President Zelenskyy Awarded Honorary Degree at Commencement

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zekenskyy was awarded an honorary degree in absentia during the 68th Dominican College Commencement Ceremony on Sunday, May 15.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was awarded an honorary degree in absentia during the 68th Dominican College Commencement Ceremony on Sunday, May 15.  Dominican College is among about 30 colleges and universities throughout the United States conferring on Zelenskyy an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters in recognition of his extraordinary leadership, courage, sense of justice, and his willingness to possibly lose his life in the effort to defend freedom. 

“President Zelenskyy has displayed such inspiring and courageous leadership in the face of unimaginable horror, as Russia launches a relentless and unprovoked attack against his country.  He has risen to the challenge and has been the right leader for this moment in history,” said Dominican College President Sr. Mary Eileen O’Brien, O.P., Ph.D. “Because of this, Dominican College is among the institutions of higher learning recognizing the exceptional dedication of President Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian people by awarding him an honorary degree.”

The Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate of Sloatsburg, who are members of a congregation founded in 1892 in Zhuzel, Ukraine, will also be honored at the Commencement.  Since the Russian attack on Ukraine, the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate in the United States have been raising money and sending medical supplies to members of the congregation located in Ukraine and Poland to help the Ukrainian people.  Dominican College will recognize the admirable service of the Sisters of Mary Immaculate of Sloatsburg by awarding them the 2022 Veritas Medal.   

United Nations Official Delivers Commencement Address

Martha Ama Akyaa Pobee delivered the Commencement Address at Dominican College’s 68th Commencement Ceremony.

A United Nations official with a distinguished career of more than 30 years in international relations and diplomacy delivered the Commencement Address at Dominican College’s 68th Commencement Ceremony on Sunday, May 15, at 12 noon.  Martha Ama Akyaa Pobee serves as Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN) for Africa in the Departments of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and Peace Operations (DPPA-DPO).  This latest appointment follows impressive diplomatic posts in Moscow, Geneva, Tel Aviv, South Africa, New York, and Washington, D.C.

During the Commencement Ceremony at Clover Stadium in Pomona, NY,  Pobee received the honorary degree of  Doctor of Humanities in recognition of her extraordinary career in international relations and diplomacy, her steadfast dedication to furthering peace and security, her tireless advocacy for education and human rights, and her passionate support of women and youth,

Of her many posts, Pobee considers her appointment as Ghana’s first woman Permanent Representative to the United Nations from 2015 to 2020 to be the highlight of her career. In this position, she had various special assignments, including serving as Vice-President of the 71st Session of the United Nations General Assembly, Co-Facilitator of the high-level meeting on Financing for Development 2019, Chair of the African Group of Ambassadors in New York, Chair of the New York Group of Friends of the African-Women Leaders Network, and Co-Chair of the Group of Friends on Gender Parity at the United Nations. 

Pobee’s interest in international relations and diplomacy was first sparked as a high school student in Cape Coast, Ghana, when she joined a school club called the Ghana United Nations Students Association (GUNSA).  The students discussed world issues and took part in mock UN General Assembly sessions and Security Council sessions.  It was then that she began to closely follow the anti-apartheid struggle of the late 1970s and early 1980s, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and human rights and economic development issues.  Pobee was also a member of the Red Cross Society and Sunday School Club in high school and spent many weekends providing first aid services and teaching bible studies to children in local communities. At that young age, she realized how fortunate she was to be attending one of the best schools in the country and decided to be mindful of the needs around her and to serve others. 

A graduate of the University of Ghana, Pobee also holds a master’s degree in Development Studies with a specialization in Women and Development from the Institute of Social Studies in The Hague. In addition, she has diplomas in Public Administration and Multilateral Diplomacy from the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration and the Geneva Institute of International Studies.

Head of Vaccine Development at Pfizer Delivers Commencement Address

Kathrin Jansen in Commencement regalia delivering the Commencement Speech.

Kathrin U. Jansen, Ph.D., Senior Vice President and Head of Vaccine Research and Development, Pfizer Inc., delivered the Commencement Address to Dominican College graduates on Sunday, June 27, 2021.

Kathrin U. Jansen, Ph.D., Senior Vice President and Head of Vaccine Research and Development, Pfizer Inc., wished the Dominican College Class of 2021 “a lifetime of joyful learning and meaningful accomplishments” at the 67th Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony on Sunday, June 27, 2021,  at the Palisades Credit Union Park in Pomona, NY.

