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St. Lawrence University graduates urged to stay lifelong learners


CANTON — The newest graduates of St. Lawrence University were encouraged Sunday to remain lifelong learners who adapt to a rapidly evolving world.

Under overcast skies, 519 received bachelor’s degrees and 29 were awarded master’s degrees during a two-hour outdoor ceremony that drew hundreds of camera-toting family members and friends to the Creasy Commencement Commons.

Jeremy D. Lawless, 24, was eating a bagel and fruit as he waited for his graduation procession to begin. Next fall, he will teach at Eaglebrook, a private boys school in Deerfield, Mass.

“I am ready, but it’s pretty surreal,” he said about ending his four years as an SLU student and alpine ski team member. “Once I get that diploma, it will be stress-free.”

Madeleine V. Lavelle, 21, a history major from Weston, Conn., has secured a job selling advertisements for Conde Nast Publications. She expressed mixed feelings about ending her college days.

“I’m sad, but I’m ready. I will miss all my friends,” she said.

Roger W. Ferguson Jr., one of three honorary degree recipients, advised members of the class of 2013 to use their knowledge to lead the nation to more solid ground during these uncertain economic times. He serves as president and chief executive officer of the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association-College Retirement Equities Fund.

“Our world is being reshaped at relentless pace by globalization, technological advances, demographic trends, economic challenges and other forces,” Mr. Ferguson said. “To thrive in this environment, you must be a lifelong learner, someone who is continuously growing his or her human capital to align with the way the world is evolving.”

He said the recent financial crisis occurred because people and companies put the pursuit of profits and their own self-interest first, ahead of what was best for their customers, their long-term shareholders, their employees and society at large.

He advised students to understand the concept of personal finance and to start saving money on a regular basis while they’re still young.

“If you ignore the financial aspects of your life, your energy to make a difference will be severely diluted. You can’t really change the world if you’re worried about paying off your credit card debt,” he told students.

Rebecca P. Mason, a graduating senior and winner of the university’s Joan Donovan Speech contest, drew parallels between the Harry Potter book series and the adventures students will find ahead.

“We are heading into the unfamiliar, new cities, new schools and new jobs,” she noted. “But just as Harry Potter had no idea what he was getting into, we shall quickly make this next phase our home. We will drag our trunks onto trains, get off at our next stop. Our next phase holds great adventures, more education and new people.”

Joseph L. Kennedy, retired president of SUNY Canton and SLU honorary degree recipient, reminded students to spend time doing what they like with people they care about because those are the moments they’ll cherish later in life.

“My message is that you should work so that you can live, not live to work,” Mr. Kennedy said. “So go out, work hard, live hard and try to remember that the really important “ah moments” rarely come except when you are doing something that has a real connection with your soul.”

Speeches were also given by senior class president Amy E. Callahan and John J. O’Shea Jr., a 1974 SLU alumnus who received an honorary degree. Brian Gardam, director of Hospice and Palliative Care of St. Lawrence County, spoke on behalf of his agency, which received the North Country Citation. Welcome remarks were provided by SLU President William L. Fox.

The five most popular majors among this year’s graduates in descending order were psychology, economics, government, biology and performance and communication arts (tied for fourth), and history. With a grade point average of 3.966 out of a possible 4.0, Carolyn N. Chakuroff of Merrimack, N.H. was the senior with the highest cumulative average over four years.

Immediately following the ceremony, SLU graduate Sean P. Empey, Evans Mills, was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army through ROTC at Clarkson University. He will be sent to Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., for further training.

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