Le Moyne College celebrated its 65th commencement May 17, conferring degrees on the 642 members of the Class of 2015.
The commencement was Dr. Linda LeMura’s first as president of the college, having been inaugurated in March, and the second for members of Le Moyne’s Class of 1965, who joined this year’s graduates in the procession.
The college conferred honorary doctorates on three guests: Lois Whitman, JD, human rights activist and founder of the Human Rights Watch Children’s Rights Division; Father David Ciancimino, SJ, the former provincial superior for the New York Province of the Society of Jesus; and Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York and the day’s keynote speaker.
The graduates heard words of inspiration from several others, however, including their new president and one of their fellow classmates.
Rector Father John Bucki, SJ, offered the rousing benediction, urging the Class of 2015 to take a moment to breathe and to say thank you.
“God has given us a spirit that has challenged us and invited us and allowed us to do great things. And we’ve encountered lots of questions. We’ve encountered so many limits, frustrations, but the spirit of God continues to call us. The spirit of God says life is good, life is filled with possibilities, and this morning we come, O God, to thank you and to celebrate. Because we want to be open to new adventures and new service and new learning and we want to be ready for the gift of life.”
Dr. LeMura recalled a theme from her inaugural address: the fact that we now live in a world so flooded with electric light that most of us never see the stars.
“Father George Coyne, formerly director of the Vatican Observatory and now our McDevitt Chair in Physics, tells me that it took three generations of stars being born and dying over 10 billion years to provide the chemistry for life. In other words, you and I are born of stardust. The stars are mirrors of our own history. What does it mean if we don’t or can’t see them?…
“Our extraordinary faculty has taught you to balance the present against the ever-present, to embrace the here and now without forgetting the perennial and the eternal. A Catholic, Jesuit education gives you the insight to distinguish between artificial light and abiding illumination.
“In the coming years, you will be the authors of new acts of creativity, new frontiers in science, new technology, new expressions of beauty and faith, new ideas and new policies. But in the midst of all that innovation and creativity, every now and then, turn off the lights, turn away from the glare and the noise of the present moment and find the stars.”
Kailey McDonald, a peace and global studies major and the representative of the senior class, praised the varied accomplishments of her peers and reflected on their growth.
“Today, we are all coming home from a long journey, a journey of growth and discovery. We’ve gone back in time and celebrated the leaders who came before us. We wondered about the future and where we will lead our children. We have traveled the world, but now it is time to come home. Four years ago, we didn’t yet fit into the people we would become, but we have grown. Coming home means coming into our own, becoming the people that we didn’t realize we wanted to be….
“Le Moyne taught us how to be the best versions of our selves. But never forget that we did much teaching of our own. We leave Le Moyne knowing that it is a better institution, a more cultivated center of knowledge, a brighter beacon of social justice, for having known us in its halls. And now, with the blazing trails we leave behind us here on the Heights, we, the Class of 2015, are ready to be revolutionary. We are ready to go forth and set the world on fire.”
Cardinal Dolan, who has delivered many commencement addresses, told the Sun before his speech that “I want to make it simple, I want to try to make it memorable, I want to make it not filled with clichés.” The cardinal made good on his goals, first talking about the difference between knowledge and wisdom:
“Knowledge lodges in the noggin, while wisdom in the heart and soul. Knowledge tells us how to do something; wisdom tells us how to be somebody. Knowledge usually teaches us how to get, while wisdom shows us how to give. Knowledge tells us how things work, how they operate, how they function; wisdom tell us about how things are. Knowledge helps us a lot in this life, wisdom shows us how to get ready for the next. Knowledge might help us land a job, but wisdom teaches us how to live a life. Knowledge tells us how to get through something, while wisdom tells us how to get there. Knowledge tells us how to answer questions, while wisdom teaches us to ask the right ones. Knowledge helps us graduate; wisdom tells us to savor the sacred moment. Knowledge will help us get a degree, a CV, a resume, a career; wisdom teaches us about the true and the good and the beautiful. Knowledge helps us understand creation, while wisdom leads us to know, love and serve the Creator. Le Moyne College, who we now salute as alma mater, because it is a classical liberal arts college, because it is Catholic, because it is Jesuit, imparts both knowledge and wisdom and we Class of 2015 are sure glad it does.”
The cardinal noted that, in the rhythm of life, now is the time when getting ends and giving back begins. He drew on a story of his one-and-a-half year-old grand-nephew Charlie and his Easter basket goodies as illustration.
“…Here you have indeed absorbed not just knowledge but wisdom, and here you advance from Charlie’s ‘No!’ ‘Mine!’ and ‘More!’ to a vocabulary of ‘Yes!’ ‘Ours!’ and ‘Less!’”
In closing, Cardinal Dolan recalled the first responders of Sept. 11, 2001. Those running away from the destruction encountered rescue workers, police officers, fire fighters and priests who were “‘running the other way’ out of love, service and sacrifice for the other. Class of 2015, wisdom inspires us to run that other way. That’s the best resume we can have, the most valuable degree of them all.”
View more images in our photo gallery! (All photos by Chuck Wainwright and David Garrett for the Sun and Le Moyne College)