Commencement 2023

3 Graduates of Molloy University

Commencement Speakers

Remarks from the President of Molloy University, Class of 2023 Valedictorian, and Honorary Degree Recipients.

  • President James Lentini

    Greetings to our families, friends, and graduates of the class of 2023! It is both exciting and humbling to be presiding over this event with you today as the 7th President of Molloy University, given our journeys together over the past few years to be in this Coliseum at this moment.  And to you, our students, in addition to the challenges of studying for classes and dealing with the regular ups and downs of life in college these past few years, most of you were with us as we navigated a pandemic that turned the world upside down and changed the way we live and learn.  So, for all of that, truly, congratulations.  I think you’ve proven that you have the grit and determination to succeed at just about anything you decide to pursue. 
    Let me say up front that you are a special class, as you are absolutely the first Spring semester graduates from our institution to be receiving a diploma from--not Molloy College--but Molloy University!  Congratulations!
    So now you enter a world where new adventures await, as many of you will begin new jobs or pursue an advanced degree, beginning a new phase in your lives. I’m going to ask you to get ready for the surprises that await.  You don’t know what they are, and neither do I, except I know they will be there.  How do I know?  Well, in my own life, I can look back and trace so many things I would have never seen coming.  People often figure, for example, that it must have been my plan all along to become a college president.  Not so.  As a teenager I was making recordings with a rock band in Detroit where I grew up and had my sights set on moving to Los Angeles to become, you know, a rock star. High ambitions. I made it a long way with that band, but the surprises and opportunities kept coming.  My love for music and academics led to college scholarships I didn’t see coming and eventually I did move to Los Angeles--not for rock ‘n roll—but to earn a doctorate in music composition from the University of Southern California, where, by the way, I met my wife, Dana. Funny how it all works out. 
    Looking back, I could never have imagined the career ahead of me as a university music professor and administrator. But the lesson is this: embrace the opportunities you never saw coming!  When one pursuit doesn’t work out, it may be a great blessing.  Instead of considering such things as failures, those things that don’t work out are often the important course corrections required to put you on a better path—the one that is meant for you. 
    There will be many wonderful surprises, but there will also be challenges that may require you to dig deeper into the resilience and critical thinking skills you turned into an art form during your time at Molloy.  Because something that is no secret is that Molloy students are well-educated, can think on their feet, and are well-prepared for anything that may come their way.   
    Just reflect on the experiences you’ve had since you first arrived at Molloy and all that has taken shape.  Your first year, many of you probably wondered if Molloy would ever feel like home.  Now you may have a feeling that it’s so much like home, you’d rather not leave (mom and dad don’t worry, we’re sending them home with you today no matter what).  You’ve made lifelong friends, learned new things, and have professors who will be lifelong mentors.  I’ve met a surprising number of graduates from Molloy who I now call “Molloy Mergers.” Yes, these are students who met each other at Molloy who ended up married.  So, look around the room, folks, your future spouse may be in the house.
    And Molloy graduates become outstanding employees in our hospitals, schools, and businesses, not to mention those who grace the stages of Broadway.  Some of you may go on to study further and become doctors, lawyers, and fill many other professions in our society.  You’ll all be entering a world where fellow Molloy graduates will welcome you in a successful network of alumni who help each other. 
    While we rightly bask in the accomplishment you so richly deserve to enjoy today, let us also think about the world you are entering, where political polarization, intolerance, war, and gun violence are sadly a part of our everyday headlines.  The world is desperately calling on you to bring empathy and compassion into the world based on our strong values as a Catholic University in the Dominican Tradition. Our mission of study, spirituality, service, and community, with respect for each person, is more needed now in our world than ever.  You are the hope for our future. 
    Finally, I am excited to celebrate you, the Class of 2023, for your accomplishments. We embrace you as a part of our ever-growing family, and we look forward to watching both you and our university forge the next chapter of our lives together.  Congratulations, graduates, and Go Lions!

  • Valedictorian - Victoria Franco

    Thank you and good afternoon Dr. Lentini, members of the Board of Trustees, family, friends, faculty, administrators, and of course, the graduating class of 2023.  I want to start by thanking Molloy University for this distinct honor. It couldn’t have come as more of a shock to me. After it hit me that this honor meant I’d have to speak in front of an audience of people and not make a fool of myself, I started thinking about what it was I wanted to say.

    First and foremost, I want to give the most sincere congratulations to all the undergraduates and graduates sitting before me today. Today is a day to reflect back on all of our accomplishments and incredible experiences here at Molloy.

    I started my academic career as a Nursing transfer student. I loved every second of it. All of it was incredible.. When the world shut down, I had time to reassess my life and that was when I realized my heart just wasn’t in it. I made the scary decision to switch to New Media after my first year at Molloy and had absolutely no idea where that was going to take me.  

    You can only imagine my mother’s face when I told her I was making the huge pivot. “What can you do with that degree?” , she asked. “What even is New Media?” While I literally had no answers for her, I smiled and nodded and hoped that I was making the right decision for myself. If you are sitting before me today, you are incredibly successful. Some of us will be going off to the Peace Corp, some of us will go save lives as nurses, and some of us may still have absolutely no idea where the road leads, but regardless of where any of us are headed, we are all opening doors to new chapters, and for that, we should all be proud. 

