By Sadef Ali Kully
Family, friends and faculty members gathered on the great lawn at St. John’s Sunday to salute 2,200 students Sunday at the university’s 145th graduation ceremony.
An estimated 64 percent of the graduates were female, 892 were international students and more than 700 students studied abroad in this 2015 graduating class, said Dr. Conrado Gempesaw, president of St. John’s. Nearly 19,000 well-wishers turned out to watch them collect their degrees.
The keynote speaker was Bishop David O’Connell, the 10th Bishop of the Diocese of Trenton, N.J. The former dean and vice president at St. John’s was presented with the Medal of Honor, the highest award in the university’s system.
O’Connell began his speech about current and upcoming change and what it takes to handle that change in a fast-paced world.
“There are two levels of change, in your head meaning around you, and in your heart, meaning inside of you,” O’Connell said. “Education should change you.”
He ended on the late British Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s quote, “To improve is to change. To change often is to be perfect.”
The youngest graduate was 20-year old, Kailyn Kalloo from South Ozone Park, who said, “I eventually want to work in the FBI or U.S. Marshals office. I majored in criminal justice.”
The eldest graduate was 79-year old, Hugh Keenan, who took online courses for a Liberal Arts degree. Keenan had never completed his education after taking over the family business at the age of 14. When he retired, he made graduating a goal for himself.
“My daughters were supportive and it was a wonderful and enriching experience,” Keenan said. “I think people at my age can be timid and there are options and chances out there.”
St. John’s University was founded in 1870 and has more than 10 programs of study in Business, Education, Health Sciences, Liberal Arts and Sciences and Professional Studies.
The Queens-based university has four campuses in New York: Queens, Manhattan. Staten Island and Oakdale, L.I. as well as its two international campuses in Rome and Paris.
Reach Reporter Sadef Ali Kully by e-mail at skull