For Immediate Release Contact: Deborah Gilleran or Tara Strickland
Georgian Court University Plans Centennial Commencement 2009
Bishop of Trenton John Smith among Honorary Degree Recipients
Lakewood, N.J., Apr. 15, 2009—Georgian Court University will hold its 2009 Commencement Exercises on Friday, May 15, on its historic national landmark campus in Lakewood. An estimated 445 undergraduates and 236 graduate students will receive their diplomas during the university’s Centennial celebration year.
“This Commencement is particularly significant in the history of the university because it is taking place in our Centennial year,” says Rosemary E. Jeffries, RSM, Ph.D., Georgian Court president. “These graduates join their professions with a liberal arts education, so critical to analysis and problem solving, and many with specific training in professional fields. With the economic crisis facing our country, these high-level critical thinking skills and credentials for entry into the business world and professions are necessary to manage the challenges ahead.”
Georgian Court University also celebrates its religious roots at this year’s Commencement with one of its two speakers and four of its five honorary degree recipients being notable religious leaders.
Graduate Commencement Ceremony
GCU Graduate Commencement will take place at 9:00 a.m. in the campus’s athletic fields or in the Wellness Center Arena in the event of rain. The Graduate Commencement Speaker will be Mary C. Sullivan, RSM. She is professor emerita of language and literature and dean emerita of the College of Liberal Arts at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Sister Mary is the preeminent expert on the life and history of Catherine McAuley, the foundress of the Sisters of Mercy, GCU’s sponsoring organization. Journal reviewers have credited her with contributing to 19th-century women’s history with a wealth of documentary material on Catherine McAuley. She is a sought-after speaker on the subject of Mercy core values and Mercy traditions, and is the author of numerous works, including Catherine McAuley and the Tradition of Mercy.
In addition to Sister Mary Sullivan, The Most Reverend John M. Smith, J.C.D., D.D., Bishop of Trenton, will be awarded an honorary doctorate. Bishop Smith, a native of New Jersey, is the ninth bishop of Trenton. He attended John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio, prior to beginning his studies for the priesthood in 1955 at Immaculate Conception Seminary, Darlington, New Jersey. He received a bachelor’s degree in classical languages from Seton Hall University in South Orange, New Jersey, in 1957, and a bachelor’s degree in sacred theology from the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., in 1961. In 1982, Bishop Smith was appointed to the faculty of the Pontifical North American College in Rome as director of the Institute for Continuing Theological Education and program director of the U.S. Bishops Consultation IV. Bishop Smith served six years on the board of directors of Catholic Relief Services and made five visits to Africa on behalf of the board. He is a member of the Board of Regents of Seton Hall University and the board of trustees of St. Francis Medical Center in Trenton. Bishop Smith is a former member of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on the Liturgy.
Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony
The Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony will take place at 2:00 p.m. on May 15 in the athletic fields on campus or in the Wellness Center Arena in the event of rain.
The speaker for the undergraduate ceremony will be Judith M. Persichilli, R.N., B.S.N., M.A., executive vice president for the acute care division of Catholic Health East, one of the nation’s leading Catholic health care systems. Ms. Persichilli is responsible for overseeing the operations of Regional Healthcare Corporations within the Mid-Atlantic region, which includes St. Francis Medical Center in Trenton, New Jersey, where she previously served as president and CEO. Ms. Persichilli is credited with the stabilization of St. Francis’s financial future because she lobbied and won the certificate of need by the New Jersey Department of Health. This allowed St. Francis to open the Heart Hospital, Mercer County’s only comprehensive cardiac surgery program that is rated in the top three in the state. She was also instrumental in having the facility recognized as the first Magnet Hospital for Nursing Excellence in Mercer County.
Ms. Persichilli has been an advocate and a voice for healthcare access for the poor and underserved. She is particularly noted for the development of innovative approaches to caring for the poor including Trenton’s first bilingual primary care center, Centro Medico; the first primary care medical van, St. Clare Medical Outreach Van, which travels to 23 medically underserved areas of Trenton and Mercer County to provide primary care; an innovative collaboration with the New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services and a local parish in the development of Angel’s Wings, the only hospital-based, New Jersey state emergency shelter for abused children; and the East Ward Parent/Child Center of Children’s Futures, one of four Trenton centers funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to provide family support focused on improving the lives of infants, toddlers, parents, and parents-to-be. Ms. Persichilli also gave Mercer County the only in-patient hospice care unit through a collaboration with Compassionate Care Hospice, and a comprehensive cancer center, Fox Chase Cancer Center at St. Francis, through the affiliation with internationally known Fox Chase Cancer Center.
