On a perfect spring day, under an azure sky, Neumann University awarded degrees to 621 students at its 48th commencement exercises. The May 17 ceremony filled the South Lawn of campus with more than 3,000 friends and families of the graduates, there to cheer the students and celebrate a significant milestone with them.
There were 36 doctoral degrees presented, 111 master’s degrees, 468 bachelor’s degrees, and six associate degrees.
Vice President Gerard O’Sullivan
took a selfie with hundreds of graduates in the background.
The ceremony began on a lighthearted note with Dr. Gerard O’Sullivan, vice president for academic affairs, turning his back to the crowd and taking a selfie with hundreds of graduates in the background. He urged them to share photos of the day at #NUgrad2014.
Honorary degrees were presented were presented to three people, each of whom addressed the graduates: Rocco Abessinio, a former Neumann University trustee and graduate, who is president and CEO of Applied Bank; Mary Abessinio, director of Applied Card Holdings; and Deacon Daniel DeLucca, president emeritus of Alvernia University in Reading, Pennsylvania, and former trustee of Neumann University.
Rocco Abessinio passed along advice which he learned from his grandfather, who came to America at 14 years of age, penniless and uneducated.
Mr. Abessinio shared with the graduates the three significant events in his life. “First and foremost was meeting and marrying my wife Mary,” he said. “Until that time, I was floundering, enrolling and subsequently dropping out of school (several times), having no absolute goals or focus … Through my wife, I had an added sense of responsibility, accountability, and a determination to provide a good education and future for my children.”
The second event was earning a degree from Neumann University, then Our Lady of Angels College. “I was 39 at the time … Obtaining my degree gave me the credentials to seek better employment opportunities.” At age 47, he started with his wife Mary a credit card servicing company. “So basically, in eight years, I went from a nobody to a high executive position. Thank you, Our Lady of Angels!”
The last significant event was his funding and building St. Rocco’s Church in Avondale, Pennsylvania, to meet the religious needs of 12,000 Hispanic families. “Through the entire process of getting this project completed, I became much closer to my Catholic faith and understood the true value of prayer.”
His advice to the Class of 2014, learned from his grandfather Rocco, included several nuggets of wisdom: have faith in God, always do what’s right, earn respect, work hard and save your money, work through adversity, and stand up for your rights.
Abessinio began his banking career in the early 1970s. In 1987, he founded Consumer Credit Services Corporation (later Applied Card Systems), whose sole purpose was to provide services, such as credit, collections, customer service, and security, for small- to mid-sized banks. He started Cross Country Bank (now Applied Bank) in 1996. Applied Bank, with its sister company, Applied Card Systems, grew to more than five million accounts serviced by some five thousand employees. Today, Applied Bank is rated among the top banks in the country focusing primarily on commercial banking, providing loans to businesses throughout the Northeast.
Mary Abessinio told the graduates
that “the strength and principles of Neumann … will take you far.”
Mary Abessinio echoed the gratitude of her husband. “Much of what Rocco and our family have achieved is thanks to the education he received here. Our Lady of Angels accommodated my husband, allowing him to attain his degree while working full-time to support our growing family.”
She, too, concluded with advice to the graduates: “Take the strength and principles of Neumann with you wherever you go; they will take you far.”
After raising four children, Mrs. Abessinio reestablished her career when Rocco started Consumer Credit Service Corporation (CCSC, now Applied Card Systems) where she held the title of Corporate Secretary. She helped establish the new company, working with her husband at the kitchen table, outlining the business and marketing plans. At present, she is the CEO of the Abessinio Family Foundation, while also doing volunteer work. She attended Interboro High School and is a graduate of the Goldey Beacom Business School. She and Rocco have been married for 47 years.
Deacon DeLucca extolled the virtues of Neumann, calling it a “special jewel of Catholic Franciscan education.” He then offered a seven-part prescription for a full, joyful and happy life: pray, laugh, embrace relationships, reach for self-fulfillment, be positive, serve others, and continue to learn.
“Your challenge is to develop a
career for yourself that will
contribute your special talents
to the well-being of others,” advised Deacon Daniel DeLucca.
“On your journey of life,” he urged, “periodically ask yourself two questions: ‘Is there joy in my life?’ and ‘Do I bring joy to the lives of others?’ If you can answer yes to these two questions, then you are on the right road to a joyful, successful life.”
DeLucca has served on the Neumann University board of trustees for twelve years, and he continues to serve as a member of the trustee committee. He is president-emeritus of Alvernia University in Reading, Pennsylvania, where he served for seven years. Prior to his presidency at Alvernia, he was president of Spring Garden College for 13 years and served at St. Joseph’s University for 22 years as a faculty member, department chairman and assistant to the president and vice president. Ordained a permanent deacon in 1986, he serves at St. Andrew the Apostle parish in Drexel Hill. He holds a BBA and a Pd.D. in pedagogy from St. Bonaventure University and an MBA from New York University.
“Neumann University’s core values
are the great gifts we leave this campus with today and the values which will guide us as we pursue
our dreams and careers,” said Valedictorian Lauren Kilday.
Lauren Kilday, valedictorian for the Neumann University class of 2014, asked her classmates to reflect on what Neumann has meant to them: the friendships, the special professors, the values, the career preparation, and the opportunities for service.
“And now we stand here proudly and ready to take the final step in our college careers,” she said. “Our hard work, long hours of study, and seemingly unceasing stress finally paid off as our dreams today become a reality. We will leave Neumann with many accomplishments of which we should be proud, new and lasting knowledge, unforgettable experiences, and friendships which will last a lifetime. The memory of our time here at Neumann University will be forever etched upon our hearts.”
The Charles R. and Mary F. Lindback Foundation Award for Distinguished Teaching was presented to Dr. Kurt Wallen, professor of psychology. When his name was announced, the many graduates stood and cheered one of their favorite professors.
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