During Saint Anselm College's 120th commencement exercises on Saturday, May 18, Commencement speaker Louis Freeh addressed 426 members of the class of 2013 as Father Jonathan DeFelice, O.S.B., presided over his final commencement as president.
As a surprise for the retiring president of 24 years, representatives of all 23 preceding classes joined the procession bearing their class year banners.
In his speech to the class of 2013, Father Jonathan recalled the determination of the college's founders and encouraged the graduates "to be proud Anselmians and to move on with confidence to form your future with the great gifts you have been given."
NEWS: "Father Jonathan Bids Farewell to his 24th Graduating Class" (College Communications and Marketing)
NEWS: "Former FBI head tells St. Anselm graduates it is important to give back" (New Hampshire Union Leader)
NEWS: "Commencement honors Boston bombing responders" (WMUR-TV)
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Photos: Commencement 2013
Speeches & Remarks
Christopher Tinsley - Student Address
Father Jonathan, Abbot Mark, Bishop Joseph and the Benedictine Community, Bishop Libasci, Members of the Board of Trustees, Honorary degree recipients, faculty, staff, parents, relatives, friends, my parents,...the gracious staff of Watoy... and, most importantly, my fellow classmates, welcome to Saint Anselm College's 120th commencement celebration.
It is an honor to be the student representative of the Class of 2013. When I discovered a month ago that I would have the opportunity to speak at graduation, I devoted the same amount of time, energy, and intensity in preparation that many of you demonstrated while writing your senior thesis...And so late last night I began. The following is a carefully crafted, un-plagiarized summation of a Wikipedia page on commencement speeches. I hope you enjoy.
This opportunity enables me, on behalf of the entire class, to express our sincerest gratitude to the faculty members of the Saint Anselm community for your unwavering commitment to the betterment and expansion of our intellectual capacities. You showed us that the term "office hours" is a flexible one. You inspired us to engage and participate, whether in an 8:30 Humanities seminar or in a late-night pub conversation. You didn't just teach- you taught us how to think for ourselves and communicate our ideas effectively, skills that will prove invaluable in the years to come. You have given us many of the tools necessary to pursue and achieve our dreams and, because of your efforts, we have reached a significant milestone in our lives. Thank you.
And since Saint Anselm is a close-knit mosaic of people and relationships, the Class of 2013 wishes to thank the members of the community who have played monumental roles in our undergraduate experience. Campus Ministry. Dining Services. Physical plant. Information Technology. Staff in the Academic Resource Center. Campus security. Athletic coaches and staff. Each and every person on this campus contributes to a tangible sense of community and solidarity that is ubiquitous from the moment we arrive as dazed-and-confused freshmen. And since today is also a day of dedication and remembrance, we acknowledge two members that the Saint Anselm community has lost during our four-year journey: George Gendron, the beloved custodian of Cushing Hall whose remarkably optimistic attitude and generosity of spirit made studying slightly less strenuous, and Jeanne Kenison, former chairperson of the Economics and Business Department, whose consummate leadership left her department and Saint Anselm a better place. Both are with us in spirit today.
Now, all of us are aware of the increasingly competitive atmosphere surrounding undergraduate institutions in the United States. Parents and high-school students, faced with the difficult decision of choosing a single college or university amongst a myriad of choices, often consult research publications of school rankings for guidance. These publications offer a thorough economic analysis of several institutions, considering factors such as the percentage of recent graduates who are employed, student debt-to-first-year salary ratios, and various other job-placement statistics that are convincingly supported by advanced economic methodologies that likely only Einstein and Professor Miller could understand.
These statistics, of course, serve a purpose and can be helpful in highlighting the realistic economic implications of attending college. However, it is important not to be so dazzled by statistical data so as to miss the bigger picture. Make no mistake, Saint Anselm College has bestowed on all of us an incredible treasure of academic acumen and knowledge that will serve us well no matter which career path or future endeavor we choose to pursue.
This shared treasure is an important foundation, but it is not the most important asset we will carry forward. Saint Anselm recognizes that, ultimately, the best way to prepare its students for future success is to focus on the biggest determinant of success: You. The person. The individual. We have studied the paragons of human achievement and the attributes humanity shares. In our philosophy courses, we have challenged our intellect and reasoning in the pursuit of identifying universal truths and moral codes to guide us. In our theology studies, rich in the tradition of Saint Benedict, we have gained an appreciation for what it means to have been made "in the image and likeness of God" and to serve others with humility and love.
The Association for Benedictine Colleges and Universities declares that:
"A Benedictine education sets its sights on the transformation of the human mind and heart...stresses the formation of the whole person rather than the intellect alone... and calls for a lively interplay between rigorous thinking and the development of practices for right living." College rankings can NOT measure that. Statistical data can NOT describe the value of an education centered on the human person, an education that helps us answer the more fundamental questions concerning the purpose of human existence. The fact that you're here today testifies that you've lived and experienced the bigger picture.
