St. Francis College Hosts First In-Person Commencement Since Pandemic Began
“As you walk across the stage today, each and every one of you wants to live a life of success and, I think it is okay to say, a life of prosperity,” said Marc Morial, President of the National Urban League, in an impassioned live keynote address to the St. Francis College Class of 2021 at its May 20, 2021, commencement. “And I want to remind you that…living a life of prosperity is but one element of what it takes to be a complete and full human being…if there’s anything I hope your college degree has given you, it’s the inspiration to also live a life of purpose.”
Morial went on to outline four critical areas for graduates to focus on as they transition to adulthood: protecting the right to vote (the “ballot”); combatting wealth inequality (the “buck”); pursuing lifelong learning (the “book”); and supporting younger people for whom graduates can be role models and mentors.
The afternoon commencement at the Ford Amphitheater on the Coney Island Boardwalk was the second hosted that day by St. Francis College. In the morning, members of the Class of 2020 – who had been denied an in-person commencement last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic – walked the stage in their own ceremony. Morial addressed that cohort in a recorded video.
Miguel Martinez-Saenz, Ph.D., President of St. Francis College, spoke to each class live on stage, encouraging them to pursue a life of personal fulfillment and service to others.
“By virtue of being in front of me, you have the opportunity to choose to live the life you want to live, not the life
someone else wants you to live. You may not think that that’s so deep and profound, but…across the planet, most people your age do not have [that] opportunity,” he said in his afternoon address.
“Are you going to find the courage to love others fiercely…to dream of a just world [uncompromised]?” he asked, after reciting The Rose That Grew From Concrete, a poem by rapper Tupac Shakur that celebrates overlooked beauty and the potential to achieve greatness no matter the environment.
Nicole Taliercio, the spring 2020 co-valedictorian who earned a B.S. in nursing and is now a registered nurse at NYU Langone Health, addressed her fellow graduates in a recorded video in the first ceremony. She spoke to the hardships of the early days of COVID-19, when students were first forced to transition to remote learning.
“In this challenging time, we saw many actions that reflected the core values of St. Francis,” she said, reminding her fellow grads of St. Francis of Assisi’s commitment to peace and service. “In a time of darkness and despair, we saw actions of compassion and hope…now, we will never take a moment with a loved one for granted.”
Dana Lall, also a Nursing Department graduate, addressed the afternoon audience in a recorded speech as the Class of 2021 valedictorian. She focused on the resiliency of her classmates.
“We have all made our mark on history. We have been college students in the middle of a pandemic…we made it through. This has never been done before, but here we are, proving it can be done successfully,” she said.
The Class of 2021 ceremony recognized Boris Posavec ’21, a member of the men’s water polo team who passed away the previous week. Irma Garcia, SFC’s athletic director and Ilija Duretic , assistant coach for the SFC women’s water polo team, collected his B.S./M.S. degree in accounting on his behalf.
Angelica Quinones ’20, B.S. in management, and Romario Thomas ’20, B.S. in biology, sang the national anthem to open the morning ceremony. Maftuna Abduvositova ’21, B.A. in communication arts, did the same in the afternoon.
Approximately 100 students who earned degrees in spring and summer 2020 participated in the morning commencement and another 270 graduates and graduation candidates from winter and spring 2021 took part in the afternoon. SFC awarded 121 degrees this winter and anticipates it will award nearly 350 in total this spring.