John J. Brennan
Chairman Emeritus, Vanguard
Ajai Tanea Timmons Class of 2017
Thomas P. Foley, J.D.
President, Mount Aloysius College
May 6th, 2017 â€” Athletic Convocation & Wellness Center
REMARKS OF JOHN J. BRENNAN Chairman Emeritus, Vanguard President Foley, thank you for that generous introduction. Thank you all. Cathy and I are honored to be among the newest members of the Mount Aloysius family. President Foley, faculty, staff, graduates, families, and friends: Joining the Mount Aloysius family is an honor second only to serving as your commencement speaker today. Commencement speeches are a special challenge. They should be inspirational. They should impart sparkling bits of wisdom and gems of truth. They should be original. But, I never forget an important lesson I was once told: “Commencement speakers should think of themselves as the corpse at an oldfashioned Irish wake. They need you in order to have the party, but no one expects you to say very much.” With that humbling thought, I begin.
Graduates—I applaud and admire all of you: for having the courage to tackle difficult academic challenges for having the fortitude to work, perhaps also take care of a family, and go to school and for having the discipline to stick with your studies when the going got tough. Most of all, I commend you for having the vision to recognize that great personal accomplishments like a college degree often require sacrifices. Who you are, what you’ve accomplished already, and what you will do in your wonderfully bright future simply inspires me. The future can be a slippery thing. It holds great promise . . . and potential setbacks and heartache. I did not come here today to tell you how to avoid these things. No one could do that, because these
things are part of life. What I can tell you is that perseverance and humor are key to getting you through the inevitable bad times . . . as well as believing that you have what it takes to make your future a happy, successful one in whatever way you define that. Sometimes the best way to illustrate the point you’re trying to make is with a story, and commencement speakers are expected to tell at least one. So let me do that with a tale of three generations. It is a story of family success by way of the transformative power of education—and a few other things that you can nurture throughout your lives. The tale begins with an immigrant man I knew many years ago. Now, when I knew him, he was already old, and he spoke with the accent of his homeland. He came to America in the usual way of immigrants at the turn of the last century: worldly possessions in a satchel, hope for a better future in his heart. He made the week-long journey across an ocean on an overcrowded ship, knowing that he most likely would never see his family again in this life. When he stepped off the boat as a 20-something in 1913, it was to the shore of a big, industrial Northeastern city that didn’t want him. A lot of “his kind” were already there. Stereotypes abounded, and none of them were good. The young man didn’t have much education, and he didn’t
have a trade. At first glance—and that’s all the city’s elite gave him— prospects for his future weren’t what you’d call bright. But he persevered. The young man got a job as a janitor at a college in the city, living in the basement of one of the dorms and taking care of another social class’s young adults. He was grateful to get the work. After all, he could see the signs in businesses that said his kind need not apply. He was an avid reader with a keen mind, and he read everything he could get his hands on. Now, the young man was also witty and charming and could tell a good story himself. He met a beautiful young woman at a dance. Like him, she’d made the voyage across the ocean, searching for a future that held promise. They dated, and after a while, they were married. After another while, they had two sons. They bought a three-decker— popular housing for working and middle class families in New England at the time—three one-floor apartments stacked one on top of the other. The couple financed it with the rents from tenants. They taught their boys to live frugally. More important, they taught them to have faith in God . . . to work hard . . . keep their word . . . do well in school . . . and stay off the streets. Fast forward several years, and when the time came for the eldest
son to choose either the college or commercial track in junior high, he chose commercial. See, by then, the Great Depression hit the country. He knew there was no money for college, so he signed up for the vocational track. But one of his teachers, Mrs. Hamilton, who saw a diamond in the rough, signed him up for the college track anyway. She told him that if he did well, the money for further education would come. That she cared enough to persuade him and his parents would turn out to be one of the biggest breaks of his—and his entire extended family’s—life. He did indeed go to college, earned a degree. He worked as a gas station attendant, grocery bagger, and janitor
during and after college until an acquaintance got him in the door at a government loan agency. But, when World War II broke out, he put his professional future on hold to serve his country in a tank battalion under General George Patton. He came home from the war with a Bronze Star, and memories of trauma and death. He picked up his life again. Worked hard, stayed optimistic, was a man of his word, a man of character. He married a schoolteacher—a girl he’d known since they were kids, and they had four children. He was doing pretty well, and the hardscrabble days of his childhood seemed far behind him. By the time his children were old enough for summer jobs, he was president of a bank in the city that had given his parents and “their kind” a cold shoulder. And by the way, he didn’t give his
