May 21, 2023

At Providence College commencement, Hill Harper urges Class of 2023 to open doors

Livestream of the 2023 undergraduate commencement ceremony at Amica Mutual Pavilion.

By Michael Hagan ’15, ’19G

One thousand members of the Class of 2023 graduated from Providence College during the college’s 105th commencement exercises at Amica Mutual Pavilion in downtown Providence on Sunday, May 21, 2023.

The graduates came from 32 states and territories and 11 countries. Their top three majors were finance, marketing, and biology.

Humanitarian, award-winning actor, best-selling author, and activist Hill Harper received an honorary doctor of humanities degree before addressing the graduates and thousands of others gathered at the AMP. He remembered his time as an undergraduate in Providence at Brown University.

“A lot has changed since then, but Providence College is still a beacon of faith, truth, hope, and light in Rhode Island and around the world,” Harper said.

“You’re going to be walking into a world that’s very different from Friartown. There are problems your generation will have to face that you’ve inherited from mine, and I’m sorry about that,” Harper said, naming climate change, wealth inequality, and hate crimes as ills graduates will meet.

“It breaks my heart that the challenges of this world probably no longer come as a surprise to you, that they’ve instead become somewhat routine and expected. But just because something might be expected does not mean that you must accept it. Now more than ever, the world needs you to step into your purpose,” Harper said.

Hill Harper addresses the graduates
Hill Harper ’23Hon. addressed the graduates, drawing lessons from the experience of having a door held open for him from 20 feet away during his visit to campus in January.

Harper, a star in ABC’s The Good Doctor, credited personal heroes in the acting profession, such as Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte, with redefining the types of roles Black actors could play on stage and in film, imploring the graduates to surround themselves with people who remind them of opportunities instead of fears, and to be such people themselves.

“This world needs all of you from all of you,” Harper said.

Harper recalled his visit to campus for Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Convocation in January, when a student who appeared to be in a hurry held the door to Slavin Center open for him even though he was nearly 20 feet away. Surprised and flattered, he thanked her.

“Friars hold doors,” the student told him. It made an impression.

“As you go out into the world to make a change only you can make, you’ll meet people who are trying to make the change only they can make, but they might just need a little bit of help. They might need someone to open, to hold the door. Friars can do that. Friars hold doors,” Harper said.

read hill harper’s address

In addition to Harper, the honorary degree recipients were:

  • Rev. Msgr. Alex Bobby Benson ’97G, founder of Matthew 25 House, a ministry in Koforidua, Ghana, dedicated to helping people diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, who received an honorary doctor of public service degree.
  • Charles M. Borkoski ’71, retired vice president for marketing and portfolio development for McLaughlin & Moran, and active in alumni affairs at the college since his graduation, who received an honorary doctor of commercial science degree.
  • Donna J. Formichella, M.D. ’78, the first woman to graduate as a general surgeon from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, and partner emeritus at Southern California Permanente Medical Group, who received an honorary doctor of science degree.
  • Sheila M. Harrity, Ed.D. ’87, the 2014 Massachusetts High School Principal of the Year, now working for the Massachusetts Association of Vocational Administrators, who received an honorary doctor of education degree. She was the keynote speaker at the commencement for School of Continuing Education and graduate students on Friday, May 19.
  • Robert J. Palmisano ’66, a global business executive and emeritus trustee of PC, now president and CEO of Wright Medical Group, who received a doctor of commercial science degree.
a view of the crowd at commencement at the Amica Mutual Pavilion
One thousand graduates of the Class of 2023 received bachelor’s degrees.

In his remarks, College President Rev. Kenneth R. Sicard, O.P. ’78, 82G recalled a quotation from Pope St. John Paul II he shared at his inauguration in 2021.

“Remember the past with gratitude. Live the present with enthusiasm. And look forward to the future with confidence,” the late pope wrote.

Father Sicard reflected on the student experience, which he shared as an undergraduate himself.

“Just being in this building stirs up all kinds of emotions,” he said.

He also acknowledged the unique circumstances that confronted students during the spring semester of their first year at PC, when they were sent home for spring break in March and did not return to campus until late August because of the pandemic.

“Even though you had to endure outbreaks, and lockdowns, and social distancing, and masks, and Q Tips in your nose twice a week, and being exiled at the Marriott, you were amazingly patient, good-humored, and resilient,” Father Sicard said. “Years from now, you can tell your grandchildren that you were a college student during a global pandemic.”

Jennifer MacCallum O’Meara ’93, president of the National Alumni Association, brought greetings on behalf of alumni. The Class of 2023 included 89 legacy students, 62 with one parent who graduated from PC and 27 with both parents graduating from the college.

“You join 57,000 other Friars who represent a range of professional vocations and reside in all 50 states and around the world. You have already demonstrated that you are a class filled with grit, perseverance, and grace. We are proud of all of Friars, and we are grateful you chose to continue your education here and to join this family,” O’Meara said.

“Speaking from experience, I promise you that your bond to PC does not end today. It will only grow.”