During her Commencement Address, which was delivered virtually,  Jansen praised the graduates for persevering during an unprecedented time.  “You deserve recognition not only for having earned your degrees, but for having done so while contending with the extraordinary challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic,” she said.

Jansen then spoke about her experience with COVID-19 as a New York City resident who saw refrigerated trucks that served as temporary morgues lining a city block near her apartment.  “As chilling as the experience was for me, it was also a once in a lifetime opportunity to help save people’s lives,” she said. “As I walked back to my apartment the night I saw those refrigerated trucks, I decided that Pfizer would have to develop a vaccine to try to help end the pandemic.  What’s more – we’d have to do so faster than it had ever been done before.”

Under  Jansen’s leadership, Pfizer developed the first COVID-19 vaccine to receive emergency use authorization for use in individuals 16 years of age and older from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It was developed in record-breaking time and is currently the only vaccine also approved for emergency use in adolescents 12 to 15 years of age.  Jansen explained that the vaccine was developed quickly without taking shortcuts by using a radical approach of carrying out required steps simultaneously,  instead of sequentially.

The development of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine is just the latest success in Jansen’s impressive 32-year career. She has also developed vaccines to fight the HPV virus and pneumonia. At the Commencement, the honorary degree of Doctor of Science was conferred upon Jansen in recognition of her remarkable contributions to the development of life-saving vaccines, her unwavering determination to help end a pandemic that has claimed more than 600,000 U.S. lives, and her steadfast devotion to science and data.

Jansen ended her address by sharing with the graduates what she has learned since graduating. Her advice was: don’t waste time worrying; always trust your gut; value your alliances; express your gratitude to your valued partners; embrace opportunities and learn from detours and failures; and cultivate resilience. “It is abundantly clear to me that the Dominican Class of 2021 already has the quality of resilience in abundance,” she said.  “You survived a most difficult year and you are here with your friends and family to celebrate it – to celebrate you.”

In addition to the undergraduate ceremony, graduate hooding and commencement ceremonies for Dominican College students earning advanced degrees took place on the Orangeburg, NY, campus throughout June.  A total of 525 students received degrees – 74 doctoral degrees, 109 master’s degrees, 340 bachelor’s degrees, and two associate degrees.

Graduates Honored During Virtual Commencement

Alumnus Brandon Hasbrouck, ’08, delivered the Virtual Commencement Address on May 17, 2020, and received an honorary degree. Hasbrouck is an Assistant Professor of Law at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, VA.

The Dominican College Class of 2020 was honored during a Virtual Commencement on Sunday, May 17, 2020.  The  Commencement premiered on the Dominican College website and Facebook at 12 noon, with graduates, family, friends, administrators, and faculty remotely watching “together” as they reacted and commented on social media.

Alumnus Brandon Hasbrouck, ’08, Assistant Professor of Law at Washington and Lee University School of Law in Lexington, VA, delivered an impassioned Commencement Address to the graduates.  He challenged the graduates to “do justice” in whatever career path they choose. “A kind of justice that smashes hierarchies, privileges, and entitlement.  A kind of justice that requires courage – courage demonstrated by you throughout your time here at Dominican College – that even when you take a loss, and you will, you get up every single time and persist,” he said. “There is no path to justice that is only comfortable and convenient.  We will not achieve or create justice until we’re willing to sometimes position ourselves in uncomfortable places and be a witness.  Justice is hard work.  It is unending work.  It is our life’s work.  You are all ready!”

Dominican College awarded Hasbrouck with the honorary degree of Doctor of Law, in recognition of his accomplishments in the practice of law and of his dedication to criminal justice reform.

More than 560 students received degrees during the Virtual Commencement – 101 doctorate degrees,  130 master’s degrees, 328 bachelor’s degrees and four associate’s degrees.  The Commencement was held virtually because of the COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent stay-at-home orders.  Dominican College will be holding in-person graduation ceremonies for the Class of 2020 on campus, when it is safe to do so.

You can watch the entire Dominican College 2020 Virtual Commencement here.

College Unveils Commencement Plans for the Class of 2020

College President Sr. Mary Eileen O’Brien has announced that the Class of 2020 will be taking part in graduation ceremonies on campus, when it is safe to do so.