kids summer jobs at the bank. He wanted them to know what hard work was, and the value of a dollar. So his kids cut grass, collected garbage, waited tables, and babysat. The janitor’s son, who became the banker and World War II veteran, lived a good and honest life. He died a few years ago, an old man himself by then. He’d made the transition for his family, in one generation, from working class to professional class, despite stereotypes and tight finances and setbacks, thanks to the transformative power of education and a driving force of will to make a better future for himself and his family. But I told you this was a tale of three generations. So how did his kids do? Well, they all took the lessons of their father and
grandfather (and their mother and grandmothers, who were that classic mix of kind and loving when you did right, and take you apart when you didn’t—many of you probably know what I’m talking about!). They took those lessons to heart, and from what I can tell, they’re building on the legacy that began with their grandfather getting on a ship with a dream of a bigger and brighter future. You might ask, so how do I know all this? You might also be asking, Are these real people, or did you just make them up to get your point across about the power of education? Well, they’re real people. I was blessed to have known the janitor’s son all my life, and the janitor for part of it. The janitor’s son is my father, Frank Brennan, and the love of his life was my mother, Mary. The young immigrants who stepped off the boat from Ireland onto the wharves of an unwelcoming Boston were my grandparents, John and Bridget Brennan. And I was the kid who collected garbage and mowed grass along the Massachusetts Turnpike because his dad wanted him to know the value of hard work and a dollar. So let me distill this story into a handful of life lessons that I learned from these wonderful people while growing up. Don’t worry—they’re brief. My wish is that you can benefit from them as
you head out on a new phase of your life.
exemplifies this lesson better than the love of my life: my wife, Cathy.
2. Be a doer, not a talker.
1. Be a giver, not a taker.
You’re already doers:
Whether it’s volunteering in your community, mentoring young people, coaching youth sports teams, or any of the hundreds of ways to give of your time, talent, and treasure, stewardship is a wonderful theme by which to live your life. You will be paid back many times over in many different currencies, and it will enrich your life as much as you enrich others’ lives. By the way, no one
You’ve grasped the opportunity to accomplish a life goal: earning a degree from Mount Aloysius. Many of you work at least part time while succeeding here. Many of you are blazing new trails for your extended families as the first to earn a college degree. Continuing that “doer” mentality throughout your life is the surest
way to success—however you define it. You want to be one of those people who others KNOW will always be reliable . . . always be action-oriented . . . always deliver more than promised. Talk is cheap. In this age of sharing—perhaps TMI—on social media, of real-time information flow, of fake news, “cheap” may overstate the value of talk. We can all talk a good game, but it’s actions that determine outcomes 3. Be a “we” person, not a “me” person.
One of the best things that’s happened in my career in business is the demise of the egotistical, celebrity-seeking leader who dominates through fear and bluster instead of cultivating the respect of the team. People in my generation realized with time that it was the selfless, not selfish, leader who we wanted to follow. We realized with time, too, that our lives were so much more gratified by working with our colleagues, not competing against them—and that’s the path to your professional success and your personal gratification. The great part is that you don’t, and won’t, have to learn that lesson over decades, like my generation did. One of the best things about people entering—or
reentering—the workforce today is that they WANT to be part of teams, to create collective success. They believe in the greater good element. Always focus on the “we,” and the “me” will take care of itself. 4. Be an optimist, not a pessimist. It’s a fact that over any of our long lives, there will be challenges that at the time seem insurmountable: personal challenges, professional challenges, societal challenges. It’s easy—and understandable—for us to become fixated on problems. But we should always try to keep in mind a famous—even inspirational—quote from Mark Twain, who said: “I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.”
The antidote to worry is captured in a quote that I’ve kept on my own desk for years. It comes from Winston Churchill—a man who was very familiar with challenging times. He said, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” In short, take the glass-is-far-more-than-half-full view of the world. It’s the path to happiness. 5. Live an ethical life. When it comes to your personal integrity, never compromise. You will be tempted, and the easier path out of, or around, a situation may seem like a good idea in the short run, but compromising what you know to be right and true is never a good idea in the long run.
