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Graduation 2023 - Newman Center packed
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CBS2’s John Elliott receives honorary degree and encourages graduates to refine the habits that helped them succeed

Caldwell, N.J – Caldwell University celebrated the achievements of the Class of 2023 at the 81st annual commencement on May 21. 

Board of Trustee members, Sisters of Saint Dominic, faculty, staff, family, friends, and community members gathered in the George R. Newman Center on campus to recognize the nearly 440 students receiving bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degrees. 

President Matthew Whelan, Ed.D. congratulated the students and the family members and friends who guided them.  He encouraged the graduates to seek personal and vocational fulfillment.  “Do not be defined by what you do. Instead, be defined by who you are. Don’t just have a job. Have a vocation, a craft, a calling.”

He advised the graduates to “set personal and professional goals that will make you and your families and your friends proud of your life’s contributions because your contributions will improve the lives of other people.” Dr. Whelan said it was now clear “that the pandemic did not stop any of you from persisting in the pursuit of earning your Caldwell diploma. And now I can say with confidence that you are stronger and more resilient for having experienced this historic challenge.” Life, he said, “is a gift, a precious gift, a sacred gift, and to lead a meaningful life, you should share that gift and your blessings with people who need you.”

John Elliot

The University presented an honorary degree to Emmy Award-winning host and meteorologist John Elliott of CBS2 New York. Sister Donna Ciangio, O.P., D.Min., chancellor of the Archdiocese of Newark and vice-chair of the University Board of Trustees, read the citation.

In congratulating the graduates, Elliott shared with them lessons he learned outside the classroom to help them in their lives beyond the campus. “Don’t beat up on yourself if you don’t know what you want to do right now. Pray every day; keep moving in the direction of your dreams … Pivots can be painful, but strive to make them productive. Embrace them and remember them. They can make you very interesting at parties … Don’t let people put you into boxes … Keep an open mind … and never stop learning.” 

“When you’re born you look like your parents; when you die you look like your habits … habits will form you, so I want to encourage you to keep and help refine the habits that helped you succeed,” said Elliott. “Walt Disney said, ‘Always be in a state of becoming.’ I say, ‘Always be in a state of becoming better,” said Elliott. “Your destiny is waiting. We need you, so do us a favor, get there, and matter.” 

Raul Gonzalez and Matthew Whelan

Graduating senior Raul Gonzalez delivered the undergraduate speech, reflecting on how it has become “second nature” for Caldwell students to care about giving back while uplifting one another along the way. “From volunteering at Caldwell Day of Service, rubbing elbows while packing meals, to taking pride in our school’s history on Founder’s Day and learning about the ministry that shaped the lives of so many here at Caldwell, we the students value civic and service leadership.” Caldwell “is a melting pot of various kinds of students who unquestionably will be the leaders of tomorrow,” said Gonzalez, who received a Bachelor of Arts degree in biology and was the Student Government Association president. 

Henrietta Genfi and Matthew Whelan

Henrietta K. Genfi, Ph.D., associate dean of academic support at the University, delivered the graduate ceremony remarks. She recalled how she had to face curveballs during her graduate studies including the pandemic and the death of her beloved mother. She noted that the other graduates also had to “endure competing priorities,” but they overcame obstacles and finished their degrees. Genfi said that during her studies, she relied on a support system of several people including her husband and mother, who she knows “is in heaven telling all her heaven friends that her daughter is a doctor.” Genfi, who received a doctoral degree in educational leadership, shared life lessons with the graduates including: Things do not always go according to plan; to never underestimate what one is capable of,  to “surround yourself with people who actively root for your success … obstacles do not need to be dead ends … and  once you have finished your degree, all of a sudden, you are expected to contribute to household chores again.” 

commencement procession

In the week leading up to commencement, a number of events were held including the Nursing Convocation and Pinning Ceremony and the Baccalaureate Mass. 

The ceremonies were streamed live so that family and friends of graduates from around the country and world including Nepal, Ghana, Italy, Spain, Australia, Brazil, the U.K., Spain, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, the Bahamas, Vietnam, Uzbekistan, Nigeria and Trinidad and Tobago could enjoy the festivities.

Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony

Graduate Commencement Ceremony

Graduating BSN nursing students at the pinning ceremony

Highlights from the 2023 Nursing Pinning and White Coat Ceremony

Watch CBS2’s coverage of Caldwell University’s commencement week

Read about some of our great graduates