Commencement 2023, a joyful day celebrating academic success
By Kenna Caprio
May 17, 2023 — With the sun beaming down and hardly a cloud in the sky, more than 2,445 Fairleigh Dickinson University graduates stepped into their future.
The University’s 80th Commencement ceremony — which streamed live on the web so loved ones around the world could join in the celebration — was held at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., on May 17. Relive the day in photo and video.
In his opening address, University President Michael Avaltroni said, “Thank you again to everyone for coming together today to celebrate our graduates. We embrace and honor the rich diversity of our beliefs, backgrounds and traditions, as well as our common needs, our common concerns and, most of all, our common humanity that binds us and strengthens our community.”
Avaltroni offered special recognition to Gloria Levitt, a 90-year-old retiree and longtime public service administrator, who received her diploma and degree this spring.
Student Pinnacle Award recipients Nanakua Aboagye-Addo, representing the Metropolitan Campus, and Joseph Nigro, representing the Florham Campus, addressed the graduates, offering words of inspiration and courage to their fellow graduates. Divya Kanabar, the Vancouver Pinnacle Award recipient, spoke at the Vancouver Campus graduation ceremony on May 5.
“We all have much to offer this world, so don’t sell yourself short. When the time comes for you to step up to be a leader, you’ll be ready,” said Aboagye-Addo.
“To the Class of 2023, I encourage you to never be afraid of doing what you want in life. May you have the courage to face your fears and achieve your dreams,” said Nigro.
Sarita Brown and Deborah Santiago, the cofounders of Excelencia in Education — a nonprofit devoted to accelerating Latino student success — received honorary degrees and delivered commencement addresses. The nonprofit honored FDU’s Latino Promise and HACER programs in 2022 as Examples of Excelencia.
“There is no guidebook for the journey that you are creating for yourselves. You get to frame it. I’ve worked at local, state and national levels. But sometimes I feel like an outsider. I founded Excelencia 19 years ago to make a difference. If you care about something and can’t find a venue to address it, create it. Be flexible and adaptive to opportunities you hadn’t considered, and know when to draw the line. Learn from your failures. I wish you all success as you make your way in the world,” said Santiago.
“We want to be known as an organization that drives positive attention to people, organizations and places with positive results. What each of us does matters, now more than ever. What we do together is fundamental. Care deeply, laugh hard, push yourself to keep trying to do better. Commit each day to do the best for yourself, your family and your community. Even if it’s inconvenient, even if it takes more time, even if it feels like you’ll have to work harder,” said Brown.
Brown and Santiago also announced that they have invited President Avaltroni to be part of their national network of Presidents for Latino Student Success, which includes more than 150 institutions throughout the nation. This diverse group features college and university leaders committed to creating environments where Latino students thrive and to collaborating with Excelencia in Education to foster partnerships, leverage collective expertise and resources and build nationwide efforts.
The Class of 2023 includes students receiving degrees at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral levels and representing 59 countries around the world.
“It doesn’t matter what others think possible or what challenges lie ahead. All that matters is that you bring your work ethic, you bring your character and you believe in yourself. I have no doubt that your journey has already enabled you to grow and develop, and that for each of you, the best is yet to come. Congratulations to you all, our Class of 2023,” said Avaltroni.