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Photos by Marina Maret and Samantha Rivera

Commencement Speaker, a 9/11 Survivor, Says Teaching Is Her Way of Fighting Terrorism

Caldwell, N.J.—May 11, 2013—Denise Kerth and Eric Rozenblat made history at Caldwell University’s 71st commencement on May 11 when they were awarded the first Ph.D.s in the college’s history.

President Nancy H. Blattner presented Rozenblat, of Oakland, N.J., and Kerth, of Collingswood, N.J., with doctoral degrees in applied behavior analysis (ABA).  Caldwell is a leader in autism education, developing the first master’s and first Ph.D. programs in ABA in New Jersey.

More than 450 other graduates received degrees. Dr. Blattner presented undergraduates with their Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees, the graduate students with their Master of Arts or Master of Business Administration degrees.

Gulay Maffia, of Vernon, N.J., who received her master’s degree in special education learning disabilities teacher consultant, was one of two students to give commencement speeches.  She shared her story of surviving the 9/11 attacks while working in New York and how that horror caused her to rethink her life’s direction.  “I felt that I had to do something better with my life for me, but also for those who perished,” she said. Her parents were teachers and she knew “how they brought about change and made many people’s lives better as a result of their dedication.”   She decided to pursue teaching, and today she teaches children with special needs.

“Teaching is my way of fighting terrorism,” she said.

Maffia urged graduates to “Believe that the difficulties you may face along the way will only bring you great strength” and to “go out and find those who need your help and, along the way, carry peace in your heart and share it with everyone you come into contact with.”

Chelsea Loscalzo, of Bayside, N.Y., delivered the undergraduate commencement remarks. She received a bachelor’s degree in marketing.  She reminded her classmates that the professors at Caldwell were a big part of their success and said that students could be assured that “what we’ve learned here has given us the right tools to move on to this next step of the journey.”

Caldwell University presented a Bachelor of Arts in Social Studies and Social Studies Education honoris causa to the late Mitcha Desilmar and a Master of Arts in Counseling honoris causa to the late Dianne J. Colburn.

Dr. Blattner told members of the class of 2013 that she had a special affinity for them since she joined the Caldwell community the same year they did. “Together we walked around campus, becoming familiar with the community that would soon become our second family,” she said.  “Together we experienced the richness of the mission of the Sisters of St. Dominic and of Caldwell University as we spent time in study, prayer, community and service. Together we have grown as individuals, developed new skills and expertise and served this place we have grown to love so much.”

“You, the class of 2013, are the class of my heart,” Dr. Blattner said.

Caldwell University was the first in the state to develop a master’s degree and a Ph.D. degree specifically in applied behavior analysis, a scientific approach to learning highly effective in treating children on the autism spectrum. The college’s Center for Autism and Applied Behavior Analysis provides clinical training to undergraduate and graduate students.

Caldwell University has announced that it is pursuing university status.