On a pleasant spring day, under a cool canopy of low clouds, Neumann University awarded degrees to more than 700 students at its 47th commencement exercises. The May 18 ceremony filled the South Lawn of campus with friends and families of the graduates, there to cheer the students and celebrate a significant milestone with them.
Honorary degrees were presented to three people, each of whom addressed the graduates: Jay Devine, president and CEO of Devine + Partners; Bridget Guiney Devine, a devoted advocate for Catholic education; and Ukee Washington, anchor of Eyewitness News This Morning on CBS 3 and The CW Philly.
After playfully taking of a photo of the graduates from the stage (and promising to share it on FaceBook and Twitter), Ukee Washington urged the graduates to “Think of today as the best day of your life and know that tomorrow will be even better.”
He told the Class of 2013 that they have the power to influence others and challenged them to make a difference. He admonished them to hold onto the faith that they had nourished at Neumann. “Faith is the oil for all the friction in life,” he said.
His parting advice was “It’s not about the pursuit of happiness; it’s about the happiness in the pursuit.”
Washington joined the Channel 3 news team as a sports anchor in July 1986. In 1996, Washington moved to the news desk as early morning and noon anchor. Since that time, he has anchored some of the region’s most memorable stories including the 1997 President’s Summit for America’s Future and the Phillies World Series Celebration Parade in 2008. Raised in West Philadelphia, he is a former member of the Philadelphia Boys Choir and celebrated athlete at Dover High School in Delaware.
The Devines delivered their remarks together and shared with the graduates their “recipe for what has brought us true and authentic happiness.”
“Fortunately, the ingredients for true happiness are all around you,” explained Mr. Devine. “As is so often the case in life, the answers to the biggest questions are much closer than you think. In fact, today they have us surrounded because the recipe for true happiness has three key ingredients – faith, family and service.”
On faith: “All of your courses and exams and papers are a pursuit of the truth and that truth always leads to the true joy that only faith offers. We cannot be truly happy without true faith.”
On family: “It is where you experience your greatest joys and where your greatest sorrows are consoled.”
On service: “Service to others will fulfill you as an individual but more importantly it is an expression of love – both in giving and in receiving. It demonstrates how we are all connected to each other.”
Mrs. Devine concluded their remarks with heartfelt advice: “Today, you, the Class of 2013, enter a world which is telling you that you can do it on your own. You enter a world which extols the power of the individual. We are here to tell you that this promise is not enough. It will never lead to true happiness. You need each other. You need your faith. You need your family. You need to serve others. Your success and your happiness will only be achieved when you remember these important ingredients in the recipe for true happiness.”
Jay Devine is an accomplished communications counselor with more than 25 years of experience advising international, national and regional clients. He co-founded Devine + Partners in 2003. A graduate of Georgetown University, he is chairman emeritus of the Neumann University board of trustees, former president and current board member of the National Adoption Center, and vice president of the board of the Philadelphia Charity Ball.
Bridget Devine is a wife, mother, passionate volunteer, and CFO of Devine + Partners. A graduate of Fairfield University, she retired from a successful career at NCR Corporation in 1998 to focus on her growing family and devote herself to numerous educational and social causes, including Saint Katherine of Siena School, the Academy of Notre Dame, Neumann University, and the National Adoption Center.
Alyssa Pegram, valedictorian for the Neumann University class of 2013, challenged her classmates to maintain their passion and optimistic attitude.
“You’ve faced insurmountable odds and, whether you realized it or not, you reacted,” she told them. “Your passion proposed to you, and you accepted- and here you are now, engaged to it. Now on this day you stand on the altar of all that has been accomplished. You are receiving the binding document that solidifies your union with your passion—your degree. This is the moment you’ve been courting for years. How are you going to react now?”
In addition to the Valedictory Medal, Pegram also won the Sister Jeanette Clare McDonnell Award for Excellence in English Literature and the Sister Theodore Klingseisen Award for Excellence in Secondary Education.
The Charles R. and Mary F. Lindback Foundation Award for Distinguished Teaching was presented to Dr. Marisa Rauscher, assistant professor of Education. When her name was announced, the graduates broke into applause and many stood to cheer one of their favorite professors.
Neumann University opened in 1965 with 115 students. Its first graduating class, in 1967, consisted of nine Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, all English majors.