Saint Joseph's Celebrates the Class of 2019

Saturday, May 18, 2019

by Jeffrey Martin '04, '05 (M.A.)

More than 2,500 graduates received bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees today at Saint Joseph’s University’s annual commencement exercises. Throughout the day, honorary degree recipients and student speakers celebrated the accomplishments of the class and expressed excitement for their future.

“Don’t wait for the right time to take action,” Jennifer Rahner ’19 implored bachelor’s degree recipients in a valedictory address during the undergraduate ceremony. “If you wait for circumstances to be optimal before acting, you’ll spend your life on pause.”

Rahner, who graduated with a bachelor of arts in professional and liberal studies, completed a 31-year path to a degree that she sought to spark a career change, Rahner encouraged her fellow students to use their education as a foundation to fuel their future.

“Your life’s passion may not be crystal clear to you right now,” she said. “But I urge you to pay attention to the voice inside you that screams, ‘Yes!’, even if it seems that thing is far removed from where you are or where you are heading.”

The theme — that life’s journey is unpredictable, but that this Saint Joseph’s education had prepared graduates for career and personal success — was common in remarks delivered throughout the day.

Anne Welsh McNulty, an investment executive, philanthropist and advocate for women’s leadership, addressed the undergraduate class after receiving an honorary degree, encouraging them to be grateful for the circumstances that had brought them to this point and to acknowledge the role of luck in the uncertainness ahead.

“What does it mean to strive for and achieve success?” she asked. “It means acknowledging that circumstances propel some forward and hold others back. Each of us could have been born as anyone in any circumstances. Embrace the responsibility this brings.”

McNulty is the co-founder and managing partner of JBK Partners investment management, and president of the McNulty Foundation, which supports and builds leaders who are tackling the world’s greatest challenges. She established the foundation in 1985, with her late husband John P. McNulty ’74.

Honorary degrees were also bestowed during the undergraduate ceremony on Valerie V. Gay, a performing artist, civic leader, arts advocate and community builder; and Francis H. Trainer, Jr. ’68, a business ethics pioneer and investment leader.

Christopher Gheysens ’05 (MBA), president and CEO of Wawa, Inc., received an honorary degree and delivered an address at the graduate and doctoral ceremony. He praised the graduates for furthering their education.

“The best way I’ve found to prepare for and embrace change is to continue to invest in yourself,” he said. “And all of you have a tremendous head start. You’ve made the important decision to continue to learn, to continue to advance your future. That commitment to achieve and to persevere is more important than ever in today’s fast-paced world.”

Jacob Matthews, who graduated with a master’s in instructional technology, gave the valedictory address at the graduate and doctoral ceremony. In his remarks, he recalled receiving his acceptance notice via email while on a volunteer trip to West Africa. He shared that he has seen the SJU education manifest itself beyond the geographical limits of campus.

“This campus exists in Abu Dhabi, where my friend, Stephanie, takes online classes,” he said. “This campus peppers the East coast, where busy full-time teachers, entrepreneurs and parents dedicate late nights and long weekends to submit assignments, engage in dialogue and develop together as lifelong learners.”

Video: Undergraduate Ceremony

Video: Graduate Ceremony




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