    Recently, I’ve devoted time to thinking about what success means. Who defines it? Oftentimes we allow outsiders and even society to tell us what it means to be successful. But those definitions of success, in many ways, are markers that others have set out for us, so I took the liberty of asking some of my favorite people to define what success means to them. This is what they had to say:

    My 7 year old niece ariana said success to her is showing kindness.

    My 7 year old niece sofia said success is when she passes a test with a good gradeand feels really happy. 

    My 3 year old nephew Lucas said and I quote “Zia I’m washing my hands” 

    As you can see, success is different for everyone. All the twists and turns on our individual paths take us to exactly where we are meant to be. I believe that no accolades, no amount of recognition can define a person’s true success. It’s what you do with your entire heart. It’s what wakes you up in the morning and gets your blood pumping. It’s the way you push through the anxiety and stresses of everyday life. It’s the way you face rejection only to get back at it and keep moving.  It happens at any age. The point I’m trying to make is that we define our own success, it is not defined by others. Our hearts define it for us. Our souls define it for us.

    So today, on this incredible day, let us reflect on our own successes and celebrate them. Let us never forget that we are the leaders of our own paths. We are the drivers of our own destiny. 

    I want to personally thank my mother, girlfriend,  my sister, my sister in law, and my nieces and nephew for being the engines that kept my vehiclemoving. And again, congratulations to Molloy’s graduating class of 2023. I know we will all end up exactly where we belong.

  • Commencement Speaker - Sister Donna Markham, OP, Ph.D.

    srdonnamarkham.jpgHonorary Degree Recipient

    President Lentini, Bishop Barres, Members of the Board of Trustees, Members of the Molloy University community, and esteemed graduates, I am very humbled to receive this honor and delighted to be with you on this extraordinary day.  Be assured that I will treasure this time in a very special way.

    For the past eight years, I have been privileged to lead Catholic Charities in the US as we serve over 15 million poor or vulnerable people each year. A significant responsibility I and my team hold is to protect those among us who are suffering from poverty, hunger, homelessness, mental illness, discrimination, people fleeing for their lives as migrants and refugees, and those reeling from the aftermath of devastating natural disasters.  Over these years, I have been privileged to meet with many broken and frightened sisters and brothers of ours.  I have listened to their stories and shared their tears.  And I have been changed.

    Given all that, I would like to share four short lessons with you as my own being has been stretched by what I have encountered.  May these eight words guide you throughout your lives as you open your hearts more fully to be present to those who suffer or those along the margins of society. 

    I offer them to accompany you into the future as you make use of the fine education, in the Dominican tradition, that you undoubtedly have had here at Molloy.  For you who are graduating today, I would like to invite you to be agents for the good in applying your scholarship and training toward creating a society that is more compassionate and more respectful of differences.  So here are the eight words! (Short is good for commencement speeches, right?!)

    • Seek truth
    • Make peace
    • Reverence life
    • Show up

    Seek Truth

          As beneficiaries of a higher education, you join a long line of scholars committed to searching for truth to address the social and moral dilemmas of our times.

          Regardless of your particular field of expertise, you embody the depth of a Molloy education as you search to find what is true and good and right in bringing about a more compassionate society.  We seek truth through study, dialog, discernment – never being timid about engaging in difficult conversations on complex topics with people who may hold very different perspectives from ours.

          By way of example, as a Dominican and a clinical psychologist, I have long been engaged in probing how severely and persistently mentally ill people, many of whom are living rough on the streets, can be helped.  To direct the richness of my clinical training toward working with others to find solutions is an obligation I embrace by virtue of my Dominican spirituality and by whatever intellectual capacities I might have been blessed with.  This is not easy work.  Mental illness is not a popular topic and the mentally ill are often treated as the ostracized lepers of society.  Working in concert with other practitioners, with members of Congress, with leaders in the faith community, and many other leaders who are concerned about those who have been relegated to the margins of society, I am committed to search for insight, for what is truthful about the reality around us, and to challenge others who may not want to direct resources toward mental illness and chronic homelessness.  We are committed to discover gospel-driven ways of addressing dire human need - even when such conversations can be quite difficult, even contentious.   Engaging in bipartisan dialogue in a way that is productive and respectful is the only way for us to move forward.

          I would challenge you who hold the privilege of this fine education, to always hold near to your heart the question of how you will direct your learning toward the good of humankind, especially those who are most vulnerable.  Always seek what is true.  Never waiver from what is the right thing to do on behalf of those who have been left out or struggle to make it through life.  Do not be timid about speaking out on unpopular topics.  And always refrain from demonizing the one who may hold a diametrically opposite view from your own.

    Seek truth.