“At that time, probably in early fall, the graduates will wear their caps and gowns and be recognized in the presence of friends and family.  Since we are unsure exactly when and how we will be able to gather in person, we decided to also hold a virtual Commencement on May 17, 2020,” said O’Brien in a letter to graduating students. “This virtual Commencement is in addition to – not in place of — the in-person exercises that will take place with students, faculty, administrators, and invited guests.”

Due to the coronavirus outbreak, and the subsequent social distancing guidelines, students have been studying online since spring break.  Under the circumstances, the College decided that holding both virtual and in-person celebrations is the best solution to commemorate the wonderful accomplishments of the Dominican College graduates.

Cardinal Dolan Delivers Commencement Address

Timothy Cardinal Dolan delivered the Commencement Address at Dominican College’s Commencement Exercises on Sunday, May 19, 2019.

There was a heightened excitement and anticipation leading up to Dominican College’s 65th Commencement Exercises because His Eminence, Timothy Cardinal Dolan, was delivering the Commencement Address.  The charismatic Cardinal Dolan received an honorary degree, Doctor of Humanities, during the ceremony on Sunday, May 19, 2019 at the Westchester County Center in White Plains, NY. “What an honor, what a joy, to receive this degree,” he said.

The honor was bestowed upon Cardinal Dolan in recognition of a life dedicated to service of the poor, education of the mind, and care of the soul.

After receiving the honorary degree, Cardinal Dolan addressed the Class of 2019.  “I sense a special bond with all of you, because I, too,  relish the education I received from Dominicans – in my case, four years of theology at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome.”

He added, “The intellectual wattage of the daughters and sons of St. Dominic is a most radiant jewel in the crown of Mother Church and western civilization.”

Cardinal Dolan told the graduates that although Commencement speakers typically give words of wisdom and impart wise counsel, he was inspired by them.  He called the graduates his “professors” and said they taught him five important lessons.

The first lesson he said he learned was the importance of education. “You chose school. You chose learning.  You chose education.  You chose college and I thank you for that.  God’s most profound natural gift to us is our mind,” he said.

Cardinal Dolan said it was also clear that the graduates cherish community and that they appreciate tradition.  In addition, he said they reminded him that life has purpose and meaning.  Finally, said Cardinal Dolan, “You are letting us know in a very jubilant way that all we get is intended to be given away.  I watch you in admiration, chafing to get going, to put your learning to good use, to move on, to get to work.”

A total of 573 students graduated – 105 with doctoral degrees, 64 with master’s degrees, 402 with bachelor’s degrees and two with associate degrees.

President Sr. Mary Eileen O’Brien, O.P., Ph.D. told the graduates to receive their diplomas with a sense of pride in their accomplishment.  “Be proud of your Alma Mater, as we are of you.  Remember, once a Charger, always a Charger!  Dominican College will ultimately measure its effectiveness, not by the degrees of its faculty or the size of its campus, although we treasure both, but rather by the competence and compassion, the vision and generosity of its over 15,000 graduates.  How greatly the world needs your joyful and hope-filled lives,” she said.

In addition to Cardinal Dolan, several other individuals were honored during the Commencement Exercises.

  • John E. Sorrentino, retired Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Pfizer in Pearl River, NY, received an honorary degree, Doctor of Science, in recognition of his outstanding work in the development of life-enhancing vaccines. He also led Pfizer’s corporate citizenship efforts and was helpful in upgrading the College’s biology and chemistry laboratories in Forkel Hall.
  • Ronald Israelski, a hand/micro vascular surgeon, is currently Director of Medical Education at Orange Regional Medical Center and received the Veritas Medal. Dr. Israelski has done extensive relief and charity work in Haiti, working tirelessly to improve medical delivery to the people of Port-au-Prince. He has also improved medical services to the uninsured in Sullivan County and New York City.
  • Abdul Sulaiman Jr, ’09, received the Badami Outstanding Young Alumnus Award. In 2013, Abdul founded a company called Project Pawn to mentor children through the game of chess.

    Senior Class Gift Unveiled

    Members of the Senior Gift Committee unveiled the 2019 Senior Class Gift, a new entrance sign to the College, on the eve of their Commencement.

    A beautiful new sign at the campus entrance was unveiled on Saturday, May 18, 2019.  The sign, which features the College logo in raised letters on a bright red background, was a gift from the Class of 2019.

    The Senior Class Gift has become an annual tradition at Dominican College and is a way for graduating seniors to show their appreciation to the College. “Each senior class leaves a legacy at the College,” said Sal Pennino, Sr. Advancement Officer, who advised the student members of the Senior Gift Committee. “The students also learn about giving back to the College, which is important because the College relies upon the generosity and involvement of its alumni.”

