On Sunday, May 20, 2012, Manhattan College had its 170th Commencement. His Eminence Timothy Michael Cardinal Dolan delivered the Commencement Address to the assembly. This was the first time in 170 years that a Cardinal of the Catholic Church delivered a commencement address at Manhattan College, Riverdale, New York.
Cardinal Dolan told the graduates to rejoice, be glad, and cherish the sterling legacy of the college. He went on to say that the college experience draws us out of ourselves. The purpose is to broaden our perspective to encompass the only things that matter: namely, faith, hope, and love. Love involves self-sacrifice and service together with the understanding that we alone are not the center of the universe.
Cardinal Dolan explained that the Last Judgment Day would arrive and that we would be held accountable for our service to the poor, the hungry, and the sick. The Cardinal invoked the images of Thomas Merton and Dorothy Day.
Thomas Merton was a Catholic monk who, perhaps more than anyone else in the 20th century, is associated with opening up a dialog between the spiritual traditions of the East and West. He studied many Eastern spiritual practices, from Zen meditation to Hindu philosophy. Merton is best known for his essays on the spiritual life. He is also a noted poet.
Dorothy Day was known for her unwavering aid to the poor during the Great Depression. She founded the Catholic Workers Union. As an American born into a Protestant family that valued education, she was a pragmatist, a worker, and was inspired to do great things. After her conversion, these traits united with the traditions of Roman Catholicism. Dorothy’s love of the Scriptures came from her Protestant roots and predated the widespread use of the Bible by Catholics.
Cardinal Dolan urged the graduates of Manhattan College to provide service in soup kitchens, to aid cancer patients, and to soothe the faces of the sick and dying. He explained that this day was the seventh Sunday of Easter. In a moment of levity, the Cardinal explained that last year he made the final payment for tuition on a degree earned 30 years ago.
Both Thomas D. O’Malley, the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, and Timothy Cardinal Dolan were given honorary degrees as Doctors of Humane Letters. Meredith Mayer was the valedictorian graduating from the School of Business. She is fluent in German and is studying Arabic. Her speech focused on a recent trip to Mumbai, India where she found a pervasive atmosphere of incense and pilgrims bathing in the water. Her speech invoked the struggles of the local working poor. Over 750 graduates received degrees in Arts and Sciences, Engineering, Education, and Business.
Dr.Brennan O’Donnell, President of Manhattan College, concluded by explaining that a college degree is a rite of passage. He urged the graduates to seek out a vocation and perform it with a willingness to tend to the needs of the world. In addition, he explained that graduates should have a love of learning and be a wise counsel to friends and neighbors. Above all, each of the graduates should understand what he or she has been called to do in life. He thanked the parents and staff.
Manhattan College is a Lasallian educational institution founded in 1853 by the De La Salle Christian Brothers. John Baptist de La Salle gave up a life of privilege to educate disadvantaged children. The core Lasallian principles are respect for all people, concern for the poor, an inclusive community, quality education, and faith.