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GCU’s 100th Commencement Challenges Graduates to Choose Well

Speakers Helen Hanna Casey and Tim McLoone Share Life Experiences

Still photos and assets from Georgian Court University’s 100th Commencement Ceremonies are available to the media. Copies of select speeches are available in the GCU Press Room or by e-mail.

Lakewood, N.J., May 24, 2011—Students graduating from college already know hard work and commitment are important if they want to get ahead in life. But picking the right shoes for traveling the road to success? That’s just as important, too.

“We always lead with our feet,” leading businesswoman Helen Hanna Casey ’71, told 392 undergraduates during Georgian Court University’s 100th Commencement, held Friday, May 21. GCU also awarded 213 master’s degrees on Thursday, May 20.

“Just think about how you get out of bed, enter a room, and get to the end of the road. Each day, each choice has consequences. There are days when you will choose very carefully, you will plan and execute, but suddenly, there is an unforeseen crack in the road; you may break a heel or be at a crossroad.”

Ms. Casey, who was presented with an honorary Doctor of Business Administration, used her twin passions—hard work and fabulous shoes—to make a point.

"Will you turn back, stay stuck where you are, or force yourself to move ahead?” said Ms. Casey, president of Howard Hanna Real Estate Services, the nation’s fourth-largest full-service real estate firm, and chairwoman of the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce. “Will you have the guts to change shoes, change your life, in mid-step? Will you have a backup pair? It's up to you to make the choice.”

Commencement speakers emphasized the need for graduates to let their values guide their work, and to work toward making a difference in the lives of others, much like three longtime GCU educators who were honored with emeritus status during graduation. The university conferred emeriti status to Binetta Dolan, an assistant professor of business; Patricia A. Geary, GNSH, Ph.D., professor of education; and Edward P. Witman, professor of philosophy.

“As we close this chapter of our lives, let us not forget the lessons we have learned and the values instilled in us,” said Camden native Iveliz Crespo, president of the Class of 2011, and a founding member of GCU’s Mercy Collegiate Society. “We will change the world, and we will do that by doing what we love. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who come alive. Do what you love; that is how change is made.”

Advocating for change is never easy, and GCU administrators recognized the hard work of Assemblyman Joseph R. Malone III (R-30). GCU President Rosemary E. Jeffries, Ph.D., RSM, presented the legislator with an honorary Doctor of Laws, noting his longtime support of GCU and higher education issues throughout New Jersey.

GCU student government leader Megan Mastrogiovanni offered her classmates some advice. “Seize opportunities, live in the moment, but act for the future, and make every effort to leave this earth a better place than you knew it to be,” said the Monroe Township resident. “Cherish every moment, and spread your love, drive, and talents abundantly.

“Transform Your Dreams into Your Reality”
GCU graduate Commencement ceremony speaker Tim McLoone, who received an honorary Doctor of Public Service, talked about his experiences with Holiday Express, the volunteer, nonprofit, non-sectarian organization that he founded 18 years ago. The organization performs concerts and delivers music, food, gifts, financial support, and friendship to those in need during the holiday season and throughout the year.

In addition to honoring Mr. McLoone, President Jeffries presented Major General Maria A. Falca-Dodson with an honorary Doctor of Public Service. Major General Falca-Dodson, Commander of the New Jersey Air National Guard’s two Air Wings—the 108th Air Refueling Wing at McGuire Air Force Base and the 177th Fighter Wing in Atlantic City—was unable to attend the ceremony, but told graduates to always remember three things: to face the world with courage each day, to avoid looking for success in material things, and to always embrace passion and compassion.

Graduate students also heard from Evgenia Timm, who received her M.B.A. in Accounting.

“A few years ago, if someone had told me that I would one day graduate from an American university and build a future in the United States, I would have laughed,” said Evgenia. “A statement like that…seemed like a fairytale when I was a child growing up in a small town in Russia. The thought of America to me was like Never-Never Land to many of you—a place where you could fly; a place where you could follow your wildest imagination,” she said.

Earning her degree has been like a dream come true, she explained.

“When I arrived here five years ago, I saw it: a place where I could, in fact, realize my dreams,” she continued. “It was almost instantaneous—I felt something I had never felt before: freedom. And with freedom comes choice. And with choice comes opportunity. So I challenge you all to embrace your freedom, to choose your destiny, and to take the opportunity to transform your dreams into your reality.”

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 nearly 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 One Woodbridge Center in Woodbridge, at Coastal Communiversity in Wall, and at Cumberland County College in Vineland.

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