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May 14, 2010

Students Celebrate Spring Commencement as More Than 300 Receive Degrees

With encouraging words from the President of Fordham University The Reverend Joseph M. McShane, S.J., New York’s Senior Senator Charles Schumer and others, more than 300 graduates from St. Francis College are now the College’s next ambassadors to the world after taking part in the Spring 2010 Commencement Ceremony at the Marriott Brooklyn Bridge on Friday, May 14. (Watch the Speakers)

For Assad Ishtiaq, his graduation from the five year combined Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree program in Accounting is only the half way point of a deal he brokered with his brother. Assad’s older brother Ahtesham, who drives a cab in New York City, helped pay Assad’s tuition at St. Francis. Now as Assad begins working at PricewaterhouseCoopers, he will put his earnings towards Ahtesham’s tuition. The brothers said the arrangement was really nothing special, just a matter of coming to the United States from Pakistan with limited resources and working together as a family to meet their goals. Assad was also able to earn the Dean’s Award at the College for his excellent grades. (Watch the Students Receive Their Diplomas)

Other members of the Master’s Program will be working at Big Four Accounting firms, including PricewaterhouseCoopers and Ernst & Young as well as at firms and companies including PKF, O’Connor Davies Munns & Dobbins, National Grid and Con Edison.

During the commencement address delivered by Father McShane, he joked about how the reason St. Francis College invited a Jesuit Priest, Yankees fan from The Bronx to speak at the commencement of a Franciscan Institution in a Brooklyn Dodger community was, “to show the depth of their ecumenical spirit and their mercy.” He went on to tell the graduating class that if they follow the example of St. Francis, “who was green before there was a green movement, who was an advocate of peace before there was a peace movement and who is the world’s only true universal saint,” and if they follow his Prayer of St. Francis, “you will transform the world with your gritty New York generosity, your hard-won, discerning wisdom and your daring, draining compassion.”

Following Father McShane, Senator Charles Schumer greeted the graduates and implored them to simply, “Go For It.” He said that, “this is the time if there ever was a time, as you graduate from college, to figure out what your dream is, no matter how high.” Senator Schumer closed with a reading from the Rudyard Kipling poem, “If”.

The Valedictorian address was delivered by Jonathan Palumbo, a Psychology Major with a perfect 4.0 average. He is a member of the Duns Scotus Honor Society, President of Psi-Chi, the Psychology Honors Society and was active in the Psychology Club and Government and Politics Club. In his speech, Palumbo offered a call to action to his classmates, “to come up with the tools to bring our country back to being the greatest on this planet.”He went on to decry the elements of greed that led to the latest economic turmoil, saying, “we must learn from our past experiences and realize this is not a country of me but of we, we must learn to help one another rather than ourselves.”

Jonathan won the Tony D. Guzewicz Award for outstanding cross-cultural research by an undergraduate at the 21st Greater New York Conference on Behavioral Research last year and has worked for several years under Psychology Professor Uwe Gielen at the Institute for International Cross-Cultural Psychology where he researched and gave several presentations on the centers Chinese American Research Project. Jonathan plans to attend graduate school to study both Social and Industrial-Organizational Psychology. (Watch his address)

Among Friday’s other graduates were:

Islam Aly: Islam, a Chemistry Major and member of the Duns Scotus Honor Society, will be spending her next few years in Medical School at the University of St. George. “I honestly don't know where the years went. As I took my very last final at St. Francis it felt like just yesterday that I was preparing for my first General Biology exam. Yet here I am four years later, graduating and going off to medical school,” said Islam who was also a member of the Chemistry Club and Pre-Med Society. “Being that I was a Chemistry Major I remember being excited to take classes that were out of my major such as art and music. The core curriculum at St. Francis truly gives us the opportunity to be well-rounded individuals. I would like to extend a special thanks to the Chemistry Department for all they have done for me. Even though I am graduating, all of the memories will stay with me as well as the wonderful friendships I have made.”