Make your word your bond. Know that in matters of ethics, there are no gray areas. There is only black and white, right or wrong. 6. Finally, be a Tom Foley. That is, follow your passion and your heart to make sure you life’s work makes a difference. Measure your success by the difference you’ve made in people’s lives, not titles, wealth, or fame. I look at what President Foley has done at Mount Aloysius in the seven years that he’s been here, and it is amazing. I remember like it was yesterday when he called me seven years ago to say he was leaving a job he loved to come here. “It’s a higher calling,” was his succinct explanation, and he was right. Your president recognizes the spark of the divine in each person, and he has worked here to build upon the legacy of Mount Aloysius as a place in which to nurture that spark until it burns bright within. The teacher who insisted that my father sign up for the collegiate track in high school is my family’s Tom Foley. May you all be a Tom Foley in others’ lives, too. Conclusion I do not doubt that you have what it takes to build your own legacy, persevere though setbacks, be optimists, and make the world a better place. You have already begun. So, I’ll conclude with a blessing based on the words of Henri-
Frederic Amiel, the 19th-century Swiss poet and philosopher: Life is short, and we do not have much time to gladden the hearts of those who travel with us. So be quick to love. Make haste to be kind. And may the blessing of God Almighty, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit be with you this day and always. Congratulations, graduates! Good luck, and Godspeed.
“Follow your passion and your heart to make sure you life’s work makes a difference. Measure your success by the difference you’ve made in people’s lives, not titles, wealth, or fame.” -John J. Brennan
REMARKS OF MS. AJAI TANEA TIMMONS Graduate of the Class of 2017 Good morning President Foley, faculty, staff, Sisters of Mercy, board of trustees, guests, and class of 2017. To begin, I would like to say two words with so much meaning—Thank you. Thank you for allowing me to stand up here and speak about a place that needs no explanation, to speak on my personal journey, and to speak about hope for the future. My name is Ajai Timmons and I am a student in the Biology Pre-Health program. Five years ago, I started here as a freshman in the MAAPP program run by Mrs. Jenna Weyandt. I was eager and nervous and I just wanted to belong somewhere. I had the chance to move in early,
make new friends, and learn the ins and outs of college before all of the other members of the freshman class moved in. I recall my mother sending me off, and her last words before she left me to begin college were, “Ajai, be yourself. If you have nothing else to offer the world, being exactly who you are is just enough.” Those words still resonate with me today and in that moment put my heart at ease. Five years ago I was unsure of what I wanted to do and started here with an undecided major and one goal in mind — to find myself. Five years later and I’m graduating college with my Bachelors of Science degree. I look
forward to the next four years of my life which will be spent at the American University of Antigua College of Medicine—where I will study to earn my Doctor of Medicine degree. On any other normal day here at the Mount you could usually catch me around campus claiming just about everyone as my “bae of the day” on Snapchat and reciting birthdays any and everywhere because it’s what I do. However, today I have been asked to take a break from my adventures spent with my friends here, and loan you all my heart for the next few minutes.
