St. Michael’s College graduation
Students in the St. Michael’s College Class of 2023 spent most of their college years dealing with the unprecedented global Covid-19 pandemic, but on May 14 they celebrated coming out on the other side more resilient and ready to take on challenges in the real world.
Approximately 320 students received bachelor’s degrees and 40 received master’s degrees during the college’s 116th commencement ceremony in the College’s Ross Sports Center. The undergraduates in the Class of 2023 represented 20 states and 10 countries, and the graduate students represented 10 states and seven countries. Four students in the undergraduate class
had 4.0 cumulative grade-point averages.
Jay Bellissimo ’87, the chief operating officer at Vonage, delivered the commencement address offering three pieces of advice: Have “fire in the belly,” don’t be afraid to fail and learn from those failures, and lean into faith. Bellissimo currently serves on the College’s Board of Trustees and received an honorary degree during the ceremony.
“Whatever your North Star is, just remember – this is your time, this is your narrative, this is your opportunity to be who you want to be and to make your mark in life,” he told the graduates. “There are no limits. Just have a purpose, be curious, and explore as you experience life to the fullest and try to enrich the lives of those around you.”
The Sunday ceremony also marked SMV President Lorraine Sterritt’s final commencement before retiring at the end of June. She expressed her confidence that the graduates in the Class of 2023 have all the skills they need to solve the world’s biggest problems.
“You are a remarkable and resilient class,” he said. “You have persevered through many challenges: those you expected to face and many that were unexpected for all of us. You will be able to tell your children and your grandchildren about how you attended college during a pandemic and how you kept going through thick and thin. We are immensely proud of you and all that you achieved.”
Several students also addressed the graduates.
Oumar Moussa Djigo of Dakar, Senegal, delivered the Graduate Address and encouraged fellow graduates to face their fears, explore the unknown and do things that might make them uncomfortable. “The best way to embrace the future is to aim high, and let the sky be your limit,” Djigo said. “There will always be highs and lows, ebbs, and flows, winters and falls, but remember to turn every difficulty into an opportunity to grow by asking for help, making connections, learning from more experienced people, and tapping into your potential.”
Katherine J. Escobedo, of New Rochelle, New York, delivered the undergraduate Senior Address, expressing her love for the St. Michael’s community and why she hopes her classmates will bring some of the caring and kindness they found on campus out into the world.
“I think we can recognize that we are our own little world here,” Escobedo said. “But I beg you, bring our world out there. Say thank you to bus drivers, donate one dollar for a bracelet, hold the door even though someone is far away. Create new communities, continue to stand up for what you believe in. Remember to be grateful, for the big and the small. I implore you to remember this St. Mike’s experience and keep living, keep learning, keep exploring, and always do well and do good in the world.”
Escobedo received the Katherine Fairbanks Memorial Award, and Jeson Li of Bennington received the Father Prevel Memorial Award. The two awards, which are announced annually at the commencement ceremony, go to students “who demonstrate commitment and achievement related to the intellectual, spiritual, moral and social values of St. Michael’s College.”
Michael McGrath, the co-founder of the PRTM management consulting firm and a former member of the College’s Board of Trustees, also received an honorary degree.
More information about St. Michael’s 116th commencement can be found at smcvt.edu.