Undergraduate Commencement Ceremonies 2019
Connect with Us
Health Sciences and Nursing Ceremony
Graduates encouraged to live with no regrets
Bryan Donahue, a third-generation U.S. Marine who overcame a deadly liver disease after being given six months to live, urged graduates of our Undergraduate School of Health Sciences and School of Nursing to accept new challenges with optimism rather than despair.
Donahue delivered the keynote address during the May 18, 9 a.m. ceremony, which was the first of three Undergraduate Commencement ceremonies held in the People's United Center on the York Hill Campus.
“I thought I was invincible, yet I knew I was in for the fight of my life,” Donahue told members of the Class of 2019 of his battle with liver disease at the age of 22. “The tricky thing for me to mentally grasp was that my enemy was internal. Every ounce of discipline, mental toughness and determination would be tested at levels I didn’t know existed.”
This strategy to overcoming adversity, the 43-year-old Donahue explained at the ceremony in the People’s United Center on our York Hill Campus, has served him well throughout his life as a former mortgage banker, motivational speaker and author of “On Borrowed Time, How I Built a Life While Beating Death.”
Donahue told the graduates that every degree represented here today played a vital role in his recovery.
“When I wanted to give up, the professionals you are about to become would look me in the eyes and say, ‘Not today.’ They figuratively and at times literally carried me when I needed it most,” he said, urging the grads to remember that their unique role contributes to their team’s greatness.
Donahue took a moment to acknowledge his brother-in-law, Jeff Agli, an adjunct professor of nursing at Quinnipiac and his guest at Commencement. Agli gave Donahue 60 percent of his liver and saved his life.
The former Marine also pointed to Quinnipiac’s work with veterans to advance inclusion on campus. In recent years, Quinnipiac has been ranked among the nation’s top four-year schools for veterans by Military Times and Victory Media.
“The initiatives that the university has created not only include veterans,” Donahue said, “but more importantly, make them feel included.”
The Class of 2019 is the first to receive degrees from new President Judy Olian, who encouraged graduates to remain curious, lifelong learners — the best preparation for 21st century careers and citizenship.
Olian urged the graduates to remember that failure doesn't have to be fatal.
“It can be the stepping stone to success if you take the time to learn from it,” she said. She shared that while in her last year as an undergraduate at the Hebrew University, she worked as an assistant in the office of one of the most senior leaders of the university. “It was a stretch because I’d never done anything like that before, and it was a big deal to be working there.”
However, within a few months, she was fired. She never figured out quite why.
“I was mortified that I had failed and wanted to crawl under a rock. Somehow, through gutsiness or naïveté or both, I applied for an aspirational job in the prime minister’s office in Israel,” she said. In her interview she told them she’d been fired, why she thought it had happened, and what she learned from that experience.
“To my utter surprise, they still hired me. Perhaps, my candor and my self-reflection about that embarrassing experience got me that job, which turned out to be a fantastically interesting growth opportunity that was significant to what came later in my life,” she said.
Kipp Edward Hopper '19, who earned a bachelor of science from the School of Health Sciences, and Justin James Ragozzino '19, who earned a bachelor of science in nursing from the School of Nursing, each spoke on behalf of the Class of 2019.
“While we are all fortunate to stand tall today, we must never forget those who sit beneath the unending burdens within our health system,” Hopper said. “The current drug crisis continues to consume lives indiscriminately, leaving no community untouched in the wake of an addiction and mental health crisis. Add to this plight the rising cost of health care, depriving citizens who form the backbone of this country from getting the help they deserve: minority Americans, veterans, low-income families, all of whom deserve the right to equal care — yet the statistics tell us we are failing them every day. This is the world we are graduating into, my fellow students, and it is not pretty.”
However, he said he remains optimistic.
“Our experiences at Quinnipiac have shaped our ways of thinking and leading through problems,” he said. “I think every student here today will some day see an absurd or failing function of our health care system and we will have the opportunity to ask, ‘Why does it have to be this way?’”
Ragozzino said he cannot be more proud to be looking around a room full of future educators, health administrators, artists, policy makers, authors, economists and so much more.
“We’re all comprised of so many overlapping characteristics that make up the person you ultimately embody today,” he said. “Through every bit of self-reflection, never forget that the similarities between us greatly outweigh the differences. Each of us will experience life through infinite lenses, which will hopefully perpetuate our ability to better understand the other.”
In the School of Health Sciences, 480 graduates earned Bachelor of Science degrees. In the School of Nursing, 220 graduates earned Bachelor of Science in Nursing and Bachelor of Science in Nursing (accelerated) degrees.
Donahue asked the graduates to remember that kindness drives job satisfaction and personal enrichment.
“In life and our careers, it is not what you get that makes you special. It is what you give that makes you extraordinary,” Donahue said. “Whatever you decide to do, get in it for the outcome, not just the income. Your sense of fulfillment in life will skyrocket.”