Today, I sit back and reflect on the liberal arts education that I have been given. I remember the many looks of eagerness given by the professors of this College so excited to instill in us the education that will give us the power to change the world someday. More importantly, I stand here extremely grateful, knowing that many countries like Guyana, in South America do not have the resources to provide the residents with a basic education, while I watch so many people take their education for granted. That does not happen here at Mount Aloysius College. I was born and raised in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Billy Joel once wrote a song about Allentown, maybe you’ve heard it. Anyway, I do not come from much of anything. We lived off of welfare, housing assistance, and food stamps my entire life. My father passed away when I was four years old, leaving my mother to do her best, sometimes working two or three jobs at a time to provide me with a roof over my head, and clothes on my back. I would sometimes go to sleep without eating, and I was taught the value of a dollar at a young age. I grew up watching crimes being committed sometimes right in front of me. And if not in front of me, I would watch the news before bed and see which one of my neighbors or friends would land themselves into trouble next. I am the first in my family to attend college right out of high school and graduate. And while I am not
ashamed of where I come from, it has always been my mission to grow up, get out of Allentown, and do better. I can still hear Elaine Grant at my Freshman Orientation and again at the club fair encouraging everyone to “get involved.” From that hot September day, I took “getting involved” to heart and put a genuine effort into everything that I did here. Speaking of getting involved, what does it really mean anyway? Well for many of you it meant volunteering countless hours at VITA to help students and the community prepare their taxes each year. It meant volunteering your time with me on the National Society of Leadership and Success, and with the men’s soccer team to clean up a rundown park in Johnstown last April. It meant holding blood drives held by the Medical Assistant majors to give back to those in need. And finally, it meant putting your passion into action by starting your own “Survivor” MAC Edition event on campus. I am sure we all can remember things like the Orientation trip to Pittsburgh during your freshman year, the hour plus long wait in McDonalds in Monroeville as the orientations leaders yelled to “make a hole.” We remember things like Wing Wednesdays in the Cafeteria, and the tragedy of the Mac Shack closing early on Friday afternoons. We can recall wishing that Mount Aloysius had
a football team, and knowing that if it did we would be in first-place for collegiate pride. I can recall sitting in Dr. O’Connor’s organic chemistry class wondering why I never got the memo to purchase a Rosetta Stone to translate the organic reactions that we were required to learn. A year later, after completing two more semesters to fill the pre-health requirement, I still could not tell you what a Friedal Crafts Alkylation is. Sorry to disappoint you, Penny. Two summers ago in July, I volunteered for the open house hosted by The Admissions Department. The open house took place on a Friday, but because of the distance between my house on the other side of the state and the Mount, I left Thursday morning to ensure that I would be here a day in advance. On my way here I had spoken to my mother who was to leave the hospital that day to be placed in hospice care. The doctors gave her two to three months. At the time I toyed with whether or not I should even go. I wanted to stay home to support my mom, and it seemed that the Mount had enough help anyway. However, my mom would not allow me to miss something I gave my word to do and insisted that I go. She knew how much I wanted to help. I already took off work, and it would only be one day. Little did I know that “one day” was a day that I will never forget.
I woke up to 63 missed calls from my family, and I knew immediately what had happened without speaking to anyone. My heart was heavy and my face grew pale. In the famous words of Mat Kearney, “I didn’t believe it could happen to me, but I guess we’re all one phone call from our knees.” I went through with the open house anyway, and avoided crying because I knew there would be plenty of that when I reached home. In that moment, I was not upset, I had no anger in my heart. But pople often ask me where I was the moment I found out my mom passed. The answer comes naturally these days—I was here at Mount Aloysius College, at home surrounded by a group of people who loved, and supported me during the roughest time of my life. This school showed me how to mourn in a way that was healthy and in a way that would not allow me to lose focus on the goals I set. This class is made up of the most hospitable people I have ever met in my life, and I have been blessed enough to experience them firsthand. After my mom’s death, I questioned whether I even wanted to continue school. I now needed to find somewhere to live and a solid job to support myself and to pay the bills that my mother once took care of. I questioned my entire existence. I had every reason to give up, end up in jail for drug use or theft, and slowly become a product of the streets. My faith was shaken, and I wanted
