Fisher Celebrates Class of 2017 at 63rd Commencement
More than 1,100 undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral students graduated from St. John Fisher College during its 63rd Commencement, held on Saturday, May 13, at the Blue Cross Arena.
Colleen Wegman, president and chief executive officer of Wegmans Food Markets, Inc., delivered the Commencement keynote address. The College also bestowed an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Humane Letters upon Wegman at the ceremony.
During her address, Wegman shared with the graduates lessons learned from her family and the Wegmans company.
“Helping others has become both our family mission and our company mission,” she said. “My hope every day is that we’re making a difference by helping others, and I know this ideal is not foreign to any of you.”
She also told graduates to follow their hearts and always do what’s right.
“If you can, do what you love - it will always bring out the best in you,” she added. “If you pursue being great at something you love, you have the best chance for happiness, and therefore success.”
At the morning's ceremony, James Rustowicz, president of the Class of 2017, offered remarks on behalf of undergraduates.
“College was more than just what we learned in the classroom. College allowed each of us to find ourselves and develop into the people who we are today,” Rustowicz said, before challenging his fellow classmates to chase their dreams. “We became leaders, developed a passion and found a purpose, all while experiencing the highs and the lows along the way. It was a process, but we made it through.”
He encouraged his fellow graduates to live the values espoused in the Fisher Creed as they embark on the next chapter of their lives.
“We need to carry these values and aspirations with us in everything that we do,” he said. “Make everyday matter. Be the person to make a difference.”
Rasheda Valleriani, who graduated with a master’s in educational leadership, delivered remarks on behalf of master’s and doctoral students.
“Today as graduates, we celebrate a portion of our educational journey together. In reflection, consider the multitude of skills you have developed to overcome the challenges you encountered along the way, and find solace in the fact that you will continue to hone those skills as you move forward,” she said.
The ceremony also featured award presentations to students, faculty, and community members.
Graduating senior Nicholas Camardo, a media and communication major, was the recipient of the Distinguished Scholar Award, which is given to the graduating senior with the highest cumulative GPA based on at least 100 credit hours. Over his four years at Fisher, Camardo achieved a 4.0 GPA. Four others – Sarah Gray, Mary Pelkowski, Lisa Pilato, and Kelli Van Ornam – received the Ranking Scholar Award having each earned the highest cumulative GPA regardless of the number of graded credits earned at Fisher.
President Gerard J. Rooney presented the President’s Medal for Service to St. John Fisher College to Mary Wilson, wife of the late Ralph C. Wilson, Jr., honoring her decades-long philanthropic efforts at the College.
A native of Texas, Wilson holds a degree in physical education from Trinity University in San Antonio and had a successful career as a tennis coach in Corpus Christi, Texas.
Upon moving to Western New York, she became an ardent advocate of the Buffalo area. Over the last decade, she developed the Western New York Girls in Sports program, which biannually brings over 200 9 to 12-year-old girls together to participate in various sports taught by young athletes from local universities and sports clubs.
In addition to their dedication to the Buffalo area, the Wilson family has been generous supporters of the College. They made substantial gifts to the College’s Take Stock in Fisher Campaign in 2001 and the Capital Campaign Academic Building Extension Fund in 2002, which led to the creation of the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. School of Education. In 2011, another pledge - designated to the Vision 2020 Capital Campaign - resulted in the renaming of the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Athletic Center. The Wilsons have also pledged academic support, in the form of a gift to the First Generation Scholarship Program, in memory of the former College President Katherine Keough.
Of all the support they have given to the College, moving the Buffalo Bills Summer Training Camp to the College in 2001 has been one of the more monumental and impactful gifts. In 2017, the partnership will be in its 18th year.
Rooney gave the President’s Medal for Service to the Basilian Missions to Fr. Thomas Dugan, C.S.B., in recognition of the 50 years he dedicated to parishes in Mexico.
Born in Rochester in 1929, Fr. Dugan is a graduate of the Aquinas Institute, and earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of St. Michael’s College in Toronto. He studied theology at St. Basil’s Seminary, also located in Toronto, and was ordained in 1960.
Fr. Dugan’s 50 years with the Basilian Fathers’ missions—they have foreign missions in Mexico and Colombia—began in 1961 with his appointment to the Basilian Mission Center in Wharton, Texas. In 1965, he was sent to the Mexican missions at the parish of San Juan Crisóstomo in the pueblo of San Juan de Aragón, Mexico City. There, he discovered his charism was for home visitations of the sick and work in the hospitals.
