By: Andrew Mees, Director of Institutional Communications and Campaign Marketing firstname.lastname@example.org
A late-May tradition, the institution welcomed nearly 290 graduates into the ranks of Bloomfield College Alumni May 21 at the school’s 142nd Commencement Ceremonies.
Distinguished guests and families joined members of the College’s community to celebrate the next generation of leaders on the Quad section of the campus grounds, as students received Master of Science, Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees from Bloomfield’s 60-plus majors and concentrations.
President Richard Levao opened the morning program with a message to students, urging them to write a fulfilling life story as newly minted graduates.
“Be filled with the joy of giving – and living – for the rest of your lives,” said Levao.
The festivities also featured remarks from a quintet of speakers, including honorary degree recipients Charles Johnson, Martin McKerrow, Robert Unanue, Mary Alice Williams and Class of 2015 Valedictorian Steven Goldsmith ’15.
A transfer student from Rockland County, N.Y., Goldsmith recalled Bloomfield’s welcoming faculty, staff and students upon his arrival as a junior, and how his experiences at the institution made him feel instantly at home as he completed his degree in animation as part of the Division of Creative Arts & Technology.
“Remember how quickly you became a part of this amazing community, and remember everything you have learned here both inside and outside of your classes,” said Goldsmith. “And, to quote Ellie from the Disney Movie ‘Up’, ‘Thanks for the adventure – now go make a new one.’ ”
Each receiving an honorary degree, the group of Johnson, McKerrow, Unanue and Williams used their remarks as a platform to challenge graduates to look at the completion of their Bloomfield College education not as the end of the journey, but the start of a life of service.
An award-winning writer, academic, artist and philosopher, Johnson’s career spanned five decades as one of the preeminent voices of his generation, with his 1990 book “Middle Passage” winning the distinguished U.S. National Book Award for Fiction.
“As a generation, you will be expected to grapple with and solve a remarkable list of human problems,” he said during his speech. “It is my belief that, if we are going to overcome these social and economic problems, we need your generation to be as emotionally developed and academically rigorous as possible. That means that your graduation today must not be the end of your education, but the beginning.”
The departing Chair of the Bloomfield College Board of Trustees, McKerrow leaves an indelible legacy at the institution after a 15-year tenure as a member of the Board. Assuming the role of Chair of the Board in 2004, he oversaw a period of tremendous physical expansion on the institution’s 11-acre campus, including the completion of the new Franklin Street Residence Hall among numerous other projects.
“At Bloomfield College, I think we have given you preparation for the world, but you have given yourselves choice and opportunity,” he said during his remarks. “I hope you will pass down the value of education to your family, as my father did to me.”
Currently the President of GOYA Foods, Inc. – the largest Hispanic-owned food company in America – Robert Unanue has held numerous positions within his family’s organization since 1980, prior to which he helped establish the company’s Seville unit in Spain while studying abroad as a collegiate undergraduate.
"Each of you are our heroes today, and you have the task to build, to love, and to make society better with your God-given talents and your gift of education," he said. "The world needs you."
The host of NJTV News and a highly acclaimed broadcast journalist, Mary Alice Williams served as one of the primary architects behind the design of CNN, reaching the role of Vice President and becoming one of the highest-ranking female executives in American television before anchoring shows for NBC News and “The Today Show”.
"Get out there and live out a story line that is uniquely yours and don't take no for an answer," Williams emphatically stated to the graduates. "You will have to do a rewrite from time to time. If you don't fail, you've been too cautious to try."
The institution also conferred recognition upon its distinguished retiring faculty during the program, with Professor of Philosophy Dr. Richard Hart and Professor of Philosophy Dr. Thomas Slaughter receiving Professor Emeritus honors. Associate Professor of History and Africana Studies Dr. Sandra Van Dyk and Professor of Education Dr. Margaret O’Reilly also earned the prestigious honor, with the pair receiving Professor Emerita accolades. Departing Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Marion Terenzio earned Dean Emerita of Faculty honors, becoming the first person in the College’s history to receive the distinction.
After the institution conferred degrees upon the graduates, Bloomfield College Alumni Association President John Delucca ’66 concluded the unforgettable morning with his trademark closing speech, in which he bestowed a final honor on the crowd of now former students.
“I have the pleasure of giving you all one last designation,” said Delucca ’66 as he closed the day’s proceedings. “You are now part of a very select group – the Alumni of Bloomfield College. Congratulations to you all, and best wishes as you move forward.”
As students poured into Liberty Street to connect with family and friends, business major Reyvis Rivas ’15 – who, as a first-generation college student, is one of many who has felt the impact of a Bloomfield education – summed up his Bloomfield story, and the school’s Commencement Ceremonies, for NJ.com.
“There are no words that can explain the emotion of being happy and actually accomplishing what you have always wanted to achieve,” he said. “There truly are no words to describe what this means to all of us.”