Video and Photos: Health Sciences and Nursing
Photo Gallery: Health Sciences and Nursing
Schools of Health Sciences and Nursing
Arts and Sciences and Communications Ceremony
Speaker urges graduates to view life’s complications as opportunities
Award-winning poet and memoirist Reginald Dwayne Betts, who received an honorary doctorate from the College of Arts and Sciences, compared the graduates' present and future lives to the automatic watch on his wrist.
Betts delivered the keynote address during the May 18, 2 p.m. ceremony, which was the second of three Undergraduate Commencement ceremonies held in the People's United Center on the York Hill Campus.
He began by explaining how automatic watches are valued by how many “complications” — or “features”— they have, from timers to a calendars.
“Why would you call something that’s a benefit a complication?” Betts asked members of the Class of 2019. “Well, it depends on how you view the thing.”
Betts urged the graduates to imagine themselves as carefully crafted time pieces, and to think of their potential complications as struggles that could profoundly shape them and their lives.
“If we thought about the struggles we’ve had, all the complications in our life as things that benefit us because they gave us insight into a future we wanted to create, we’d be blessed,” he said.
Betts explained how an automatic watch is not manually wound, nor does it have a battery or move with the precision of its quartz or digital counterparts. Much like the graduates’ lives, the only thing powering the progression of time — providing its charge — is their own passion and productivity.
“The watch always reminds me to check myself,” Betts said.
The watch, like Betts himself, is idiosyncratic in nature. Betts described his own life’s erratic trajectory, his time in college and how his experience in prison made him different from all of his peers. Betts presented the idea of idiosyncrasy as a thing of beauty, and his unique experiences as a strength throughout his education.
“The best of my professors saw value not in the ways that my classmates and I were similar, but in the ways that our differences helped us to create something that singularly we couldn’t create,” he said.
Betts closed with a story that was equal parts about serendipity and proximity, about how overhearing a chance conversation in the Harvard Law School cafeteria as a Radcliffe Fellow changed the trajectory of his life, providing the pretext he’d needed to pursue a law degree, even if it hadn’t been what he had originally planned.
“You shouldn’t let what you might do tomorrow get in the way of what you could do today,” Betts told the graduates, adding, “always make yourself proximate to the opportunities you want—or might want.”
“Your presence makes me think about the possibilities in my own life,” Betts said. “Our collective presence makes me think about the possibilities for this country and our future, and for a planet that’s sustainable for the next 200 years.”
President Judy Olian conferred 380 degrees to graduates of the College of Arts and Sciences and 230 School of Communications graduates.
Communities, Olian told graduates, need them now more than ever. She spoke of a future where they would use vastly expanding knowledge and information to bring opportunity to previously marginalized segments of society, as well as leverage technology and science to improve the quality of life for millions.
“You are the generations that can achieve these breakthroughs, and you won’t just change the world, you will literally make it,” she said. “You are the communicators, story tellers, inventors, critical thinkers, community activists and even dreamers who will ‘make a dent in the universe.’”
Filomena Stabile ‘19, who earned a bachelor of arts from the College of Arts and Sciences, and Ryan Muscato, who earned a bachelor of science from the School of Communications, each spoke on behalf of the Class of 2019.
Stabile spoke of her experience as being one defined by prolific university expansion, institutional change and numerous firsts.
“Many of us will remember voting in our first presidential election, as well as student government elections while at Quinnipiac, and now we are leaving with having had our first female president, Dr. Judy Olian,” Stabile said.
Stabile expressed her pride to be counted among a graduating class of future educators, health administrators, artists, policy makers, authors and economists. She called her peers independent thinkers with the tools, connections, and now, the degrees, capable of implementing genuine transformation in the world. She closed on the importance of identity, reminding them that our similarities will always outweigh our differences.
“Your background does not define you,” Stabile said. “It’s what you do in times of adversity that does. Quinnipiac has made us worthy of great things; now all that’s left for us to do is believe we are.”
A humble Muscato echoed Stabile’s sentiment, describing his personal struggle with and eventual triumph over drug addiction, after which he began his Quinnipiac journey. Rather than bask in his own accomplishment, Muscato, today three years sober and counting, took his time to celebrate the institution that welcomed and strengthened him.
“This community showed me not to be ashamed to fail, but to embrace it, because it’s what we learn through our constant failures that eventually leads us to success,” he said. “That’s what Quinnipiac is all about.”
Muscato emphatically thanked the professors who encouraged his intellectual growth, the administrators who always left their doors open for advice and support, and all of his peers who embraced him and inspired him to be a better person — many of whom he has formed enduring friendships with.
“I learned that success is having the opportunity to show up every day and work with some of the smartest, funniest, most creative and talented people out there, and I feel pretty damn successful at Quinnipiac just about every single day,” he said. “When life inevitably happens and your back is against the wall, it’s those people you have surrounded yourself around that are the most important.”