My father in particular cherishes the values of a liberal arts education and consistently reminded his children that "everything important in life comes through people." Through people. No education could have better prepared us for this reality than Saint Anselm College. Keep in mind the lessons of Achilles. Of Moses. Of Socrates and Aristotle. Of Saint Anselm and Aquinas. Of Leo Tolstoy and Adam Smith... Of George Gendron... Of Jeanne Kenison. If we take what these people have taught us and apply it in the service of others, we will be amazed with God's potency of goodness.
My graduation here today is very nearly the completion of a dream. My mother died suddenly when I was 3 years old. It had been her dream to see all seven of her boys receive a Catholic liberal arts education. Well Mom, after today, one more to go.
We in the Class of 2013 are mindful that when we depart here today, Father Jonathan is departing with us. Today, he will hand out his last diploma. His retirement marks the end of 24 years of extraordinary, historic service and we pray that he will be part of this Saint Anselm Community for decades to come. Father Jonathan, although your tenure ends this year, your vision for Saint Anselm and higher education marches forward. We are honored to be the last graduating class under your leadership.
And to the Class of 2013, let's prove that Father Jonathan saved his best for last!
Faculty Award - American Association of University Professors, Presented by Elizabeth Ossoff, Ph.D.
In terms of teaching and scholarship, we here at Saint Anselm pride ourselves on the development of the "Whole Person." This year's recipient of the AAUP's excellence in Faculty Accomplishment Award embodies that spirit better than many. The focus for this faculty member has always been on educating the mind, the body and the spirit. Our winner this year is a master teacher. His students describe him as tough, sometimes funny, and always challenging. Students know their questions are important, worthwhile and welcome, be they asked in class, in the lab, in Stoutenburgh during a Hawks basketball game, or even in Davison Hall during a meal. Each year students are mentored through the research process to the point where they can explore their own ideas, presenting their work at regional and national conferences and then publishing them in peer-reviewed journals, giving them the much needed boost to enter and excel in graduate school and beyond. This year's recipient is a graduate of Saint Anselm College and received his Master's Degree at Ball State University in Clinical Psychology. He received his Ph.D. at the University of Southern Mississippi and did his clinical internship at Yale University. He holds memberships in the American Psychological Association, the Association for Psychological Science, the American Pain Society, as well as regional and local memberships in his field. He has also served on the New Hampshire Board of Examiners of Psychologists and Mental Health Practitioners as both Chairman of the board and as Hearings officer, appointed by the Governor.
While here at Saint Anselm as a faculty member he served as the Chair of the Department of Psychology until 2010, has served on many college committees, is the men's and women's cross-country coach and track club coach, and perhaps is best known for his work with members of the student community and staff in his "Running for Life" group helping these individuals prepare to run the Boston Marathon each year. This year in particular his efforts training students and others to participate in the marathon as runners, "Lifeguards" (who are those who run alongside the runners for specified periods to see to their needs) and cheerleaders were especially meaningful. The 42 students he shepherded down to Boston this year returned safely to the grounds of Saint Anselm College arriving approximately at 8:30pm the night of April 15th to cheering crowds of supporters. He continued his support and "teaching" in the days after the tragedy providing guidance and perspective as we all struggled with the uncertainty accompanying that day; all the while dealing with his own feelings around the events associated with what was always a joyous experience and which will be so again.
In addition to his efforts in the classroom, in the lab, and on the field this year's recipient finds time to enjoy his new residence on a lake, occasionally fly his Ercoupe, and enjoy his wife Jean and their children Mike and Gabe, as well as his extended family. He handles all this with grace and a perspective I hope one day to have as his colleague and now department chair. It is my supreme pleasure to announce that the winner of the 2013 AAUP Excellence in Faculty Accomplishment Award is my friend, colleague and mentor, Professor of Psychology, Dr. Paul Finn.
Father Jonathan DeFelice, O.S.B. - President's Address
Your Excellency, Bishop Libasci, Abbot Mark, Mr. Chairman, Madame Vice-Chair and Members of the Board of Trustees, Distinguished Honorary Degree Recipients past and present, Members of the Graduating Class of Twenty Thirteen, Parents and families, my Benedictine confreres, faculty and staff, guests and friends:
I welcome you to Saint Anselm College's 120th 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 twenty-thirteen, 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 2013, please stand up, turn around, and applaud with me your families and friends.
I take this moment to recognize a group of very special individuals who are with us today thanks to the fine efforts of our commencement speaker, The Honorable Louis Freeh. The shocking bombing that took place just over a month ago at the Boston Marathon demonstrated not only the worst that the human heart is capable of in the ruthless disregard for human life, but that event also demonstrated the best that the human heart is capable of as well. For the many good citizens who assisted the injured, for the health care workers that cared for them, and for the law enforcement personnel who brought order out of chaos and who daily protect our way of life, we are most grateful. Earlier today, I presented a plaque from Saint Anselm College that read: "Presented to with gratitude to the men and women of the Boston FBI Division and the Joint Terrorism Task Force, protecting us with valor, integrity and faithful service." Please join me in thanking the representatives who are here today.
