At the inaugural Commencement ceremony of the new Jefferson (Philadelphia University + Thomas Jefferson University), approximately 1,000 students from East Falls Campus—including some 650 undergraduates and 350 graduates—received their degrees May 9 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.
“This year is unique, and you play a pivotal role,” said Jefferson Chancellor Stephen Spinelli Jr., PhD. “You are the first graduating class of a University with 328 years of experience. Jefferson—Philadelphia University plus Thomas Jefferson University—is as much a contradiction as it is bold. Centuries old and brand new.”
Chancellor Spinelli told the class of 2018 that Jefferson has a clear vision of the future, transforming higher education in the process.
“We’ve taught you to be professionals in your disciplines and the art and science of collaboration, teamwork and industry engagement,” he said. “The core of our heralded Nexus Learning method uniquely prepares you to make sense of confusion, to reconcile contradiction and find solutions that create value.
“I am supremely confident that you are world-class professionals,” Chancellor Spinelli continued. “Go into the world understanding that you can compete with anyone and win. You will find financial success and professional fulfillment.”
The undergraduate student speaker Isabella Siravo, who received her B.S. in fashion merchandising and management, worked as a resident assistant, resident manager and peer mentor at Jefferson. She also was a member of the Alpha Lambda Delta Honors Society, the Omicron Delta Kappa Society and the National Society of Leadership and Success, and graduated with honors from the Philadelphia University Honors Institute.
“I challenge each of you to summon the will to step outside your comfort zone and rely on the foundation of strength and determination instilled in each of us through our time here at Jefferson,” she said. “Make your dreams a reality.”
In the undergraduate keynote address, Prince Albert II of Monaco told graduates and proud family and friends in attendance, “This honor and this city is so close to my heart.”
Prince Albert has ties to the region; his mother, the actress Grace Kelly who married Monaco’s Prince Rainier, grew up in the East Falls neighborhood just blocks from the University. He acceded to the throne in 2005 and the following year established the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation dedicated to protecting the environment, with a particular focus on implementing innovative and ethical solutions in the areas of climate change, water and biodiversity.
“Given that there will soon be 9 billion human beings on the face of the Earth, how can we ignore the fact that our future depends more than ever before on the way we manage our planet’s resources,” Prince Albert said.
Prince Albert, who during his reign also has focused on economic development and human rights issues, was awarded the honorary degree Doctor of Humane Letters.
“Your Highness, you are a dedicated public servant and environmentalist,” said Orlando Esposito, a member of the University Board of Trustees.
The undergraduate ceremony also honored valedictorians Anna Solyarik, who graduated with a B.S. in fashion merchandising and management, and Peter Salera, who graduated with a B.S. in textile materials technology; Chancellor’s Award for Excellence winner Isabella Siravo, who will begin iMBA classes at Jefferson this summer; Casey South, the winner of the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence from the School of Continuing and Professional Studies, who graduated with a B.S. in information technology; President’s Award for Excellence in teaching winner Evan Laine, associate professor of Law and Society and faculty director of the Arlen Specter Center for Public Service; and Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching winner Kimberlee Douglas, associate professor of landscape architecture.
During the graduate ceremony, Craig Benson, CEO of airPointe Corp. and former governor of New Hampshire, and Jamie Siminoff, CEO of Ring—the first battery-operated smart doorbell which was recently bought by Amazon, were awarded the honorary degree Doctor of Humane Letters.
Siminoff, a serial entrepreneur, received his B.S. in entrepreneurial studies from Babson College, where he was a student of Chancellor Spinelli. In his graduate keynote address, he shared tips to guide people through business, as well as life.
“Just remember: Sometimes the tortoise beats the hare,” he said. “You have to run your own race. You have to do what’s going to make you happy. Do not follow the crowd. If you want to be a breakout success and do something different, you have to be different. I started a company that made doorbells in my garage. Trust me, nobody thought I was going to do anything big.”
Amalia Gonsalves received the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence for a distinguished graduate student. She earned her M.S. in interior architecture and recently accepted a job offer at BLT Architects.
The graduate student speaker Monique Spencer received her iMBA in marketing. While pursuing her degree at Jefferson, she worked full time as an operations specialist at Vanguard. After graduation, Spencer plans to work in sales and marketing.
“Do not forget to live in the moment,” she urged fellow graduates. “Be optimistic about everything. Do not second-guess yourself. We have the tools we need to make it in this world.”