FAIRFIELD, Conn. — More than 1,900 Sacred Heart University students began new journeys after receiving diplomas along with advice and encouragement at commencement exercises this weekend.
In a ceremony Sunday at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, SHU President John Petillo reflected on the students’ past four years. “Continue to chase your dreams unfettered by the naysayers. May the knowledge and experiences you gained here enable you to be women and men for others,” Petillo said.
He also gave a posthumous diploma to the family of Kaitlyn Doorhy, who died in 2014 just before the start of her junior year.
“Almost two years ago while on her way to campus to help freshmen move in, Kaitlyn Doorhy was tragically struck by a car,” Petillo said. “In those few days following, I witnessed a community gathering in prayer and support. Even in her death she enabled four transplant recipients to live.”
Victoria Sweet, an award-winning historian and associate professor of medicine at the University of California, delivered the keynote address at SHU’s 50th undergraduate commencement and received an honorary doctor of science degree. Brad Evans, senior adviser at Morgan Stanley, was awarded an honorary doctor of humane letters degree.
Brianna Grills, president of the Class of 2016, reminisced about her classmates’ days at SHU.
“About four years ago, each of us came to Fairfield as individual puzzle pieces, not exactly sure how or where we fit into big picture we now see as the Sacred Heart University Class of 2016,” Grills said. “Today, as we graduate, we feel a sense of satisfaction that the puzzle we began working on about four years ago is now complete.
“But we also feel a sense of loss that our time at SHU is over, and we are ready to move on and begin working on a new puzzle.”
During Saturday’s graduate commencement, the keynote speaker was Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga, archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, who explained the importance of receiving an education at a Catholic university.
“For me, one of the most important aspects of Catholic university education is that it empowers you with an expanded capacity for ethical and moral perspectives to make good decisions and act compassionately in the dynamic, modern world.”
At the graduate ceremony, Maradiaga received an honorary doctor of theology degree, and Leo Melamed, chairman emeritus of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange Group, received an honorary doctor of humane letters.
Robin Cautin, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, awarded a posthumous diploma to former SHU student Jose Labrador. Paul Broadie, president of Housatonic Community College, where Labrador worked, participated in the procession in Labrador’s memory.
Labrador, 52, was killed with his wife, 48-year-old Gisela Gil-Egui, a communications professor at Fairfield University, in December in wrong-way crash on I-95 in Miami.
Graduate student Derek Moore, assistant wrestling coach at SHU, represented his graduating class at the commencement and gave an inspirational speech. Moore, a California native, received his master’s in business administration.