Looking to the future so often involves looking to the past.
So it was on June 14 at Buck Shaw Stadium, a day when the sun shone but California wildfires cast a threatening shadow. Graduates clad in black robes and mortarboards—brightened by adornments including pink and white leis, plumed hats, and sparkly high-heeled sandals—celebrated the end of their undergraduate studies and the beginning of the next phase of their lives.
They heard words of wisdom from someone who had traveled the same road, beginning here at Santa Clara, 48 years prior. Speaking at his last Santa Clara commencement as president of the University, Paul Locatelli, S.J., likened today’s political and social climate to that of the early 1960s, when he graduated from college. Back then, much like today, electronic communication was globalizing politics, civil and human rights struggles were providing hope and despair, and the world was in crisis. The mood of college graduates was similar, Locatelli said: “We were ready to change the world. I pray that, like past graduates of Santa Clara, you will bring new hope and your exceptional gifts to our beautiful but sometimes tragic world.”
But the tone of the commencement was not overly somber. Parents clapped and cheered when Locatelli advised the Class of ’08, “Both your heart and mind need nourishment. So, turn off your cell phone and laptop often. Limit text messaging and your time on Facebook. Rather, spend time in solitude—reading and listening to discover where your greatest desires lie.”
They’re airborne—diplomas in hand Photo: Charles Barry
Locatelli strove to be “concrete and personal” in offering advice to the crowd of 1,000 undergraduates, who were joined by 12,000 family members and friends. He spoke of his fondness for plays, museums, art galleries, poetry, and photography. He said that enjoying the arts helps him “to see the transcendence and beauty of God on earth, at one end of the spectrum, and at the other, the mystery of human adventure that redeems the pain of living and tragedy of dying.”
He offered four specific suggestions for making a successful transition into the educated world:
•Have confidence in yourself.
• Pay attention to your deepest desires.
• Imagine a better future for yourself and others, especially the most fragile and marginalized in our world.
• Have the courage and the perseverance to construct a more human, sustainable, and just world for yourselves and future generations.
After 20 years at the helm of the University, Locatelli will be stepping down during the 2008-09 academic year in order to serve as Secretary of Higher Education for the Society of Jesus in Rome. The University will be commemorating his two decades of leadership in October.
As part of graduation ceremonies, the president and Board of Trustees conferred honorary degrees upon SCU trustee Michael J. Carey ’71, a business leader, entrepreneur, and a leader in the National Football League; Dr. Ronald J. Stoney ’55, a professor of vascular surgery at the University of California, San Francisco; and Roselyne “Cissie” Chroman Swig, founder and president of ComCon International and a leading philanthropist in the Bay Area.
“One small favor”
On the evening of June 13, philanthropist and venture capitalist B.J. Cassin told the graduate students receiving their degrees to “work hard, laugh often, and keep your honor.”
Degrees were presented to 445 graduates of the School of Education, Counseling Psychology, and Pastoral Ministries, the Leavey School of Business, and the School of Engineering.
Cassin and his wife, Bebe, a partner in the Cassin Educational Initiative Foundation, received honorary degrees and were recognized for their longstanding support of education and for creating the foundation, which works with religious and other groups to establish faith-based, college-preparatory middle schools and high schools in economically disadvantaged areas.
Cassin, a former member of the advisory board for the Leavey School of Business and co-founder of the Fortune 500 company Xidex Corporation, began his commencement address by describing it to the audience as “the next grueling hurdle in your academic career.”
Just as Locatelli did the following day, Cassin offered four pieces of advice for the students assembled: “Be a real player. Put yourself in the game. Regardless of your career choice, don’t be just a passive participant.” Also, “Ask for help. Train yourself to think outside the box. Test the status quo.” And finally, “Do this world one small favor. Remember the people struggling alongside you and below you.”