to give up everything I had been working toward. Without my mother here, it seemed impossible for me to ever be happy again. I slowly realized that you don’t give up on things you love. The Mount didn’t give up on me—even after I transferred for a semester—and as a result I was not going to give up on it. I often think of life like a game of cards. It is not about the cards that you are dealt but how well you play your hand. As I look out into the crowd, while I do not see my mother exactly, I do see a little bit of her in each of my classmates. When I needed a hug for encouragement on some of the toughest days, it was given to me by Taylor Dendas. When I needed a study buddy to get through the hardest classes in my undergraduate career, my support system and study buddy was Brandon Rauhauser. When I needed to remember how breathtakingly beautiful this campus is and I needed someone to make me look decent in pictures, Ashley Heuston made that possible. When I needed a reality check and a good laugh it was Christopher Nolan who helped me. Lastly, when I needed a reminder that I was beautifully made, and how much I am worth. That reminder was given to me by Zara Apakoh. Class of 2017, you have exceeded my expectations. Whether you realize it or not persevering only takes one voice. For me, that voice was my mother. I hope that you all have had that moment, that voice, that encounter — that moment you
realize that you can be whatever you want. If you have not realized your worth or your potential then where have you gone to school the last four years? This school never lost faith in me, even when I lost faith in myself, and for that I am forever indebted to Mount Aloysius College. I commend each one of you for being resilient and for not letting any challenge stop you from getting to this point today. When I tell you that Mount Aloysius College has been my saving grace, let me put something into perspective — I know that my story would have a different ending if I had not continued as a student here. I don’t think there is anything I can tell you that you haven’t heard before. But perhaps through sharing my experience, I can show you why even when you are having a bad day with all odds and everyone against you, when life is testing you, and when everything is making you question your abilities; you have a purpose in this world. Because someone out there needs you to be the best businessman, police officer, nurse, researcher, or teacher that you can be. I may not have started in 2013 with all of you, but I am happy to be graduating with such a beautiful class! Class of 2017, It has certainly been a long ride, one that has not always been the easiest for any of us, but you took the challenge and it was worth it. Everyone has a story—their own battles and demons that they are facing every day. But
one thing I have noticed, is that it is nearly impossible to be upset on this campus for more than a few minutes without finding something that makes you realize how lucky you are to be here, or a friend who makes you count your blessings twice. I know some of the moments on this campus that make me count my blessings twice. Some of those blessings are the sunset over the athletic fields during autumn, the belltowers chime every hour playing a different tune, the pickup frisbee and volleyball games during springtime, and of course the campus-wide barbeques under the Ihmsen breezeway. I am eternally grateful to have something that makes saying farewell so hard. American country singer Sara Evans said something that sticks with me every day. I use her words now for my wishes to you all — “May your tears come from laughing ... You find friends worth having ... As every year passes they mean more than gold ... May you win and stay humble ... Smile more than grumble ... And know when you stumble ... You’re never alone. Keep in mind that ... Wherever you fly... This isn’t goodbye.” There are hardly any words to express my gratitude. Thank you all and congratulations!
KAREN SCHNEIDER RSM, MD
Honorary Doctorate of Social Justice
Each year at Commencement, Mount Aloysius College seeks to mark the occasion of college completion by honoring exceptional individuals who have made enduring contributions to the world, either through their focus on their own neighborhood, their region, or internationally. Mount Aloysius is one of 16 colleges and universities in the United States which carries forward the charism of the Religious Sisters of Mercy, and so we strive to shine our light as a learning community on people who reflect that light and the legacy of the foundress of the Mercy Sisters—Mother Catherine McAuley. This year, we honor you, Sister Doctor Karen Schneider of the Religious Sisters of Mercy. Sister Karen you are a rare person whose discernment into life drew them closer to service to God through ever more intense service to those among us most in need of care. Sister Karen Schneider you are a pediatrician working in the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center in Baltimore, Maryland. Called to the Mercy Sisterhood in your teens, your original path was more traditional and certainly would have granted you a simpler life. Born and raised in Long Island, New York, you were called to the Sisters of Mercy and earned your Bachelor of Science degree in secondary mathematics education from Molloy College. After several years teaching high school, you answered a deeper desire to serve children at a much more intense level. Doctor Karen you received your Doctor of Medicine degree from the State University of New York, Brooklyn in 1996, and followed that with a residency at Yale Children’s Hospital, and then a Fellowship in Pediatric Emergency Medicine at Johns Hopkins. In 2008, Dr. Schneider, you received a Master in Public Health degree from Johns Hopkins University with a concentration in international health. Your immersion into medical service at the international level was a true baptism by fire. As a medical student, you found yourself single-handedly managing a malaria epidemic in a remote village in Guyana. You succeeded through applied common sense, hard work and innovation in dire circumstances. Your take away was the observation that even very small interventions—things we take for granted like clean water, hygiene, and basic health education—can mean the difference between long life or impending