May 18, 2015
By Erika Solorzano
St. Peter’s University in Jersey City holds its 124th Commencement at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel on Monday, May 18, 2015. Reena Rose Sibayan | The Jersey Journal
HOLMDEL — PNC Bank Arts Center was filled with the best representatives that Saint Peter’s University has to offer today when the Class of 2015 received their diplomas during the school’s 124th commencement ceremony.
The Jersey City-based university presented 477 bachelor’s degrees, 255 master’s, 21 doctoral degrees and 16 associates degrees to a total of 769 Saint Peter’s graduates.
The Rev. Michael L. Braden, S.J, the school’s vice president for mission and ministry, led the invocation.
President Eugene Cornacchia expressed his confidence that Saint Peter’s has prepared the graduates for their next step — “a life rich with opportunity, built on a solid intellectual, moral and spiritual foundation.”
Dr. Anna Brown conferred this year’s commencement speaker, Cornell William Brooks, the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.
Brooks, the president and CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), made it clear to the graduates that “this was no ordinary day.”
“To the most important, and powerful class in the history of this university, that would be the class of now — the Class of 2015 — the class I just joined, I just want to say, it’s great to be here.”
Brooks told the graduates to stand and applaud themselves, and to look back at their parents, siblings and everyone who helped them get to where they are, and cheer for them.
The amphitheater roared with pride and emotion as graduates looked back and pointed, while their families proudly cheered and waved back.
“You, as members of this class, have the opportunity to study, to conquer the great justice questions of our time. You have the opportunity to take the hopes, the dreams, the aspirations of your mothers and fathers, your heritage and make them real,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Saint Peter’s graduates also heard from a pair of valedictorians, Prajjwol Gautam and Prajwal Niraula.
Gautam expressed the irony of a student speaker, how they are supposed to offer some profound knowledge about the world that they’ve only lived in for a little over 20 years. He joked, “don’t worry, I’m not going to do that.”
Instead he shared the experiences he’s had at Saint Peter’s, the friends he’s made and how the school has made him feel at home.
Niruala addressed the special day as a “bittersweet transition,” as the class went from proud Saint Peter’s students to proud Saint Peter’s alumni. He thanked the faculty and administration from Saint Peter’s and concluded with thanking his friends.
“We are so close that one of them is valedictorian here with me now,” he said.
The class was then told to stand to receive their diplomas, and each did so smiling proudly, some throwing their hands in the air.
With their arms locked together, Sarah Ngongo and Marishka Milord said they owe their friendship to Saint Peter’s University. “We met freshman year,” Ngongo said.
Milord, of Haiti, explained that she was only in the United States to study, but that going to Saint Peter’s ended up being the best decision of her life.
Milord received her bachelor’s degree in political science and communication, while best friend Ngongo received her degree in biochemistry.
“I’m constantly reminded of the values that Saint Peter’s has instilled in me, and they will be with me forever, best of luck to fellow graduates” Milord said.
Be sure to check out our complete graduation coverage at nj.com/graduation.