Kennitha Allahar: Kennitha is Management Major with a concentration in Human Resources. She began attending classes at St. Francis College, where she works as Accounts Payable Assistant and Secretary to the Vice President of Finance, to set an example for her 15 year old son. She quickly found that in addition to helping to inspire him, it was a fulfilling experience for her as an individual. “I would like to show other women my age and mothers mostly, that in life it doesn’t matter how old you are; once you have a dream, you should always work towards fulfilling it, because anything in life is possible,” said Kennitha who now plans to work towards an MBA.

Predrag Predin: Predrag, a Business Management Major with a concentration in Finance and Captain of the College’s nationally ranked Men’s Water Polo Team, is a shining example of what it means to be a student athlete. Predrag, from Becej, Serbia is graduating Summa Cum Laude with a 3.92 G.P.A. and is a member of the Duns Scotus Honor Society. He is active in the Finance Club, Economics Club and Eastern European Club. In addition, he works on an internship at National Grid in the Project Management Division. He is currently looking for a job in finance with plans to go to graduate school to earn an MBA. "Spending four years at ‘The Small College of Big Dreams’ was a great chance for me to grow up, to feel like a member of the family in this great city, and to get much closer to making my life's dreams a reality." (Watch a video of Predrag)

Erica Zaragoza: Erica is a Political Science Major with a concentration in Criminal Justice. She was President of Pi Sigma Alpha, the Political Science Honor Society and also involved with the Thomas More Pre-Law Society, and the Government and Politics Club. She gained valuable experience working for her local State Assemblyman Rory Lancman. Erica also worked for the non-governmental organization, ONE, which helps fight poverty and preventable diseases and she is now working with another organization, History Starts Now, to raise money to stop human trafficking of minors. She is now waiting to find out where she will attend law school.

In addition, the college bestowed honorary degrees on Auxiliary Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese The Most Revered Ignatius A. Catanello ’62, well known business man Alan Fishman and WABC Director of Community Affairs Saundra Thomas.

The honor for Bishop Catanello, was accepted by the Pastor of Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Reverend James W. King. Bishop Cantanello went to Most Holy Trinity School and Bushwick High School before graduating from St. Francis College. He then enrolled at Immaculate Conception Seminary and was ordained on May 28, 1966. He is a leader in interfaith and interreligious activities and has served on the diocesan Ecumenical Commission and he is a consultant to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee on Interreligious Dialogue. His particular emphasis is on Catholic-Islamic conversations and also revised and edited the Catholic-Jewish Guidelines for the Diocese of Brooklyn. Bishop Catanello also taught for 27 years at St. John’s College and worked at LaGuardia College during its early years.

In addition to his current position as Chairman of Ladder Capital Finance, Alan Fishman’s long and successful career in banking includes the titles of Chairman of Meridian Capital Group, President of Sovereign Bank and President and Chief Executive Officer of Independence Community Bank. Mr. Fishman is also deeply engaged with the Brooklyn community. He is Chairman of the Board of the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Chairman of the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation, Co-chairman of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership and also serves as the Chairman of the Brooklyn Community Foundation. Mr. Fishman is a product of New York City’s public schools, graduating from Erasmus High School before going on to Brown University and later earning his Master’s Degree in Economics from Columbia University.

Through her work at WABC Saundra Thomas provides a vital link between WABC and the greater New York community, recommending news and programming coverage of important topics as well as helping the station pursue philanthropic endeavors. She told the graduates that they should, “think about, not so much WHAT you want to be, but WHO you want to be and how you will leave this place, Brooklyn, the U.S., the world a better place.” Ms. Thomas who has been particularly generous to St. Francis College students by providing them with numerous mentoring opportunities and internships at WABC through her relationship with the Young Journalists In Training Program continued, “I implore that you be courageous, creative, committed and compassionate and I guarantee the return will be more than you could ever imagine. “

The Commencement Celebration began with a Baccalaureate Mass the day before the ceremony at St. Charles Borromeo Roman Catholic Church. Nearly 500 hundred people filled the pews for the mass, which was celebrated by Auxiliary Bishop and Vicar General of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn Frank J. Caggiano. Brother Dominic Francis served as the master of ceremonies.

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

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