death. You made caring for people your avocation, caring for people in some of the most desperate corners of the earth. Your voice is unique and your dramatic multi-continental journeys continue to inspire us. Dr. Schneider you created and continue to direct the Johns Hopkins University’s Pediatric Tropical Medicine Elective. Each year you organize four-week clinical experiences, serving some of the poorest populations on earth. You have served families and your students in the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Guyana, Kenya, and Nigeria. Traveling with a team of residents, nurses, surgeons, physicians, and medical specialists; you manage to provide pediatric care, health education, and much needed medical supplies. Sister Doctor Karen you make it your mission to support these incursions of medical mercy by raising friends and raising funds. You have nurtured gifts of well over $500,000 to support the establishment of laboratories and clinics in these developing countries. And you have extended your clinical service to people in Belize, Guatemala, Kosovo, Peru, South Korea, and Uganda. You continue your mission, working with Doctors Without Borders, and have established your own initiative which you aptly named the Mercy Medical Mission. Through your Mercy Medical Mission, you build 10 weeks of travel into your year, and actively recruit resident physicians to bind the wounds, heal the hearts and comfort those who can be healed no longer. Sister, Doctor Karen, in the past three years you have become more acquainted with students from Mount Aloysius College at Mercy International Headquarters, Dublin, Ireland, and on mission trips to Guyana taken during our students’ semester breaks. The Mount Aloysius College community had the privilege to hear you, Sr. Karen, when you offered the College’s Spring 2016 Moral Choices lecture. Everyone in attendance was awed by your intensity, and drawn closer to you by your accepting and open humanity. Your creativity, intelligence and willingness to share your gifts inspired so many of our students that day to this. Sr. Karen, we thank you for devoting your life to the intertwined and inseparable causes of mission and medicine. You are a beacon shining in dark places. Anyone with whom you share your days will feel your warmth on their face. We are privileged to recognize you today and feel truly honored to be a part of the Mercy community you reflect and whom you represent with such authenticity. Karen Schneider RSM, MD, a Mercy nun for more than 30 years, a practicing physician for more than two decades, emergencyroom pediatrician, medical teacher, and international giver of care—NOW, THEREFORE, WE at Mount Aloysius College, this Sixth Day of May, Two Thousand and Seventeen confer upon you the Degree of Social Justice Honoris Causa.
JOHN J. AND CATHARINE BRENNAN
Honorary Doctorate of Social Justice
At Mount Aloysius College, we have a Commencement Tradition of honoring a couple whose life together exemplifies our core values of Mercy, Justice, Service and Hospitality. John (Jack) and Catharine (Cathy) Brennan, it is our profound good fortune to find in your work together a powerful illustration of all that we celebrate today. Your life together is bountiful, filled with examples of using your talents to advance the common good. Jack and Cathy, you are givers, sharers, lovers of life and each other.Within the worlds of business and education you have reached out with your talents and resources and used your voices to help, to advise, to protect and to teach the most vulnerable among us. Jack Brennan, you grew up playing hockey on the street in Winchester, Massachusetts, and in college at Dartmouth before earning an M.B.A.from Harvard.Your rise in the world of Finance was meteoric, and you were President of the $4 trillion investment giant Vanguard before you were forty years old.You made your mark in places like The Wall Street Journal not because of Vanguard’s unprecedented growth but because you were the champion of vigilance on behalf of small investors, the people who trusted you with their life savings and meager retirement funds. Recognizing the broad-tyranny of short-term thinking in general, you argued that “Company managements should be more open in discussing their long-term business plans with shareholders.” The gospel you preached was that strategizing for the long-term netted better decisions—for the big corporation and the small investor alike.That’s good advice for College Presidents and Trustees too. Throughout your career, inspiring adjectives surface again and again when others—including business rivals—describe you, Trust, Integrity, Fairness, Vision, Transparency, Leadership, Experience, Respect, Advocate for the Individual and Educator highlight the list.You stand up and speak out for ethics in business and in life. When you were asked to serve on the General Electric Board, GE Chair and CEO Jeff Immelt said, “Jack Brennan knows what shareholders care about and what good governance looks like...” Just last July, The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), the largest independent regulator for securities firms, selected you as its Chair.Their mission is to protect the small investor by enforcing market integrity.Marking your ascension to that position, the outgoing Chair said that: “Jack [Brennan] has been a tireless advocate for individual investors and liquid, fair markets.” And when you were named Chairman of the University of Notre Dame, President Rev.John I.Jenkins, C.S.C.said this: “[Jack Brennan is] one of the nation’s most respected and trusted business leaders, [his] advice is sought by everyone from heads of state to financial regulators.” Catharine (Cathy) Brennan, you have been a trailblazer for women and for equal opportunity in education from the start.You were a member of the very first class of women to graduate from Dartmouth and one of