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Father Jonathan DeFelice, O.S.B. Commencement Address

The following address was presented by Father Jonathan DeFelice, O.S.B., President of Saint Anselm College on May 19, 2012 at the 119th Commencement before to the Class of 2012 on the grounds of Saint Anselm College. Photo by Gil Talbot.

Father Jonathan DeFelice, O.S.B.Your Excellencies, Bishop Joseph and Bishop McCormack, Abbot Matthew, Mr. Chairman and Members of the Board of Trustees, Distinguished Honorary Degree Recipients past and present, Members of the Graduating Class of Twenty Twelve Parents and families, my Benedictine confreres, faculty and staff, guests and friends:

I welcome you to Saint Anselm College's 119th Commencement Exercises.

To our honorary degree recipients, I extend a special welcome and the thanks of the entire Saint Anselm College Community for honoring us with your presence.   Certainly all of you have distinguished yourselves in your careers and in service to your communities. And most importantly, you have distinguished yourselves in the way you have chosen to live your lives.  For all of this, we are very grateful.

To the parents and families of the class of 2012, my greetings and congratulations!  We at Saint Anselm realize that the success of our graduates is in large part due to their own good work and choices combined with the guidance and expertise of our faculty.  That said, however, we also realize that the sacrifices and support of family and friends contribute immeasurably to the accomplishment we celebrate today.  Members of the Class of 2012, please stand up, turn around, and applaud with me your families and friends.

Annually I take a moment at Commencement to recognize those members of our College Community who will be retiring this academic year.  Today I offer congratulations for a job well done and our thanks first of all to Professor Arthur Kenison of the Economics and Business Department who retired from full-time teaching last December.

Congratulations also to my confrere, Father Mark Cooper, who after 33 years of distinguished service is retiring from the position of Vice President for Finance.  I think it is safe to say that no one will ever again hold the position for as long as he did, nor bring the same set of skills that he has to his work...and so it is clear that no one single financial officer will ever have the impact that he has had.  Thank you, Father Mark.

Congratulations and thanks also to two other members of the administration who are retiring this year:  Doctor Duane Bruce, Associate Dean of the College, who has helped innumerable students to be successful in their academic careers and who has brought a level of professionalism to our College's assessment initiatives and Dr. Joseph Constance, the College Librarian and instructor in Politics who has for so long a time led the library to be a center of excellence for College and engaged us all in looking towards the future.

Finally, though not retiring but leaving the College after a decade of distinguished service to pursue a new opportunity, I offer a special word of thanks to the person initially most responsible for our seniors' presence here today, namely, Mrs. Nancy Davis Griffin, Dean of Admission, who read every one of the applications for the members of the Class of 2012 and judged you worthy to attend.  Thank you, Nancy, and we assure you of our prayers for you at Johns Hopkins University.

While this Commencement is a joyful occasion of every member of the Class of 2012, today seven members of the class are unable to participate in the ceremony and will be granted their degrees in absentia.  At the same time as their names are being called to receive their diplomas, these seven young men will be representing Saint Anselm College in the NCAA Division II East Regional Baseball Championship, at a game being played across the river.  This is only the second time in the team's history that we have been part of the Regional Championship and we have already advanced further than any team before.  Though we miss them here, we wish them a great game and an even greater victory!  Go Hawks!

Dear Members of the Class of Twenty-twelve, at this point in my address, I usually say that "it is a pleasure for me to offer you a few final thoughts from what will soon be your alma mater."

This year, however, it is a little different, because someone else will be offering those final thoughts.  Normally, we are pleased to welcome a guest from outside the college community to give the Commencement Address.  Normally, it is a stranger to most of us whom we welcome to campus for the first time.  But today the Commencement Speaker is no stranger or guest but some who knows Saint Anselm intimately and who has, in fact, been its spiritual and collegiate leader for nearly three decades and is retiring in early June.  I am not going to repeat what will be said shortly in the citation, but since Abbot Matthew is the ultimate insider, I think it is appropriate for me to give you only some very short comments and leave your alma mater's final lesson to him.

That said, I just can't stop and sit down since this is by far my most favorite day of the academic year!  So, let me offer a brief reflection.

When you drove on campus yesterday or today, I hope you noticed some new banners along the roadways.  Over the last year or so we have been involved in an intense and inclusive process to redefine how we tell the Saint Anselm College story.  Through interviews, meetings, focus groups and reflection, we settled on the concept that there is something that distinguishes everyone here, from pastry chef to President, from caretaker to Chancellor.  And what is it that distinguishes us?  Here is how we answered:

 "There is an uncommon character that defines each of us.  It is something that comes from deep within. It becomes part of us when we arrive on campus, it grows and deepens during our years here, and it forms the root of our spirit and the core of our being for the rest of our lives.  It drives us to achieve, it enables us to make the hard choices, it confirms our faith, and it gives us the confidence and perspective needed to answer the world's most important questions.

"As students, trustees, faculty, staff, and alumni, we endeavor to grow spiritually and morally as we lead lives of meaning.  We are devoted to the pursuit of knowledge, guided by a commitment to the liberal arts and to the Catholic and Benedictine tradition.  And bring it to life a community of capable, ethical leaders who are prepared to build a better world.

"When we are faced with the challenges that push our thinking and develop our character, we know we will rise to every occasion.  Because each of us faces those challenges with a creative mind, a generous spirit, and a foundation in that most uncommon of character traits:  Each of us in an Anselmian."

Today you take another step, entering more deeply into what it means to be an Anselmian.  But it does not end today.  No, for the rest of your life, you are now called to do something worthwhile rather than something easy; to make the right choice, even when it's difficult to do so; to know where you are going, and never forget  where you've been.  Being an Anselmian means that words like learning, commitment, spirit, community, service, and faith are always part of not only your vocabulary, but your life.

We are Anselmians, today, tomorrow, and forever!

Members of the Class of Twenty-twelve, today I salute your accomplishments and offer the congratulations of the entire College community.  As I know it is for you, it is always a bit sad for me to bid farewell to another class.   I will truly miss the many of you that I have gotten to know well and I certainly will pray for all of you that the grace of God who loves you in Christ will sustain and support you all the days of your lives. 

God love you all!