Video and Photos: Arts and Sciences and Communications
Photo Gallery: Arts and Sciences and Communications
College of Arts and Sciences and School of Communications
Business and Engineering Ceremony
Embrace and be the change in the world, graduates told
Graduates of our School of Business and School of Engineering — 522 strong — were urged to have conviction and stay the course — even when confronted with failure.
Javier Polit, chief information officer at Proctor & Gamble, delivered the keynote address to graduates during the third of three undergraduate 2019 Commencement ceremonies held at the People’s United Center.
“Change is a given,” Polit told the graduates. “Think about the changes you have been through in just the past four-plus years. You possibly changed your major, had more than one roommate, had disappointments and moments of great excitement. Maybe who you are today is not who you thought or even imagined you would become when you came here as a freshman.”
However, through it all, he urged graduates to maintain the conviction about what they are doing, but commit to learning and reinventing themselves.
“You will know when your dreams are big because they will make you nervous,” Polit advised. “So be nervous. Never settle. As with all matters of the heart, you will know when you find it. Keep looking, never settle and have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”
In this era of seismic change throughout our society, it is imperative to be dynamic and be willing to reinvent yourself, he said.
“You are coming of age at an amazing time, with machine learning, robotics and artificial intelligence,” he said. “You have technology and you have global awareness at levels that generations before you did not have. With that awareness comes an informed conscience. Your generation has no limits and you will take on issues and complex problems.”
He urged the graduates to never allow any title, career or level of success define who they are.
“Let family, love and humanity define you,” Polit said. “Each of you is a unique and incredible individual. I challenge you to give back to help humanity and, most importantly, to solve some of the world’s greatest inequities.”
President Judy Olian told the graduates the world needed them now more than ever.
“We live in times of social and political polarization, of growing tensions along economic, gender, racial, ethnic and religious divides,” she told the Class of 2019. “At the same time, we are experiencing the excitement and opportunities of unprecedented discoveries in artificial intelligence and data sciences, democratized access to information and knowledge, disruptive technological breakthroughs across every field, new service opportunities, changes to market structures, and fascinating entrepreneurial opportunities where the only barrier to entry is the quality of one’s ideas.”
Exploiting these opportunities and deploying innovations wisely could radically alleviate social tensions and improve the quality of living for communities, and even for nations, that have been previously deprived, Olian said.
“You’re the generation that can achieve these breakthroughs, and you won’t just change the world, you will literally make it,” said President Olian. “You will create and utilize the opportunities of rapidly advancing technologies and scientific discovery to improve the quality of life for many. This is such an exciting time, and you are so well positioned to join this accelerating wave of innovation and socially impactful change.”
Daniel Bok ’19, a School of Business graduate, described a journey of change and growth at Quinnipiac.
“The most powerful attribute Quinnipiac has provided us in an opportunity,” he said. “An opportunity to thrive and succeed, to strive and prosper. We are all put in a position to do anything we want in this world. We were all fortunate enough to wear that sacred blue and gold, to walk our storied quad and now we have an opportunity to take the world by storm.”
Kyle Lopez ’19, a School of Engineering graduate, urged his peers to make the most of their educations to better the world.
“Go forth and create your own future,” he implored. “Be authentic in your ways, lose a little and gain a lot more, but most of all, master the art of failing. Our potential is boundless, and our success isn’t measured by making it to the next destination in life.”
Video and Photos: Business and Engineering
Photo Gallery: Business and Engineering
School of Business and School of Engineering
Quinnipiac hosted 3 undergraduate Commencement ceremonies May 18 and 19 at the People's United Center on the York Hill Campus. In all, there were 1,832 undergraduate degree candidates from six schools:
- 380 in the College of Arts and Sciences
- 460 in the School of Business
- 230 in the School of Communications
- 62 in the School of Engineering
- 480 in the School of Health Sciences
- 220 in the School of Nursing
In addition, Quinnipiac awarded a total of 1,219 degrees to graduate, law and medical students on May 10 and 11.
Quinnipiac is a dynamic, three-campus university where professors who want to know students by name come to teach, and where students who want a personal, challenging education come to learn.
Located in Southern New England, Quinnipiac’s top-rated academics, low faculty-to-student ratio and Division I athletics are just some of the reasons why it is consistently ranked among the best universities by U.S. News & World Report and The Princeton Review. It is one of 100 universities to have both a law school and a medical school with the opening of the Frank H. Netter MD School of Medicine in 2013, and the Quinnipiac University Poll is respected by media organizations around the globe.
Faculty members are experts in their fields and generous with their time. The university enrolls 7,000 full-time undergraduate and 3,000 graduate and part-time students in 110 degree programs through its Schools of Business, Communications, Education, Engineering, Health Sciences, Law, Medicine, Nursing and the College of Arts and Sciences.
Throughout its rich history, Quinnipiac has remained true to its three core values: high-quality academic programs, a student-oriented environment and a strong sense of community.