    Make Peace

          Along with the search for Truth, reconciliation resides at the very core of a peaceful society.  Make peace.  We are living in the midst of deeply disturbing divisiveness, a time when civil discourse has reached an all-time low, a time in which building relationships has ceded to erecting walls and fences that insulate mindsets, solidify intractable positions and ultimately destroy the possibility of respectful engagement or relationship with the differing other.  The significance of engaging in educated dialog in the service of establishing relationships, building understanding and reconciling differences, bids us to assume a truly countercultural role in society today.  That is, rather than succumbing to the pull toward fractiousness and cold stand offs, we are charged with finding ways to counter the culture of division by serving as agents of reconciliation and peace-building.  That is what higher learning prepares us to do.

          Be fearless in entering into the space of making peace.  Bullying has no place in the heart of a learned woman or man.  Take pains to convene persons from opposing perspectives so that the promise of relational healing and mutual understanding can emerge.

          Seek truth. Make peace.

    Reverence Life

          These times are replete with examples of the wanton destruction of life: human life, the environment, pollution, war, to name a few.  We have been exhorted by Pope Francis to hear and connect the “cry of the earth with the cries of the poor.”  The challenge for each of us who are inheritors of advanced education is how will we use our knowledge, our writing, our scholarship, our speaking and our teaching, our venues of employment, to address these cries.  We are all connected to one another and to creation.  We are dependent upon one another as we are dependent on our environment to support and sustain us.  Take action in your own lives and advocate for a culture that treasures our common home and all who live within it.  We have no time to spare as the vulnerability of our planet and the fragility of humans and all of creation strains under the burdens we have unnecessarily inflicted upon it.  Graduates, do not be deaf to the cry of the earth and the cries of the poor.  All creation is sacred.  Stay passionate in advocating on behalf of life in all its forms.

    Seek truth, Make peace, Reverence Life.

    Show Up!

    Pope Francis tells us that the face of God is mercy.  We have been charged by our Holy Father to promote a “culture of care” and compassion throughout the world, to work tirelessly on behalf of those who are excluded, to stand with those who are suffering and to enter into an encounter that opens the way for others to know and experience the tremendous and abundant love of God.  We cannot do this through computer screens or social media. We need to show up! Showing up means taking the Parable of the Good Samaritan seriously. It means when we encounter someone in difficult straits, we don’t walk to the other side of the road and pretend we don’t see them.  It means, like the Good Samaritan, that we approach them and extend compassion.  It means we listen to their story; it means we try to help.  Showing up changes us.  I have shown up at the cages along the border that held unaccompanied minors; I have shown up in homeless shelters; I have shown up in psychiatric units; I have shown up in war-torn Ukraine.  I have shown up in emergency rooms, and many other very sad places.  Showing up opens our hearts to resevoirs of compassion we never realized we had.

          Many of you may not be directly engaged with the poorest of the poor, but every one of us stands in need of compassion.  How we treat one another, how we treat our families and coworkers and colleagues, how we respond to the homeless folks living under the city’s bridges – this is the measure of our mercy as we show up.  In the spirit of an educated person, your life will give witness through the kindness of your actions just as significantly as any words you may speak or write.

    Seek truth. Make peace. Extend mercy. Show up.

    So, just eight words to remember as you leave here today.  That’s all!

    May God’s blessings accompany each of you on your journeys.

  • Honorary Degree Recipient - Roger B. Tilles, J.D.

    rogertilles.jpgI am especially proud to be here today and receiving an honorary Doctor of Laws degree. In addition to growing from a college to a university, Molloy has grown significantly in its stature and its impact on Long Island. I’ve been privileged to attend many events here and have gotten to know President Lentini very well. I was pleased to assist with the nursing program and the university approval from the Board of Regents. I take personal pleasure in being an active and founding member of the Energeia program which Molloy operates and has had such a significant impact on many cohorts of Long Island leaders. Being a Molloy graduate will be an honor that I hope all of you realize is to be cherished.

    Thanks also to the Board of Trustees for giving me this honor. As a former member and Chair of the Long Island University Board, I know that the Board members work tirelessly on behalf of you, the students.

    An old farmer was sitting out on a fence- behind him a meticulously groomed field-planted with wheat, corn, barley, string beans, tomatoes, what have you. A Minister came by, saw the beautiful field, and said, “truly a miracle.”

    The only farmer said, “yes, I had to work very hard to get it to this point. I tilled it, I planted it, I irrigated it, I fertilized it and I’ll reap it soon.”

    The Minister then, obviously discouraged, said, “but you make no mention of God- all you said was ‘I did this, and I did that.’” With a little grin and a twinkle in his eye the old farmer answered, “I’m sure that God had something to do with it, but you should have seen it when he was taking care of it by himself!”

    Well, as the farmer says, your hard work will have its results, but sometimes you might not see the results of your labors right away or even at all- but good work will have effects, small or large, of which you have never dreamed.

    Let me offer these prayers for you today:

    May you find a way to travel from anywhere to anywhere in the rush hour on Long Island in less than an hour and when you get there, may you find a parking space.

    May you have the strength to make the world a little better because you were important in the life of a child.

    And lastly, from my heart, may what you see in the mirror delight you- and what others see in you delights them.

    Thank you for this great honor.

    Congratulations to all of the graduates!!!


Commencement 2023


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