Felician Celebrates 554 Graduates and Honors President Sister Theresa Mary Martin
Felician College’s 48th annual commencement was a bittersweet event. Five hundred and fifty-four seniors – the College’s largest graduating class to date – excitedly anticipated the conferral of their degrees while Sister Theresa Mary Martin serenely waited to preside over her last graduation as President.
The ceremony, held on Sunday, May 20th at the filled-to-capacity John J. Breslin, Jr., Theatre, began with the academic procession led by Mace Bearer David Turi, Ph.D., a member of the College’s Business and Management Sciences Division.
After the Invocation by graduate Ingrid Martin, Board of Trustees Chairperson Sister Mary Aquinas Szott authorized the conferral of honorary degrees.
“As one of the longest reigning presidents in higher education in New Jersey, Sister Theresa has guided Felician College with her innovative vision and steadfast devotion for 28 years,” said Felician’s senior vice president, Charles F. Rooney, Ph.D., who presented Sister Theresa with an honorary degree for her long years of dedicated work on behalf of the College.
Rooney went on to recount that under Sister Theresa’s leadership Felician evolved from a small women's college of four hundred students to a doctoral-granting co-ed institution of 2,400 students, with 53 undergraduate majors, six graduate programs, two campuses and 17 additional teaching locations throughout the state.
The audience, made up of graduates and their families, College Regents and Trustees, alumni, faculty, staff, and members of the Felician order, gave Sister Theresa a long and enthusiastic standing ovation as she received her Doctorate of Humane Letters.
The emotional President then delivered the commencement address. “My dear graduates, the faculty and staff at Felician College are totally consumed with a desire to bring every student to his or her peak potential,” she said. “And, as I look out at you today, I know that your 'peak potential' is really to dazzle the world with goodness, integrity, compassion, competence, and a giant Franciscan heart.”
Sister Theresa went on to remind the graduates that God is always present. “Be not afraid,” she said. “God is always with you. He is an eternal explosion of love that radiates in your heart. Embrace it with gusto. Step forward with radical trust. Lift your head up high and be not afraid.”
Honorary degrees were also presented to Sister Mary Felicia Brodowski, CSSF, President of St. Anthony High School in Jersey City, and Stephen Lo Iacono, City Manager of Hackensack.
“For the last 30 years, Sister Mary Felicia has given her time, her talent, her energy, and her heart to the ministry of secondary education at St. Anthony High School,” said Sister Theresa. “Because of her unyielding faith, St. Anthony has become a national basketball powerhouse and gains college entry to 100 percent of its students.”
Of the second honoree, Sister Theresa said, “Stephen Lo Iacono lives the mission of Felician College.” Lo Iacono was the first recipient of the Felician College President’s Medallion in 1977. “His love for Felician College, the Felician Sisters and the people, places, and causes that define his life has never waned,” said Sister Theresa. “He is a very special human being who has not only earned our respect and admiration, he has captured our hearts and enamored the Heart of God.”
Class of 2012 Valedictorian Edward Bodnar spoke about how Felician teaches the value of service. “It is through service that we develop our values,” said Bodnar, who recently traveled to Nicaragua with a group of Felician College students to help the underprivileged. “We can change the world one person at a time, one community at a time,” he added.
About Sister Theresa Mary Martin
Twenty-eight years ago, when Sister Theresa Mary Martin ascended to the presidency of Felician College, the Lodi-based school had only 450 students—all female. Under Sister Theresa’s innovative vision and steadfast guidance, Felician evolved into a four-year coed institution with more than 2,400 students, offering a wide range of traditional and online undergraduate and graduate programs, including a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DPN) degree. In addition, Felician offers 10 varsity intercollegiate sports that compete at the NCAA Division II level.
The changes and advances under Sister Theresa’s leadership have been numerous. Key among them was the purchase and renovation of a 10.5-acre campus in Rutherford, NJ. The new campus underwent extensive infrastructure upgrades as well as the modernization of the residence halls. In addition, under Sister Theresa’s guidance, Felician undertook the painstaking restoration of historic Iviswold Castle, which is situated on a corner of the tree-lined campus. The Castle will serve as Felician’s campus center as well as house administrative offices.