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Forty-four Caldwell University graduating nursing students were honored at the nursing pinning and honors convocation ceremony May 13. 

President Matthew Whelan, Ph.D., told the graduates their work will “change the course of the world.” He commended the faculty for leading the students during the disruptions of COVID-19 and said of the students, “They have stayed the course. They have decided to commit themselves to a profession that quite literally saves other people’s lives.” For the last few years the news has highlighted the work of nurses including their phenomenal efforts to improve the lives of others and the struggles these professionals have faced, said Dr. Whelan. “Wherever you go, bring forward your Caldwell education, your empathy and your Caldwell excellence. And the world will be a better place. 

“Whether it is at the end of a life or the beginning of a life, do your very best to do it with excellence … go out into the world, and as our mission statement says, ‘help contribute to a just society,’ because nothing is more important,” said Dr. Whelan. 

Graduating senior Pragya Sapkota was the valedictorian. “In this journey, we got to live some of the most humbling experiences of human lives like watching a life being brought into this world, being a part of a woman’s journey to motherhood…and seeing our patients stand on their feet after fighting to stay alive.” These experiences, she said, helped them develop into leaders who are prepared to  serve with excellence and integrity. She said she felt “incredibly proud of each one of us for we are leaving this place with our healing hands and critically thinking minds, ready to serve the world.” 

Salutatorian Cian Richardson said she picked Caldwell University for college for a number of reasons. “Having attended Catholic school for the entirety of my school years, Caldwell’s roots in the Dominican tradition, as well as its mission to serve the community, spoke to me. However, I also chose this university because I felt that its mission to ensure that all students felt welcomed would allow me to reach my full potential.”

During her time in the Caldwell School of Nursing and Public Health, Richardson had numerous accomplishments, both academic and personal, but they did not come without hardship. “As all of you know, nursing school is not an easy task. It requires discipline, sacrifice and overall an ability to adapt. The COVID-19 pandemic, as well as my own health battle with Graves disease, served as major obstacles in the journey toward receiving my degree.” With the help of faculty, family and friends, Richardson said she was able “to reach scholastic heights” that she never thought she would reach and now she is looking forward to a career in maternity nursing. 

Ryan Rutano, president of  the Caldwell University Student Nurses Association (CUSNA),  provided remarks detailing the outstanding accomplishments of the CUSNA board. 

Samantha Guerra received the Daisy Award given to extraordinary nursing students for going above and beyond in care and compassion shown to patients and their families.  Nursing professor Jennifer Rhodes received the faculty Daisy Award  to recognize and celebrate the contributions faculty make to the future of nursing.  

Megan Norton and Gabriella Insignares received the Peer Mentor Award, which provides an opportunity for faculty, staff and students to express appreciation for senior nursing students who consistently set a positive example and embody Caldwell University’s core values of respect, integrity, community and excellence. Faculty, staff and students select the recipients.

Carla Ospina and Sara Gjurkaj were presented with the Professional Promise Award, honoring students whose enthusiasm for learning reaches into both classroom and clinical settings. Professional promise qualities include active contributions in the classroom and caring and compassionate nursing in the practice setting. Faculty and staff pick the recipients.

The Positivity and Perseverance Award went to Ann Ceide and Jenna Repach. This award recognizes senior nursing students who have demonstrated positivity and perseverance while overcoming challenges along their nursing journeys.

The Susan Smiley Greene Spirit of Nursing Award was presented to Guerra and Rutano. This award recognizes senior nursing students who have demonstrated leadership qualities throughout the Caldwell nursing program.

Jenna Repach and Donna-Lee Graham received the Stephanie Faust Memorial Award, which goes to senior nursing athletes who embody a passion for nursing while maintaining their dedication to Caldwell athletics.  

Alyssa Miller and Richardson were presented with the Spirit of Jordan Jimerson Award, recognizing senior nursing students who exude kindness wherever they go.  The award is named in honor of Jordan Jimerson, a graduate of the  Caldwell nursing program who passed away earlier this year.

Director of Undergraduate Nursing Education, Dr. Kathleen Kelley was the mistress of ceremonies.  Associate Dean, Dr. Donna Naturale welcomed the guests. Nursing Professor Dr. Catherine Monetti Ph.D. led the audience in the opening prayer. Sister Joanne Beirne, O.P. led the students in the Professional Nursing Pledge.  

Photos by Mason Corby