Academic Center Named for Frank and Mary Macchiarola
Graduation Also Marks College's First Master's Degrees Recipients
In a surprise proclamation at the St. Francis College 2008 commencement, a tearful Frank Macchiarola and his wife Mary were visibly moved by the news of having the College's Academic Center named in their honor in appreciation of their commitment and support for St. Francis students, faculty, administration and the entire Franciscan community.
The dedication of the building on Remsen Street highlighted the May 27 ceremony which marks the College's 150th year and featured a graduation class of nearly 300 students, including for the first time, recipients of Master's Degrees.
The naming of the recently completed 35,000 square foot Academic Center was decided in a resolution by the St. Francis Board of Trustees. In accepting the honor, President Macchiarola, who is stepping down June 30 after 12 years at his post, said that for the first time he can remember, he was speechless. He told the crowd that he and Mary have never wanted anything in return for the time and resources they have committed to the College. Dr. Macchiarola said that being with the students was reward enough.
Incoming St. Francis College President, Brendan J. Dugan '68 read the proclamation after delivering the commencement address, in which he told students that looking at them was like looking at a mirror of himself 40 years ago at his own St. Francis College commencement, "from a working class home, a child of immigrants, the first generation in my family to go to college. Like many of you, I worked my way through school but most importantly, when given the opportunity, I was ready to make a difference in the world."
Mr. Dugan told the graduates that just as he strove to do well in the world, they too, will succeed because at St. Francis College, they received an excellent education but just as importantly, they learned about the Franciscan Tradition. The cornerstone of their education is the principle of Franciscanism, "founded on concepts like faith, hope, humility, love, caring, hospitality, peace and most importantly service."
Mr. Dugan also received an honorary degree from the College along with The Most Reverend Nicholas DiMarzio, Bishop of the Diocese of Brooklyn and President of Long Island University Dr. David Steinberg. Each honoree was conferred the Degree of Doctor of Humane Letters for service to the spiritual, civic, and educational well being of the community. Bishop DiMarzio was recognized for his leadership among American bishops in leading the effort to produce a definitive statement on the citizenship duties of American Catholics as well as his devotion to causes like immigrant rights. Dr. Steinberg was honored for his leadership in education including stewardship roles and chairmanships with the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities (cIcu) as well as the NCAA's Northeast Conference as well as for his scholarly and human rights work primarily focused on South East Asia.
President Macchiarola also honored another St. Francis student posthumously. Edward Dunn attended the College between 1940 and 1942 during World War II when the number of students reached a low of just 7 students. He left to join the Navy and because of those unusual circumstances never received a degree. This did not stop Mr. Dunn from supporting St. Francis through the years. Three of his children graduated from the College and as a very successful funeral director in Brooklyn, he provided services for the Franciscan Brothers. Mr. Dunn passed away last year, but his widow Rose, sons Edward, Jr., Robert and Thomas as well as his grandson Matthew were in attendance at commencement to receive his Bachelor's Degree, some unfinished business that President Macchiarola was proud to complete.
The valedictorian this year, Jessica Minotti Verderame, told her classmates of her life transforming meeting with Brother George Larkin, the Dean of Admissions. She had graduated high school several years earlier and was looking for a job at the College that would enable her to slowly begin her college experience by taking a few credits each semester for free, "Brother George... informed me that at the rate of six credits per semester, it would take me about ten years to graduate. So he said to me: "Jessica, I want you to call your husband and tell him you are quitting your job, and you are coming here full time in September."
Minotti Verderame was awarded an endowed scholarship named for Brother George and proved his instincts right by not only excelling in the classroom but achieving a perfect 4.0 grade point average and becoming a member of the St. Francis College Duns Scotus Honor Society. Next year, she will be attending the Art Institute of New York for Interior Design and hopes to merge her dual passions for Psychology and interior design into her future career.
Minotti Verderame summed up her experience at St. Francis by describing a celebratory get together with friends, "Sitting at the table were people from different backgrounds: Puerto Rican, South American, Irish, Italian, Armenian, Polish... just to name a few. This is the magic that floods our halls every day. Our school is like a mini United Nations. We celebrate our differences and we all support one another and treat each other with respect. That is the spirit, the essence of St. Francis College."
Minotti Verderame was not the only student to graduate with a 4.0 gpa this year. Katja Bavendam, an Information Technology major and Women's Basketball player also achieved that mark. Bavendam was named the NEC scholar-athlete of the year for the second time this winter. She holds the school record for blocked shots with 236 and became the 11th player in St. Francis history to reach the 1,000-point plateau, ending her career with 1,147 points. Her 723 career rebounds place her seventh on the Terriers' all-time list for both points and rebounds.
The class of 2008 includes those students who completed the new five-year combined Bachelor's / Master's Degree in Accounting. The college is proud to say that every student graduating from the program who wanted a job in the field has been offered a position, most of them at one of the Big Four accounting firms in New York City.
As in years past, many of this year's class will continue to pursue their studies at a variety of graduate schools including Columbia University School of Nursing, New York University, Fordham University and The University of Maryland. Numerous members of the Class of 2008 will also enter the work force in private industry at places like National Grid, Brookhaven National Laboratory and several banks and accounting firms. Students will also be entering the field of public service teaching in public and private schools across the city, entering the police academy and working for local hospitals, courts and non-profit corporations.
Among the graduates are:
Matthew Bertolotti, an Accounting Master's Degree recipient, who will begin working at KPMG as an Associate Auditor. Matthew who interned at KPMG last summer is a member of the St. Francis College Duns Scotus Honor Society and former President of the College Accounting Society.
Stephanie Volpe, a Biology major, will be attending the Michigan State University School of Veterinary Medicine. Stephanie is the second student in the last two years to be admitted into the MSU Veterinary program. This is a particularly meaningful accomplishment because veterinary schools are often more competitive than medical schools and Michigan State is one of the premier veterinary schools in the country.
Carl Coulanges, a Communications Arts major with a concentration in Film and Broadcasting. He was Vice President of the Communications Honor Society, Lambda Pi Eta and completed a 25 minute documentary which premiered in January called, "Untold Stories: St. Francis College." Coulanges also spent two seasons as the color analyst for the Terrier Sports Network team that covers internet play-by-play of dozens of men's and women's basketball games.
Theresa Verzosa, a Psychology major, plans to spend next Fall in Durban, South Africa working with Peace Players International, a non-governmental organization (NGO) that aims to heal the rift leftover from years of apartheid in South Africa. Verzosa will be helping local South Africans teach 6th through 8th graders about HIV/AIDS awareness and life skills. The program pairs up schools from different races and cultures and uses basketball as a springboard to bring the children closer together.
Photos: (From L-R: Mary T. Macchiarola, Brendan J. Dugan, Frank J. Macchiarola), Valedictorian Jessica Minotti Verderame, (Accounting Graduate Program From L-R: Prof. William Yellin, Prof. Carmine Nogara, Victoria Ziskind, Renata Sokolowska, Michael Pavone, Nicole Nistorescu, Reannah Lewis, Manuel Costa, Matthew Bertolotti, Dr. Geoffrey Horlick)
St. Francis College, founded in 1859 by the Franciscan Brothers of Brooklyn, is located in Brooklyn Heights, N.Y. Since its founding, the College has pursued its Franciscan mission to provide an affordable, high-quality education to students from New York City's five boroughs and beyond.
St. Francis College, 180 Remsen Street, Brooklyn Heights, NY 11201