May 20, 2017
Communications and Marketing
On Saturday, May 20 at Saint Anselm College's 124th commencement exercises, speaker and honorary degree recipient Dr. Carolyn Y. Woo addressed 442 members of the class of 2017, offering them advice on the next phase of their lives.
As former president and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Woo led the Catholic community's international humanitarian agency in the United State from 2012-2016.
In her address to graduates, she reminded them of the strength they have to overcome difficulties, encouraging them to move forward with the same fortitude.
"All of you are here now, you have come through with not just a degree and knowledge, but with a sense of purpose, you've come through with a great ability," she said. "Never forget the strength that you have when you run into difficulties."
From her decades of experience, Woo shared that, while at CRS, even in the depths of devastation working in ground zero, she was never depressed by what she saw, but instead was filled with hope. Her reasoning, she said, is that she knew she was never alone. Throughout her experience as a graduate student, working in higher education and leading CRS, Woo ran into strangers whose small acts of kindness made a difference in her life.
"We will never be alone. He [God] sent us each other. We are meant to be answers to each other's prayers," said Woo. "Believe in yourself. Believe in others. Trust in God."
Following the pomp and circumstance of the procession and invocation, Dr. Steven R. DiSalvo, college president, congratulated the class of 2017. He noted the opportunity their class had for leaving a legacy during such a transformative time for the college. "I have been honored to be part of your journey," he said. "Do not underestimate the importance of your voice in shaping the future of our college."
Finally, Dr. DiSalvo reminded them to thank those who supported their college journey, reading them a note he'd recently received from the parent of a 2017 graduate: "Where do I begin a letter thanking so many people who have truly made the Hilltop her home. Most will never know how their actions, both big and small, have helped make her who she is today. They have taught her, encouraged her, fed her, cleaned up after her, and so much more to make her feel at home. I will do my best to include everyone and only ask that you pass along my heartfelt thanks."
"Only we got to go to college on the Hilltop—the place we would find ourselves referring to as 'home' (to our parents' bittersweet horror), and the place where we would meet people that would become like family, and help shape us into the people that we sit here as today."
Although one chapter in their story may be ending, Merritt told them to be confident about the future, embracing the challenges ahead.
"So as we sit here today, on our very last official day on the Hilltop, and we're fiddling anxiously with the corner of that last page, I hope you can realize that even though we're leaving this campus behind, we will never leave this place behind. So, because of your time at Saint Anselm College, you feel confident and ready to turn that page, and begin the next chapter.
Donald L. Stokes Jr. of Newark, N.J., received the President's Award for Service and Citizenship. Dr. DiSalvo said that in his four years on campus, Stokes was a leader, role model, and activist, instrumental in helping the college chart the course to embrace those with differences. "It was his contribution to our community as a student leader and a force for change that sets him apart from others," he said.
Sociology and peace and justice studies double major Cassie Quattropani, of East Hartford, Conn., and great books and German studies double major Julia Hawkins, of Barrington, N.H., received the Chancellor's Award for the graduate with the highest academic average of 3.990.
Biology Professor Donald Rhodes received the award for excellence in faculty accomplishment for his commitment to his colleagues and the college. He joined the faculty in 1986 and specializes in the biochemistry and physiology of sterol metabolism by a nematode that has the potential to be used in studying endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs).
Honorary Degree Recipients
On the lawn in front of Alumni Hall, the college bestowed a Doctorate of Humanities, honoris causa on Woo.
In addition, Saint Anselm conferred a Doctor Divinity on the Most Reverend Robert Barron and a Doctor of Humane Letters on Sister Thomas Welder, O.S.B.
Bishop Robert Barron is the founder of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries and the host of CATHOLICISM, a groundbreaking, award-winning documentary about the Catholic Faith. On September 8, 2015, he was ordained Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
Sister Thomas Welder, O.S.B., a member of the Benedictine Sisters of Annunciation Monastery, currently serves as president emerita in the area of mission advancement at the University of Mary where she has worked as a teacher and administrator since 1963.
Earlier in the day in an emotional ceremony on the college quad, graduate Nicholas Papsadora, an international business major from Maine, earned his commissioning into the United States Marine Corps.