Gray skies turned to a bright, sunny day at Brooklyn Bridge Park for the 3,000 people celebrating St. Francis College’s Spring Commencement on May 19 — the first graduation held on the pier, with the Brooklyn Bridge and Lower Manhattan skyline providing a stunning backdrop for the graduates.
More than 300 students walked across the stage to receive their diplomas after hearing from valedictorian Tvrtko Vrdoljak, keynote speaker John F. Tully ’67 J.D. and honorary degree recipient former Assemblymember Joan Millman.
Tvrtko is the third brother in his family to come to St. Francis College from their home in Croatia and the second valedictorian from their family. He carried a perfect 4.0 GPA as an economics major with minors in political science and philosophy. He is fluent in Croatian, Spanish and English and studied abroad in Barcelona and Buenos Aires. He was also a member of the Model United Nations, Eastern European and economics clubs.
He told his fellow graduates that education at St. Francis extends far beyond the classroom. “The unmatched diversity of people, interests, cultures and opinions that New York has exposed us to has imbued our diplomas with value that cannot be quantified. Lessons of life, friendship, love and hard work that I have learned while living in this city, I would not change for four years anywhere else in the world.”
Tvrtko will be attending graduate school at the University of Toronto to study political theory.
Tully, chairman of the St. Francis College Board of Trustees since 2007, received an honorary degree for his service and commitment to St. Francis. A Brooklyn native, he is currently Of Counsel to the international law firm of Norton Rose Fulbright U.S. L.L.P. Earlier in his legal career, he worked in a variety of government positions before joining the Exxon Corporation. John’s younger brother William and his son John also earned degrees from St. Francis, and on Tuesday, he also had the privilege of giving his niece Corinne Tully her diploma.
Former Assemblymember Millman, who recently retired after 17 years of service, received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree for her longtime support of the college, which served as host every year for his Senior Citizen Fair. Millman’s advocacy to turn the Brooklyn waterfront into a park is also a big reason why the college was able to hold the commencement ceremony at Brooklyn Bridge Park.
The commencement celebration began a day earlier on May 18, with a Baccalaureate Mass held at St. Joseph’s Co-Cathedral. The Most Reverend Nicholas DiMarzio, bishop of Brooklyn, was the main celebrant for the Mass. Bishop DiMarzio told the students that graduation is a “special grace moment” in their lives. He asked “that you take from it good memories into the future so that the education you have received at St. Francis College will be something that you will remember; the values communicated will be yours for life.”
Among the students graduating was Jaymee Veney, a double major in criminal justice and psychology. A member of the Duns Scotus Honor Society, Jaymee was also in the Psi Chi International Honor Society for psychology, the Psychology Club and the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and worked on special events at the college. She also led the women’s basketball team in scoring and rebounding, helping propel the Terriers to an NEC Championship and the first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance in St. Francis’ history.
Nicole Cisek and Vincent Pagnotta, two other graduating students, continue the tradition of excellence in accounting at the college. They both graduated from the five-year combined bachelor’s and master’s degree, and like their classmates, will move on to excellent positions in the business world.
Nicole is an accounting major and president of the Accounting Society. She interned at JP Morgan Chase and then at O’Connor Davies, where she will begin working full time after graduation as an associate auditor. Vincent was vice president of the Accounting Society and worked part time at a small CPA firm. He has accepted a position at PricewaterhouseCoopers in assurance.
A new tradition of excellence began this spring with the first graduates from the revitalized health care management major. Five students have completed the requirements for their degree. Brittney Mansfield interned at Project Achieve, a division of the New York Blood Center, as a clinical research intern. Nesly Destin interned at Interfaith Medical Center. He interviewed every physician within the Interfaith network to create a patient resource guide. Afari Owusu interned at the New York Life Insurance Company as an entry-level health insurance sales agent.
He will work for New York Life full time. Kristina Primavera interned at North Shore Long Island Jewish Medical Center as a patient portal ambassador, guiding patients through this self-service online health management tool that is an important component of the Affordable Care Act. Kira Evans interned at the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary, the oldest and most prominent specialty hospital in the United States.