    Past senior gifts include the Charlie the Charger statue, the Hennessy Center flag pole, the Alumni Book of Remembrance, the Student Life Wall Mural in the Granito Center, and the Flame Art Sculpture.

    The members of the 2019 Senior Gift Committee were Autumn Rogers-Vazquez, Bryanna Pimienta, Byany Vasquez, Christine Ditzel, Cliona Smith, Courtney Sakosits, Jovana Jones, Julissa Jones, Kelvin Rosario, and Stephanie Denis.


    ESPN Correspondent Delivers Inspiring Commencement Address

    ESPN Correspondent and author Tom Rinaldi delivered the Commencement Address to Dominican College graduates on May 20, 2018.

    ESPN Correspondent and author Tom Rinaldi delivered an inspiring and at times rousing address to the Class of 2018 during Dominican College’s 64th Commencement Exercises on Sunday, May 20, 2018 at the Westchester County Center in White Plains. A total of 572 students graduated — 123 with doctoral degrees, 100 with master’s degrees and 349 with bachelor’s degrees.

    Graduates, their families, and friends all listened with rapt attention as Rinaldi recounted two stories.  The first story was about the parents of a two-month old child in a Neo-natal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) who tragically did not survive.  Before the baby’s death, the parents arranged for him to have several experiences.  They brought a puppy into the NICU so the child could feel the fur.  They had a musician play a guitar so the child could hear music.  They took the baby off of his tubes and brought him outside so he could feel the sun on his face and the wind across his skin.  Finally, they put a bit of ice cream on the tip of his lips and the end of his tongue. Rinaldi told the graduates, “You get to experience those things every single day as you find your place in the world. So keep your capacity for wonder and appreciation over the wind and the life and the sun and the taste and the sound that surrounds you as you make your life.”

    Rinaldi then told the story of Welles Remy Crowther – the Nyack High School graduate and 9-11 hero known as the “man with the red bandanna.”  He described how Welles led many to safety on 9-11 and saved lives.  During his speech, Rinaldi asked the graduates to raise their right hands as high as they could. “Do this for yourselves and for everybody else.  Don’t just reach up, reach out – reach out to touch, to teach, to inspire, to give, to grasp,” he said.

    Rinaldi has won twelve national Sports Emmy Awards and six national Edward R. Murrow Awards.  His 2016 book, “The Red Bandanna: A Life. A Choice. A Legacy” was on the New York Times Best Sellers list. During the Commencement Ceremony, Rinaldi received an Honorary Degree, Doctor of Humane Letters.

    Others honored at the Commencement Exercises included:

    • Judith Kydon, M.A., M.Ed., President and CEO of St. Dominic’s Family Services, received an Honorary Degree, Doctor of Humanities.
    • Rockland County District Attorney Thomas P. Zugibe was awarded the Veritas Medal for his service to the community.
    • Wendy St. Felix, ’17, DNP, Family Nurse Practitioner at the Montefiore School Health Program at P.S. 85 in the Bronx, received the 2018 Badami Outstanding Alumna Award.

    COMMENCEMENT by Dominican College on EXPOSURE

    Class of 2018 Senior Gift Unveiled

    On the eve of Commencement, a new stainless steel arts sculpture that represents a  flame and rotates with the wind was unveiled.  The sculpture was a gift from the Class of 2018.   It is located on a brick pedestal outside of the entrance to the new fitness center.

    The new sculpture represents a flame because when St. Dominic’s mother was pregnant, she dreamed of a dog that held a torch in its mouth.  The dream is believed to symbolize St. Dominic spreading God’s light around the world.

    The Senior Class Gift has become an annual tradition at Dominican College and is a way for graduating seniors to show their appreciation to the College. “We want each senior class to leave a legacy at the College,” said Sal Pennino, Sr. Advancement Officer, who advised the eight student members of the Senior Gift Committee. “This is also the first opportunity for these students to give back to the College.  That’s important because we rely on our alumni to support the College.”

    Past senior gifts include the Charlie the Charger statue, the Hennessy Center flag pole, the Alumni Book of Remembrance, and the Student Life Wall Mural in the Granito Center.

    The student members of the 2018 Senior Gift Committee were Amanda Corriere, Amanda Magnotta, John Ameen, Hannah Ameen, Miriam Taylor, Joe Piccini, Patricia Simmons, and Stefani Reyes.