University Holds 73rd Commencement

By | May 21, 2024

President Olson speaks at undergraduate ceremonyDaemen University celebrated its 73rd commencement with undergraduate and graduate ceremonies on Saturday, May 18, 2024, at Kleinhans Music Hall.

During his remarks, President Gary A. Olson told the Class of 2024, “While you have demonstrated mastery of your academic area of study, perhaps the most important ability you have acquired is a habit of mind – the ability to think critically and analytically about the world. This is an ability that will help you make wise choices for the rest of your life, and this ability may well be the greatest asset that you take away with you when you leave here today.”

Phillip Ceccarelli, an Adolescent Education in Mathematics major and member of the men’s track and field and cross country teams, was awarded the Charles L. Lumsden Award, an honor bestowed upon the senior with the highest cumulative GPA in the graduating class. Ceccarelli maintained a 4.0 GPA during his undergraduate studies and graduated summa cum laude.

Lana Benatovich, the former president of the National Federation of Just Communities of Western New York, served as the commencement speaker for the undergraduate ceremony.

Benatovich shared a lesson on inspiration, urging the graduates to not only be the recipients of inspiration but to use their power to inspire others through words, actions, and choices.

“As you embrace the next chapter of your lives, let us carry with us the lessons we’ve learned and the inspiration we’ve received,” Benatovich said. “Let us remember yesterday, not with regret or longing, but as a testament to our growth and resilience. Let us live for today, fully embracing the opportunities and challenges that come our way. And let us trust tomorrow, knowing that our collective wisdom and strength we received at Daemen will guide us through whatever may lie ahead.”

Robert Gioia, the newest commissioner for the International Joint Commission and a longtime community leader, delivered the commencement address at the graduate ceremony.

Gioia told the graduates he never imagined the opportunities that would come his way throughout his career, and shared the lessons that he learned along the way.

“My first lesson, which was not very easy to adopt at first, is don’t be afraid of change. Embrace it,” said Gioia. “My second lesson is if you believe in something, test it with many including those who disagree with you. If you still believe it is the right thing to do, don’t give up!”

His third lesson came from his time at The John R. Oishei Foundation – give back to your community. And lastly, referring to his new role with the IJC, he told the graduates that it’s never too late.

“I share these lessons to underscore how important new experiences and engagement outside of your comfort zone are, and pushing beyond what you know pays huge dividends,” Gioia added. “Our community needs your perspective and your leadership – whether it is at your job or in the wider community here in Western New York – or wherever your opportunities take you.”

Gioia and Benatovich were each awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters during their respective ceremonies.