therefore, of my success, which I hope will give you something to consider as you define your own success, is my absolute resolve to work tirelessly to be better and do better, and to lift as I climb higher heights," said Valdes.
She also lauded the importance of finding your individual passion because, as she said, "work then will not be work but instead will become your life mission. If you establish your experience and develop a reputation for your work ethic, your body of work and legacy will speak for itself."
Student speaker Samantha Frejuste, '17, a foods and nutrition major from Irvington, N.J., continued this theme by likening success to flying a kite. Without the assistance of a "helper" Frejuste explained, flying a kite becomes extremely difficult. Through this metaphor, she encouraged students to lean on each other for support and to help others in need.
"We can make a difference if we move together rather than individually," said Frejuste. "Someone wise once asked me, 'Do you want to finish the race alone and fast? Or together and strong?'"
The graduate student speaker Mark Tosso, '17, M.A. in theology from Madison, N.J. shared a story from his childhood that illustrated how a patient, understanding love could change the world.
"Love helps us see the deeper truth of life," said Tosso. "While our hard work at the College of Saint Elizabeth got us here today, it's the love and sacrifice of our parents, grandparents, family, friends, professors, advisers that helped us believe we'd get to graduation and will be successful beyond."
The Awards of Distinction were presented earlier in the week to students who went above and beyond in their academic, extracurricular, and student life. Denise Cooper of Newark, '17, biology, received the Sister Elizabeth Ann Maloney Award; Bianca Lamour of Union, '17, chemistry, received the Sister Jacqueline Burns Award; Jonadad Fequiere, of Irvington, '17, communication and business, received the Sister Elizabeth Houlihan Memorial Award; and Morgan Sim, of Nutley, '17, history, received the Hildegarde Marie Mahoney Award for General Excellence.
CSE Trustee Winifred M. Johanson, '67, inducted the graduates into the Alumnae/i Association.
Congratulations to the Class of 2017!