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In the Spotlight
January 22, 2020

St. Francis College Holds Its Winter 2020 Commencement


Miguel Martinez-Saenz and Nermina Markisic

"We believe, as Franciscans, that a life of service is the highest goal...Service, in my opinion, is the highest calling."

In his Winter 2020 Commencement address, President Miguel Martinez-Saenz, Ph.D. urged graduates to consider how they can choose to serve and love others as they embark on their post-collegiate lives.

"I want to get you to reflect on the fact that 'to love' is an active verb...Jesus calls us to love our neighbors and to love our enemies," said President Martinez-Saenz, Ph.D. to an audience of hundreds that filled the pews at St. James Cathedral Basilica in downtown Brooklyn following a Baccalaureate Mass held there.

The College graduated 122 students after the close of the fall 2019 semester, and about half took part in the January 21st Commencement exercises.

Dr. Marina Gair, Chair of the SFC Education Department, delivered the event's keynote address. She encouraged graduates to reflect on how their St. Francis experiences – both good and bad – can contribute to choices they make to lead a fulfilling life.

"The gift you received here is an education of the heart. And that's something that...lives in you. It becomes a part of you. And it enlarges your sense of humanity," said Gair, when highlighting the Franciscan tradition as a unique element of a St. Francis education.

Political Science major Nermina Markisic spoke from the podium as the Winter 2020 Valedictorian. A daughter of Bosnian refugees who fled to the United States in the midst of the brutal Bosnian war, Markisic, a first-generation college graduate, addressed the legacy and lessons of her family's experiences on herself and others.

"A crucial aspect of creating success is finding your reason for being. My reason for being has always been, and will always be my family and making them proud. I want them to know that they did not suffer for no reason, and that my success one day will make their trials and tribulations worth going through," explained Markisic, who also asked her fellow graduates to love themselves and recognize the shared humanity among all people.

The graduates participating in Winter 2020 Commencement included Danielle Mongelli, who earned a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, specializing in poetry. The SFC MFA program launched in 2017 and Mongelli is among the first to complete it.

"Having a sense of a writing community. It's my first writing community I've ever had. So it's really cool to have everybody's support," said Mongelli when asked about the best part of her MFA experience.

The Winter 2020 SFC graduates include six students earning Master's degrees in Accounting, 11 earning Master of Fine Arts degrees and nine with Summa Cum Laude honors, the highest academic honors the College bestows.