Annually I take a moment at Commencement to recognize those members of our faculty who will be retiring this academic year. Today I offer congratulations for a job well done and our profound thanks to Professor John D'Espinosa of the Modern Languages Department who will be retiring this summer following a remarkable 43 years of teaching and service here. John, may the good Lord grant you a long and happy of retirement.
I also offer our thanks to members of the staff retiring this year:
Bob Baron and Beverly Curry from Treasurer's Office, Fran Deleault from Campus Ministry, Donna Guimont from Athletics, Robert Paquin from Physical Plant, and Faye Tresvik, Faculty Assistant. Together they represent over 150 years of service to Saint Anselm. May God bless them all abundantly.
Dear Members of the Class of Twenty-thirteen, it is a pleasure for me to offer you a few final thoughts from what will soon be your alma mater.
When you first heard me announce your commencement date on this quad on a hot August day four years ago, May 18th 2013 must have sounded like some fictional time in the far distant future: something not to be too concerned about, since the challenge at hand was getting through Orientation, getting to know the names of people and places in your new world of Saint Anselm College. And you may recall that I said these years would pass quickly, with ups and downs, successes and challenges, growth and development. And so they have. And because of your good work and the help of those around you, you will leave this campus today as alumni.
Hopefully during these four years you have deepened your understanding of what it means to be an Anselmian. You have been given the opportunity to listen to the now-familiar voices of the great women and men of history and to the contemporary voices of faculty, staff, monks, and friends that challenged you to learn and to grow. If you continue to hear those voices, if you continue to learn, if you continue to stand in awe at God, the world and the people around you, then you will forge the bond that makes this Anselmian Community a reality. It is a bond that you will discover - as so many others have already - it is a bond that neither time nor distance can sever.
What you have had the opportunity to do here is founded on the reality of your blessed humanity, a humanity created in the image of God and redeemed by Christ. You are part of a Catholic liberal arts tradition that profoundly respects who you are and what you are meant to be. It is a tradition that respects your intellect as capable of coming to know the truth and your will as capable of choosing it. It is the tradition that inspired the founders of this great college to provide this kind of education for the generations that preceded you, for you, and hopefully for your children and grandchildren who may come after you.
Today we are celebrating the historic occasion of the 120th Commencement Exercises of Saint Anselm College. Don't worry, I'm not going to give you highlights of the previous 119, though one of my confreres suggested this morning that I could make my final commencement address truly memorable by talking for two and half hours! I was tempted!
But I do hope you will indulge me for a few moments, however, to honor the memory of our founders and tell you something about the first commencement.
After its founding in 1889, after surviving the complete destruction by fire of its first building, and surviving too the temptation to simply abandon the project of building a Catholic college here, Saint Anselm College finally opened its doors to receive a grand total of 80 male students in September 1893. Having thus taken its place among American Catholic Colleges despite the difficult economy of 1893 and the financial hardships which the College itself faced, a first Commencement was held on the bottom floor of the building in front of you on June 26, 1894. Given that date, this should be the 119th commencement, but because of the intervention of the Second World War, two commencements were held in one year, thus making this the 120th.
At that first Commencement there were neither graduates nor the granting of degrees, because the College was still too young to have students in the upper classes. So the first commencement became an occasion to celebrate a successful beginning. The focus was not on the senior class - for there was no senior class - but rather on the sophomore class of eleven students. Among them were two young men who were to become somewhat notable in the region: John B. Peterson of Salem, Massachusetts who eventually became the fourth bishop of Manchester and Frank V. Thompson, who became the superintendent of the Boston Public School System. It was the young Thompson who welcomed the several hundred guests present with these words that I offer for your reflection. He said:
"In welcoming you here today, there is no opportunity for me to refer to the past records of our College. All we have to reflect upon is one short year. Though it is generally presumptuous to predict great things for the future, yet we, the students of Saint Anselm, feel with just pride that the future of our College is most bright indeed. We confidently assure ourselves that the reoccurring commencements at Saint Anselm will present an ever-increasing number of worthy students leaving her shelter to do her honor in their respective vocations; and we, of the sophomore class especially feel that it will indeed be an honor to have been members of the first class ever leaving Saint Anselm College."
Members of the Class of 2013, unlike the young Mr. Thompson, you and I do have the opportunity "to refer to the past records of our college," of the 124 years since our founding and the 119 commencements that preceded this one. You are the heirs to the dream of our founders and that sophomore in 1894; the heirs of a century and a quarter of hope and hard work; of unshakeable faith and of the sacrifices and generosity of so many. Now you are about to take your place in that history of Saint Anselm graduates: men and women who walked this ground before you, who studied and prayed, and succeeded as you have.
Be ever grateful for all that has been and move on with confidence to form your future with the great gifts you have been given.
Members of the Class of Twenty-thirteen, today I salute your accomplishments and offer you 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, and today I do so for my final time at this podium. You will always have a very special place in my heart. Be proud Anselmians forever. Know that 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!
The Honorable Louis Joseph Freeh - Commencement Address
The Honorable Louis Joseph Freeh delivers his Commencement address to the Class of 2013 at Saint Anselm College.