Senior class president Emily Cavanaugh ’23 (North Chatham, Massachusetts) said, “Our college stories started like most others. We said tearful goodbyes to our parents after the welcome Mass on Move-In Day, and that’s about where the traditional experience ended.”

She recalled the initial shock and new realities of the pandemic and described how the class rose to meet its challenges.

“I don’t wish luck to the class of 2023; we have shown time and again that we don’t need it. Instead, I wish us courage, dedication, and faith to find paths that bring us joy,” Cavanaugh said.

Read Emily Cavanaugh’s address
Andres Heredia
Andres Heredia ’23 (Yonkers, New York) received a bachelor of arts degree in political science and global studies.

Degrees were conferred by Very Rev. Allen B. Moran, O.P., Ph.D., chair of the Providence College Corporation and prior provincial of the Dominican Province of St. Joseph.

The invocation was by the Most Rev. Richard G. Henning, D.D., S.T.D., bishop of Providence. It was his first commencement ceremony since his installation as coadjutor bishop in November 2022 and since becoming bishop earlier in the month.

“Send these graduates forth with integrity, wisdom, and an abiding love of God and neighbor,” Bishop Henning prayed.

U.S. Representative Seth M. Magaziner, representative for Rhode Island’s second district, brought greetings from Congress. Lieutenant Governor Sabina Matos and Providence Mayor Brett Smiley offered congratulations, with Smiley thanking the graduates who served the city as student teachers and community volunteers.

College Chaplain Rev. Justin C. Bolger, O.P., S.T.L., offered the benediction and blessing of graduates. Providence College Symphonic Winds performed under the direction of Eric C. Melley, DMA, director of instrumental activities. Aidan Benjamin ’23 (White Plains, New York) sang The National Anthem and Angela Mitsuma ’23 (Fall River, Massachusetts) sang The Alma Mater.

SCE, graduate ceremony

The keynote speaker for the School of Continuing Education and graduate commencement ceremony was Sheila M. Harrity, Ed.D. ’87, a women’s basketball player at PC and a lifelong educator. In 2014, while principal of Worcester Technical High School in Worcester, Massachusetts, she was named National High School Principal of the Year. She later was superintendent the Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical School District and now is coordinator of the Extended Campus Program run by the Massachusetts Association of Vocational Administrators, which helps vocational teachers and administrators earn professional licenses and college degrees.

“Providence College preaches Veritas, truth, as both its mission and its motto. A one-word motto may seem simple, but it is anything but. The relentless pursuit of truth at a college that grounds itself in its Catholic faith results in the establishment of a community that celebrates loving relationships, diversity, and open and honest thought,” Harrity said.

“What a wonderful antidote to the current discourse that dominates our social landscape. Currently, it seems that all we hear in the public realm are slogans like ‘fake news’ and ‘cancel culture’ that curtail honest and open discourse and ignore the pursuit of truth. This rhetoric ignores the fact that we are all Americans, and that as such we share a living history, culture, and community. We who have had the opportunity to share in this strong community that is a fact of life at Providence College have been inoculated against the cynicism that marks much of the public life these days.”

Sheila Harrity '87
Sheila M. Harrity, Ed.D. ’87, a women’s basketball player at PC and a lifelong educator, addressed the graduates of the School of Continuing Education and graduate programs.

During the ceremony on Friday, May 19, in Peterson Recreation Center, the School of Continuing Education awarded 21 bachelor of arts degrees and six associate of art degrees. The School of Business conferred master of business administration degrees on 114 students and the master of business analytics degrees on 22 students.

The graduate education programs awarded degrees to 117 students in school leadership, school counseling, higher education, literacy, special education, urban teaching, urban teaching with teacher certification, secondary education, and teaching mathematics.

Other graduate degrees awarded were the master of arts in global education and TESOL, the master of arts in history, the master of arts in teaching mathematics, the master of arts in theology, and the master of theological studies.

Greg Amore ’88, Rhode Island secretary of state, brought greetings.

“PC may be a small school, in the smallest state, but I know that PC graduates make a tremendous impact on their communities,” said Greg Amore ’88, Rhode Island secretary of state, who brought greetings from the state. “From education, to business, to mathematics, and history, I know you will all continue to make a difference and make PC proud.”

Abigail E. Joy ’23 (Stratford, Connecticut) and Analisa R. Pisano ’23 (Mamaroneck, New York) sang The National Anthem, performed by Providence College Symphonic Winds under the direction of Eric C. Melley, DMA, director of instrumental activities. Eliza F. Barmakian ’22 (Belmont, Massachusetts) sang The Alma Mater. The invocation was by Most Rev. Robert C. Evans, D.D., J.C.L., auxiliary bishop emeritus of Providence. Rev. Simon Teller, O.P., S.T.L., gave the benediction.

watch the ceremony read sheila harrity’s address
Rabbi and Major Aaron Stucker-Rozovsky '09 addresses cadets from ROTC Patriot Battalion during the commissioning ceremony at the War Memorial Grotto.
Rabbi and Major Aaron Stucker-Rozovsky ’08 addresses cadets from ROTC Patriot Battalion during the commissioning ceremony at the War Memorial Grotto.