While abroad, he worked with Fr. Max Murphy, C.S.B., Fr. Frank Launtrie, C.S.B., and the Catechetical Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, to deliver a program to prepare parents and children for a life of faith.
Three faculty members were honored with prestigious awards from the College, as well.
Dr. Vivek Dave, assistant professor in the Wegmans School of Pharmacy, and Dr. Mark Rice, professor and chair of American studies, received the Trustees’ Award for Distinguished Scholarly Achievement. This award is the highest honor that the Board of Trustees can bestow on a faculty member, second only to an honorary degree. It is given to full-time faculty members in recognition of outstanding scholarly work, ranging from writing books and articles, to presenting papers at professional conferences.
Before coming to Fisher, Dave served as a junior research fellow at Agharkar Research Institute in Pune, India, and was involved in a project related to the development and evaluation of anti-arthritis formulations. Later he worked with Lupin Pharmaceutical Pvt. Ltd. as a research associate. In 2009, he accepted a position at Lubrizol Corporation, a specialty chemical company manufacturing pharmaceutical excipients.
At the Wegmans School of Pharmacy, Dave is the course coordinator and co-teaches Pharmaceutics-I. He also co-teaches Applied Pharmaceutics-II. He serves on the editorial advisory board of the Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, American Pharmaceutical Review, and Journal of Excipients and Food Chemicals. He also serves as an expert on the Excipient Monograph Committee of the United States Pharmacopeia. Dave is an invited peer reviewer for several scientific journals and is a member of the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists, American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, and Compaction Simulation Forum.
Over the years, he has been the recipient of several awards and recognitions including Rho-Chi Honor Society membership, Graduate Student of the Month, Best Poster Presentation, Teacher of the Year (2013), and multiple travel awards.
Rice began teaching part-time at Fisher in 1998 and was hired full-time in 2000. An innovative educator, he champions American studies at Fisher and in 2000, led the creation of the Department of American Studies which he has chaired continuously since.
In 2007, he was a Fulbright Senior Scholar to Vietnam where he helped establish an American Studies curriculum at Can Tho University. In 2016, Rice was nominated for the College’s Teaching Award.
His main research area is the public role of photography in American society. His first book, Through the Lens of the City: NEA Photography Surveys of the 1970s, was published in 2005 and his second book, Dean Worcester’s Fantasy Islands: Photography, Film, and the Colonial Philippines, was published in 2014. It has received wide-acclaim, and was the recipient of the Gintong Aklat Golden Book Award in the Philippines in Social Sciences in 2016. In addition, it was a finalist for the Philippine Book Award in History.
This is the second time Rice has been recognized for his academic accomplishments. In 2008, he was also awarded the Trustees Award for Distinguished Scholarly Achievement.
The 2017 Award for Teaching Excellence was given to Dr. Natalie Masco, assistant professor and family nurse practitioner track coordinator at the Wegmans School of Nursing. Chosen by students, the award is given annually to a full-time faculty member for outstanding work in the classroom. Award recipients must demonstrate thorough knowledge of their subject matter, solid preparation for class, clear and effective communication, and genuine enthusiasm for their job.
In bestowing the award upon Masco, Dr. Kevin Railey, the College’s provost, read from several student nominations, which detailed her commitment to her students and her engaging teaching methods.
“Dr. Masco challenges students to think outside of the box and to step outside of our comfort zone. She gives us the tools needed to succeed and is supportive in the process,” Railey read.
Students also praised her ability to teach difficult subjects and explain complex topics while fostering the skills they need to be successful nurses.
“Dr. Masco has provided a platform for me to excel throughout my undergraduate and graduate education. She has provided not only the educational support necessary to survive in the rigorous program that is nursing, but the compassion and empathy I needed to believe in my own ability as a student,” one student wrote. “She is a major asset, and will absolutely touch the lives of many more students to come.”
In closing out the ceremony, Rooney offered parting advice to the Class of 2017.
“Always remember the lessons you learned at Fisher. You will face challenges and triumphs in life, joys and sorrow, but if you continue to put into practice the goodness, discipline, and knowledge you are taking with you as you leave our great institution, you will be able to confront the difficult times and to enjoy the successes,” he said.