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May 15, 2012

2012 Commencement Marks Largest Graduating Class in History

St. Francis College celebrated its largest graduating class ever on Tuesday, May 15 when more than 450 students received their diplomas in a ceremony at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s (BAM) Howard Gilman Opera House. (Watch the Commencement Ceremony)

“Recent years with record incoming classes of freshman combined with our focus on student retention has brought us to a historic point for the College,” said St. Francis President Brendan J. Dugan ‘68. “We would not be here without the dedication of our professors, administrators and staff to the mission of providing a well-rounded, Franciscan education to all who come through our doors.”

The commencement address was delivered by newly appointed Federal Judge Margo K. Brodie ’88, a St. Francis alumna who made history earlier this year when she became the first Afro-Caribbean-born judge to serve in federal court. Judge Brodie’s first experiences in the United States were as a 16 year old student at St. Francis, having just come to the United States from Antigua.

She told the graduates that her life is a story of possibilities, “It is a story of what you can do if you’re determined and if you work hard. Some days I still can’t believe that this dream has come true.” Judge Brodie said that St. Francis College is a big reason she fulfilled her dream, “Know that your degree has prepared you to tackle all the challenges that you will face and to overcome those challenges. Know also that like many who have graduated from St. Francis College and have gone on to do great things with their degree, so can you.”

Among the graduates Judge Brodie mentioned are a line of St. Francis alumni that have succeed in public service, including Congressman Peter King ‘65, former Deputy Director of the FBI Thomas J. Pickard ’72 and former New York City Fire Commissioner Thomas Von Essen ’72. She also traced the history of St. Francis graduates who worked in the same Eastern District courthouse she now sits; John Francis Dooling Jr. ’29, who was appointed by President John F. Kennedy in 1961 and Francis X. Altimari ’50 who was first appointed by Ronald Reagan to the Eastern District in 1982 before being appointed, again by Reagan, to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals three years later.

Valedictorian John Whelan, a Philosophy major with a double minor in Criminal Justice and Political Science will be be taking the next step in his dream to become a lawyer, attending Benjamin Cardozo School of Law. He told his classmates that the strong liberal arts curriculum at the College, particularly philosophy will help everyone in the future no matter what field they choose. “As helpful as technology may be, our life is not defined by laptops iPhones and Blackberries. Philosophy liberates us from such things.” Whelan added, “We will have the tools necessary to become ethical accountants, ethical businessmen, ethical doctors, lawyers and teachers.”

Also during commencement, St. Francis College awarded honorary degrees to Karen Brooks Hopkins, President of the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and Joseph V. Melillo, Executive Producer of the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

Commencement celebrations began a day earlier at St. Charles Borromeo Church with a standing room only Baccalaureate Mass celebrated by Bishop Octavio Cisneros, Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of Brooklyn.

Among the students who graduated were:

Ereola Sade Falebita is graduating from the five-year combined Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree program in Accounting with a second major in Communication Arts. Sade is the editor of the student online and print newspaper SFCToday and is an active participant in on-campus activities, recently speaking at the Women's History Month event, A Woman's Voice for Equal Opportunity and at the 15th Annual Community Day celebration among many others. Upon graduation she will be working full-time at KPMG.

Tamas Toth, a Hungarian born Management major immediately began devoting his time to giving back as a student at St. Francis College. In addition to his own full course load, he attended class with two autistic fellow students, helping them take notes, do homework and papers, and even get to and from the College. That commitment meant that during one semester, Tamas attended 10 classes. He also spent four years on the St. Francis Swim and Water Polo team. He was part of the 2010 team that made it to the NCAA Final Four. Tamas is the President of the Duns Scotus Honor Society and a member of the Finance and Eastern European Clubs. He is now looking for a job in the management field and plans to attend graduate school in the United States.

Jemma Hinkly, a Canadian born double major in Communications Arts and English is following her passion for visual arts upon graduating from St. Francis. She will be attending Columbia University in the Master’s Degree program for Cinema Studies. A member of the St. Francis Honors Program, Jemma also spent four years on the Women’s Swimming and Water Polo teams. In addition to her studies she interned for several years with highly regarded photographer Ryan Mcginley. (Learn More About Jemma)

Margo K. Brodie
was appointed as a United States District Judge in the Eastern District of New York on February 29, 2012, and entered on duty March 12, 2012. Immediately prior to her appointment, Judge Brodie served as a federal prosecutor in the Criminal Division of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York (“U.S. Attorney’s Office”) for over 12 years. She held various positions in the U.S. Attorney’s Office including: Deputy Chief of the Criminal Division (2010-2012); Counselor to the Criminal Division (2009-2010); Chief of General Crimes (2007-2009); Deputy Chief of General Crimes (2006-2007); and Assistant United States Attorney (1999-2006). Prior to joining the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Judge Brodie was in private practice at the firm of Carter, Ledyard & Milburn for five years and was an Assistant Corporation Counsel for the City of New York prior to private practice for three years. Judge Brodie is a graduate of St. Francis College and the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

Karen Brooks Hopkins is the president of the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), where she has worked since 1979. She oversees the institution’s 179 full-time employees and its multiple facilities, including the new BAM Richard B. Fisher Building. Hopkins has served as the Chair of the Cultural Institutions Group, has been a member of the Mayor’s Cultural Affairs Advisory Commission and the New York State Board of Regents, and is currently on the Board of New York’s Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. Hopkins was awarded a medal from the Royal Dramatic Theater of Sweden for her work as executive producer of BAM’s 1995 Bergman Festival, and was named Chevalier de L’ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the Republic of France. Her widely read book, Successful Fundraising for Arts & Cultural Organizations, is currently in its second edition. A graduate of the University of Maryland, she received her MFA from George Washington University in Washington, DC. Hopkins resides in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

Joseph V. Melillo has been Brooklyn Academy of Music’s (BAM) Executive Producer since 1999 where he has been responsible for the organization’s artistic direction. In the years that he has held this role, BAM has enjoyed increases in both programming and audience attendance in its Harvey Lichtenstein Theater, Howard Gilman Opera House, Rose Cinemas, and BAMcafé. Prior to his current position, Melillo served as BAM’s producing director, following a six-year tenure as founding director of the Next Wave Festival. Melillo was named a Chevalier (1999) and an Officier (2004) de L’ordre des Arts et des Lettres of France. Also in 2004, he was awarded an honorary OBE for his outstanding commitment to British performing arts in America. In 2007, Melillo was appointed Knight of the Royal Order of the Polar Star, in recognition of his role in solidifying ties between the performing arts communities of Sweden and the United States. Most recently, Melillo was named the Cultural Ambassador for Taiwan.

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