ROTC Commissioning

At the ROTC Commissioning Ceremony at the War Memorial Grotto on Friday, 15 cadets — eight from PC, four from Brown University, two from Bryant University, and one from Johnson & Wales University — were commissioned second lieutenants in the U.S. Army.

The guest speaker was Rabbi and Army Major Aaron Stucker-Rozovsky ’08, deputy command chaplain for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and rabbi of Beth El Congregation in Winchester, Virginia. His mother, Fay Rozovsky ’73, ’08Hon., was one of the first women to graduate from PC, and his aunt, Ann Frank Goldstein, Psy.D. ’75, was the first female editor of The Cowl. His brother, Joshua Rozovsky ’06SCE, also is an alumnus.

The cadets from PC were:

  • Domenic Bettinelli ’23 (Canton, Massachusetts), a marketing major, who will serve in the Engineering Corps of the Massachusetts National Guard
  • Sean Harris ’23 (Bridgewater, Massachusetts), a biology major, who will be an active duty officer in the Engineer Corps
  • Samuel Mason ’23 (Naugatuck, Connecticut), a marketing major, who will serve in the Military Intelligence Corps of the Connecticut National Guard
  • Liam Casey-Minnick ’23 (Lake Tapps, Washington), a biology major, who will be an active duty officer in the Chemical Corp
  • William Murray ’23 (Avon, Connecticut), an economics major, who will be an active duty officer in the infantry branch. He is a Distinguished Military Graduate. 
  • Ryne Passauer ’23 (Covington, Louisiana), a political science major, who will be an active duty officer in the Chemical Corps
  • Braeden Weston ’23 (Greenville, Rhode Island), a marketing major, who will be an active duty officer in the field artillery branch.
  • Braiden Wills ’23 (New Castle, Pennsylvania), a health policy and management major, who will be a reserve officer in the Chemical Corps. He is a Distinguished Military Graduate. 
watch the ceremony

Academic Awards Ceremony

The three top students in the Class of 2023 were recognized at the Academic Awards Ceremony held in Peterson Recreation Center on Saturday, May 20. All five earned 4.0 GPAs, the equivalent of As in every course across eight semesters:

  • Samantha Rose Furtado ’23 (New Bedford, Massachusetts), a double major in political science and economics, who will move to the New York City area to work as a data analyst while exploring joint Ph.D./J.D. programs.
  • Riley Jane Lusk ’23 (Pittsford, New York), a health policy and management major, who will begin work in June as a health and benefits analyst with Mercer in Boston.
  • Maggie Catherine Sullivan ’23 (Taunton, Massachusetts), a biology major, who will consider applying to medical school to become a radiologist.

The Class of 2023 earned academic distinction with 524 students graduating with honors and 452 students named to honor societies. Ninety-nine students were members of the Honors Program.

Saaid Mendoza, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology, presented remarks on behalf of the faculty. He is the 2022-2023 recipient of the Joseph R. Accinno Faculty Teaching Award, the college’s highest teaching honor. He has taught at PC since 2014.

“It is easy to lead out of self-interest and to be motivated by money and status,” Mendoza told the students. “What is not easy is to lead from a place of compassion and to empathize for others. Although it may not always seem so, the world has plenty of competent leaders. But what we truly need more of are kindhearted ones. So my challenge for you is to once again do what is hard (as you’ve always done) and change the narrative about what it means to be a powerful person.”

watch the ceremony read samantha rose furtado’s address
Father Sicard and a deacon celebrate Mass
Father Sicard celebrated Mass in Peterson Recreation Center with Dominican friars and other clergy concelebrating. Deacon Fernando Botelho ’23P assisted.

Commencement Mass

Father Sicard celebrated the Commencement Mass on Saturday afternoon in Peterson Recreation Center, with numerous Dominican friars and other clergy concelebrating. Deacon Fernando Botelho ’23P, father of Ana Botelho ’23 (Foster, Rhode Island), assisted.

“Remember that the very first thing you did as an entire class was come together here in the Peterson Center for the move in day Mass. You began your journey here by turning to God and coming together in a joyful celebration … God in his providence led you here to the college named after him, and he’d be with you every step of the way,” Father Sicard said in the homily.

“It is so fitting that the very last thing you are doing here on campus is coming together again in the Peterson Center to celebrate a final Mass together.”

Katherine Sklarosky ’23 (Mountain Top, Pennsylvania), Christopher Bresnahan ’23 (Osterville, Massachusetts), and Brenna Magliochetti ’23 (Pen Argyl, Pennsylvania) were readers. Grace Dizon ’23 (Norton, Massachusetts) was the cantor. Music was by the Campus Ministry Music Ensembles, led by Gilbert Donohue, M.Mus., director of liturgical music.

watch the mass
Full commencement site

More about the Class of 2023

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