the first with a Master’s in Education from Harvard.Cathy, you have devoted your professional life to helping students make sound decisions about education.You founded and led numerous non-profits dedicated to children and to education and serve today as founder and head of a national model college mentoring program and as trustee and chair of the Academic and Student Life Committee at Cristo Rey High School in Boston.With Jack, you have served in leadership positions at the United Way (locally and nationally), with multiple organizations devoted to pre-school education and with non-profits that make college a reality for first generation students. Cathy, your lifetime of experience in the trenches of secondary and higher education, beginning with your very first job at a Mercy high school in Philadelphia, showed you, first-hand, the difficulties that first generation students and families face when making decisions about college. You, Cathy, understand that transitioning from high school to college is always tough, but for first generation students it can seem an impossible dream.You understood these obstacles—many do—but your unique passion and drive made you an engine that drove solutions.The lesson that you teach each day is that giving students advice, support, and friendship translates into higher retention and graduation rates, more fulfilling lives and a greater sense of community.Cathy, those are precisely the lessons we try to model and teach everyday here at Mount Aloysius College. Jack and Cathy Brennan, your passion for creating opportunity through education is one of many gifts that you two share with your generous hearts and enterprising spirits.And your three children—Will, Kara and Conor—all active in your model mentoring program, are the best examples of the success of your partnership. Cathy and Jack Brennan, we mark with great admiration the success that surrounds you.We applaud and offer a full-throated Fighting Irish cheer--from this Mercy institution founded by a band of Irish-born Sisters in 1853.And we thank you for your consistent expression of the very best in human nature.NOW THEREFORE, WE of Mount Aloysius College, Cresson, Pennsylvania, this Sixth Day of May, Two Thousand and Seventeen confer upon you the Degree of Social Justice Honoris Causa.
It has been an absolute pleasure to watch you “emerge” these last few years. Absolute pleasure—and an honor—for Michele and for me. We feel fortunate to share this transformative space that we call college—and to share it with all of you, so thank you for that pleasure and that honor.
FAREWELL REMARKS THOMAS P. FOLEY, J.D. President, Mount Aloysius College
Well, “almost”-graduates—this is it. This is the last time you have to listen to a lecture from me—literally, this is the last lecture!! Yep, it’s okay to clap at that thought!! And this will be the last time I have the chance to share some thoughts, some sentiments, maybe some humor with you. Michele and I want to thank you for all the previous occasions that we have shared, one on one with so many of you, and in large groups like this. I have learned a great deal from you, and I hope you learned at least a little something from me, and I thank you.
In this “send-off ” lecture, please allow me to share three sentiments that I have learned to be true over the years. It took me about fifty years to come to these three conclusions, and I want to share them with you as my last words today, as a personal gift to each one of you. ----------------------------------The first thing that I know for sure is true is this—the happiest people in the world don’t necessarily have the best of everything, they just make the best of everything. My father worked in an electronics factory his whole life, never made a big salary, never had a big job title. My mother, the only child of depression-fatigued parents, gave birth to and raised 12 children, never complained about the dozens of carpool assignments every week, never forgot to leave some dinner in the oven for the ones who got home late from practice.
good cause in our small town, and my mother fed anybody we dragged through the kitchen door with us. They were family people first and community people right after. When my father died, it was the biggest funeral that town ever saw—2,500 people came—and every single one of them had a story. My parents didn’t have the best of everything, but they sure made the best of everything—and that’s the best advice I can give you today. Make the best of what you have. Better yet, share some of it— on a team, in a family, with your community. That will make all the difference. So, the first thing I know is true— the happiest people in the world don’t necessarily have the best of everything, but they sure know how to make the best of what they have. --------------------------------------Second thing I have learned to be true. Kindness is the universal language. Even in those rare instances when people don’t respond to that “language,” it will at least be clear that it is their problem, not yours.
Now I want to be clear that kindness is not just about being “nice,” it’s about recognizing The two of them worked the busiest another human being who deserves booth at our church carnival every respect. year, joined the mother’s and father’s club at each of our schools. One of our greatest Generals, Colin Powell, says that “being kind My father coached every team at doesn’t mean being soft.” He tells our little grade school, he worked the story of “young soldiers who each chicken barbecue for every
go to basic training and meet their worst nightmare—their drill sergeant. They are terrified of him (or her) when they first get there. The sergeant is with them every step of the way, teaching, cajoling, enforcing, bringing out the strength and confidence they didn’t know they had. When they graduate, they leave with an emotional bond they will never forget.”