She is a member of many prestigious boards, including the Health Care Administration Board of New Jersey, the Rider University Board of Trustees, the Kerney Foundation, and the Healthcare Quality Institute of New Jersey.
In addition to Ms. Persichilli, Reverend Ann Struthers Coburn will receive an honorary doctorate. She received her bachelor’s degree from Georgian Court and her divinity degree from Church Divinity School of the Pacific in Berkeley, California. Reverend Coburn is a woman of many firsts within the Episcopal Church. She was the first woman to be admitted into the priesthood in Connecticut, the 90th woman ordained nationwide, and she and her husband were the first couple to be ordained together into St. James Episcopal Church in Danbury, Connecticut, which serves 2.8 million members. She served on the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church and was a six-time deputy to the General Convention. Currently, Reverend Coburn is the director of alumni and church relations at the Church Divinity School. She has been quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle and is a board member of the Evangelical Education of the Episcopal Way.
Tradition during Commencement
Traditional aspects of Commencement, some dating back to medieval times, will be present at the Georgian Court ceremonies. Academic regalia, which has its origins in medieval English custom, is worn by faculty and administration alike. The styles of the gowns, mortars, and hoods convey university affiliation, disciplines, and level of achievement of the wearer. The president of the university wears the President’s Medallion, also called the lavaliere, which depicts the seal of the university on the front and the cross of the Sisters of Mercy on the reverse. It is worn by the president at official university functions of high solemnity. After the grand marshals who lead the Commencement procession is the macebearer. The mace’s history and tradition is also rooted in the Middle Ages. Over time the mace was used for royal ceremonial purposes and eventually became intertwined with the idea of a scepter. Colleges and universities use the mace as a symbol of their authority to confer degrees. And, finally, the seniors, as they walk Senior Path during the Commencement procession, stop at The Eagle statue and plant ivy at its base. This tradition is shared by many American universities. It has been posited that the introduction of ivy on campus during “Ivy Days” right before graduation or now during graduation itself was the source of the ivy that gave the Ivy League its name. Why plant ivy? One theory is that it was American educational institutions’ attempts to resemble Cambridge and Oxford.
Other traditions include the address by the Student Government Association president. This year’s speaker will be Sandrine Holloway "I believe with utmost confidence that for those of us who were invested and took advantage of the plethora of opportunities at The Court, we have been galvanized, equipped and mobilized. We have undergone a metamorphosis that leads us to believe in ourselves, the mercy mission, and how these elements combined can positively impact the paths we embark on. I am a product of a centennial of excellence, and I know that my success is guaranteed because of its foundation of mercy."
Three awards are also presented at Commencement: 1. The Academic Excellence Awards are presented to two members of the senior class who have attained the highest grade point average for four years. 2. The Julia Blake Alumnae Award is presented to the senior who has best displayed outstanding loyalty and service during the student’s university years. Miss Julia Blake was a 1919 graduate of Georgian Court and then became a professor. Miss Blake was a phenomenal teacher who dedicated her life to Georgian Court and her students. 3. The President’s Award for Teaching Excellence is presented to a faculty member who is nominated by fellow faculty members in recognition of emulating the values and mission of Georgian Court University, and in acknowledgement of academic distinction, service to education and outstanding achievement in inspiring students.
Founded in 1908 and sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy, Georgian Court University is a comprehensive university with a strong liberal arts core and a special concern for women. A forward-thinking university that supports diversity and academic excellence, Georgian Court serves over 3,000 students of all faiths and backgrounds in a residential Women's College and a coeducational University College with undergraduate and graduate programs. Georgian Court's main campus is located at 900 Lakewood Avenue, Lakewood, N.J., on the picturesque former George Jay Gould estate, now named a National Historic Landmark. Georgian Court also offers classes at its site at 90 Woodbridge Center Drive in Woodbridge, at Coastal Communiversity in Wall, and at Cumberland County College in Vineland.
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