Commencement Address 2016

President Drew Bogner's Remarks at Commencement 2016


On behalf of the Board of Trustees, faculty, administration and staff, it is my pleasure to welcome you to the 2016 Commencement ceremony.

First, to the graduates of the Class of 2016, let me extend my sincere congratulations.

I would also like to extend my thanks to the faculty and administration for another job well done in educating this next group of Molloy alumni.

I would also like to extend my sincere appreciation to the Board of Trustees seated on stage, and the former trustees in attendance with us today for their tremendous leadership.

Please join me in thanking Dr. Valerie Collins, Class of 1971, who is presiding over her last commencement exercise today after 18 years as Vice President of Academic Affairs.  She will be returning to the faculty after a well-deserved sabbatical.

I would like to also congratulate S. Mary Pat Neylon on receiving her second degree from Molloy College, an Honorary Doctor of Laws (L.L.D.) from the very institution that she has helped to create through her many years of service as a faculty member and as a Trustee of the Board.

As S. Mary Pat knows, this acknowledgement is not only meant for her personally, it is also representational. It is intended for all of the Dominican Sisters who have served, and continue to serve at Molloy College, and for those who support us and love us. Would all those Dominicans present stand? Would the rest of you join me by rising to your feet and giving them a standing acclimation of our appreciation?

Today, you, the Class of 2016, will walk across this stage and receive your diploma from me. In so doing, you will join approximately 20,000 alumni each with an individual story of success.  We all have stories - stories of places and times, stories that span generations and give context to who we are.

If you have been on campus this year, you could not miss the large banner on the Public Square that announces that this year is a double anniversary year.  We are celebrating both the 60th anniversary of the founding of Molloy College and the 800th anniversary of the founding of the Dominican Order of Preachers.

Over the last 60 years at Molloy College, there were many stories of how we came to be - stories that defined why we do what we do and why the education you received is what it was. These stories described the context of ideas, concepts, values, dreams and aspirations that built the environment around you, and made you who you are -- stories that stretched back from Molloy to the Sisters who founded the College and to those that founded the order 800 years ago.

There are, as you can imagine, thousands upon thousands of stories. I won't share all of them, but I will share TWO:

The Intrepid Travelers

Molloy College was founded in 1955 by the Dominican Sisters of Amityville.  An order that can trace its roots back to Williamsburg in Brooklyn in the Mid-19th Century and then to Regensberg, a modest town in Southern Germany, and onto the first cloister of nuns founded directly by Dominic in Southern France.

At Molloy, at the very beginning of our existence comes a story -- a story with a simple but powerful message.  In 1853, a ship arrived at the docks of Brooklyn.  On board were four Dominican nuns who spoke only German.  They had answered a call from a Benedictine Abbot to come to Pennsylvania and work with German Immigrants.

But, at the docks that day, no one stood waiting to meet them.  Indeed, as the day wore on and no one arrived, the four nuns realized that they were stranded.  Fortunately, and you might say, providentially, one of the Dominicans had the name of a local priest who gave them lodging.

In these temporary quarters, the four nuns reviewed their options.  They had left familiar surroundings and traveled across a great ocean to find their original destination and plans completely disrupted.  They had come to serve, but now the destination -- their place of service, their reason for coming -- had disappeared.

In true Dominican tradition, they viewed the signs of the times and went in search of another mission.  Eventually, they happened upon the pastor of Holy Trinity Church in Williamsburg and in exchange for agreeing to teach recent German immigrants in the parish, they were offered lodging in the damp basement of the rectory.  So began the Dominican Sisters work in the U.S. that eventually led to the establishment of Molloy College.

There are two lessons that come from this story.  The first is the imperative that you serve where you are needed and secondly, that you serve with your whole heart.

Where will you serve? And are you open to serve where you are called - where you are needed most?

The Begging Bell

Of the 18 colleges in the United States that can trace its heritage to St. Dominic, Molloy College is the youngest -- even though the Sisters of Amityville are the foundation for most of the other Dominican communities that founded colleges.  But that was not for want of vision or desire.  The idea for the College began in 1929 but the Depression intervened, and then World War II, and then there was the vision to not start just any college but to found a strong well-regarded institution of higher learning and with it to find the dollars to build such an institution.

Where did the dollars come from to start Molloy College -- to build Quealy Hall and Kellenberg Hall, the first buildings on campus?

The dollars came from pennies and dimes lovingly collected over the years by hundreds of Dominican Sisters.  Every convent had to contribute to the Treasury for the building of Molloy College.  The dollars coming from fundraising events, bake sales, craft fairs, grateful supporters of the work of the Sisters and from begging - yes, begging.

Some of the Sisters would sit outside Gertz department store in Jamaica, Queens, at the bottom of the subway steps at Parsons Blvd., or other places with a little begging basket and a tiny bell.  I have seen the bell - it was part of a national traveling exhibit of the contribution of Orders of Religious Women to Education.  The small bell pierced the comfort zone of people as they walked by.  I wonder if the tens of thousands of individuals who dropped a few coins in the basket could know how they have affected so many, including you. The College was built one penny and one brick at a time through steadfast effort that stretched over decades.

When I thought about how to commemorate the 800th Anniversary of the founding of the Dominican Order and the 60th anniversary of the College, it seemed only fitting to do so with a special coin.  After all, it was the many coins collected by the Sisters with the begging bell that were the foundation of Molloy College.  As you reach the other side of the stage, each one of you will receive this coin as a way to be reminded of those that came before you and helped bring you to where you are now.  It will also serve as a reminder of the final essential question.  What are you willing to make your life's work?  To what will you commit that is noble and long lasting - that will make a difference for others that you may never know or meet?

The TWO stories I shared with you are examples of vision and courage, of dreams and perseverance. These are stories of ordinary human beings, who each felt a calling - each in their own individual way -- that drove them to risk and to create and to make a difference.

I look out into this sea of black and sense a thousand dreams and yearnings - some are clear and real and tangible - others still hazy and in formation.

But, if there is one thing I know about Molloy graduates - these callings are both practical and idealistic. Framed in the real world and born out of a strong sense of the possible, but also with a desire to make a difference - not only in your own life but in the lives of others.

After all, you are not graduates from any ordinary college, but graduates from one that can trace itself back 800 years to women and men who displayed the ability to see what most could not and the courage to act when others would not.  That you will see and act I do not doubt. You will board metaphorical ships, don new clothes and go boldly into new situations, much as the four cloistered nuns who traveled from Regensberg to Brooklyn. And you will ring the bell - repeatedly - reminding others to be compassionate and follow your own example of charity and love, much as the Sisters did outside of stores and subways and the ordinary spaces where people live and act.

You will be the foundation of the future world and the builders of the next 800 years and your stories will be told - told in your families and at Molloy. Congratulations!  

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