Third and finally. It is essential that every now and then you take a long look at something not made by a machine—a mountain, a star, the bend in a stream, a child’s face.
Powell says that if you ask those same soldiers forty years later the name of their drill sergeant, they will know it.
Hope some of this makes sense to you. You know what I am saying—just don’t ever forget to enjoy the little things—
So, I’m not saying that facts and figures don’t matter—they do, especially on MCATs, LSATs, GMATs and final exams. But they are not all that matters. And I am not saying that kindness is just some coefficient of “nice-ness.” Kindness is about recognizing the essential dignity in another person and maybe sometimes bringing out the best in them. I am talking about recognizing the “other” in our society and perhaps making room for them in our world—the Mercy definition of hospitality. Don’t forget the old saying that “to the world, you may be one person, but to one person, sometimes you just might be the whole world.” So, second thing I know to be true, kindness is truly the universal language. ---------------------------------------
You will learn patience in those moments. You will know that you are not alone in those moments. And you might even conjure up a bit of wisdom in those moments.
• your favorite CD (or App!!) • a childhood swing set • the best pulled pork sandwich ever • a ball game—any kind of ball game--under the lights • driving in your parents car to visit your grandparents (or your favorite uncle or aunt) • throwing out the fishing line with your pals • sitting alongside your best friend • whatever you say they are— -------------------------------------Just don’t ever forget to enjoy the little things; someday you will look back and realize they were the big things. Congratulations—you are almost at the finish line.
Mount Aloysius College — Since 1853 Founded in 1853 by Sisters of Mercy from Dublin, Ireland, Mount Aloysius College is an accredited, comprehensive, degree-granting institution offering Associate, Baccalaureate, and select Graduate Programs where women and men of diverse cultural, educational, and religious backgrounds optimize their aptitudes and acquire skills for meaningful careers. Mount Aloysius graduates are job ready, technology ready, and community ready.
Mount Aloysius College is located on a beautiful 193-acre campus in Cresson, nestled in the scenic Southern Allegheny Mountains of west-central Pennsylvania. Convenient and accessible from U.S. Route 22; the College’s setting is rural but within easy access from State College, Altoona, Johnstown and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Mount Aloysius has earned accolades as a Best Value College, a College of Distinction, a Catholic College of Distinction, and a Military Friendly Institution. The College’s Nursing Division is ranked sixth among Pennsylvania’s largest and most prestigious nursing programs. The College is accredited by Middle States Commission on Higher Education, the Conference for Mercy Higher Education, and by 12 separate profession-specific accreditation bodies.
We cherish and revere the charism and example of the Sisters of Mercy, our founders and inspiration. We make concrete the Mercy Values — mercy in all relationships among students, faculty, staff, and administration, justice in all our endeavors, with hospitality and service to all at Mount Aloysius and in the larger community in which we live. In pursuit of these values, our faculty and staff personally engage, care for, and mentor each student. In practice as well as in word, we help all our students — including those facing significant challenges — to pursue their objectives.
surmount economic and educational hurdles that inhibit their aspirations for productive and fulfilling professions. To this end, we recognize that responsibility is shared across the Mount Aloysius community. Our faculty acknowledge and promote the truth that learning for career and for life takes place both in and outside classroom settings. Our staff give daily support to students, enhancing the process that brings them to their graduation day. We require service of our students so that they will recognize that educational attainment and self-giving are inseparable components of the good life. We rejoice in the assistance and loyalty of trustees, alumni, and the larger community who contribute in multiple ways to our mission, modeling the conviction that fulfillment ensues as a result of generous living.
We affirm and embrace the Catholic heritage of higher education, seeking knowledge, and communicating truth from its manifold sources, and welcome people of all faiths. (60% of the student body comes from other traditions.)
Liberal Arts Tradition We challenge and empower students in all programs to attain the goals of a liberal arts education — character development, critical thinking, communication skills, a passion for continual learning — and to become responsible, contributing citizens.
Mount Aloysius Tradition We honor and sustain the Mount Aloysius legacy of being an “engine of opportunity” for all students, helping them
Commencement Monograph 2017