Franciscan University Graduates Largest Class for Fourth Consecutive Year
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May 14, 2024

STEUBENVILLE, OHIO—Another record-breaking class crossed the stage in Franciscan University of Steubenville’s Finnegan Fieldhouse on May 11. For the fourth consecutive year, Franciscan University graduated its largest class in history, with 899 students in the Class of 2024. This class eclipses last year’s total of 818 graduates.

The 2024 graduates came from Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, California, Texas, Michigan, New York, Florida, Illinois, and 29 other states and 14 countries. Their top majors were theology, business, psychology, nursing, communication arts, philosophy, education, English, catechetics, and history. The Class of 2024 also included 245 online students, nearly 100 of whom came to campus for the commencement ceremonies.

The celebrations started on May 10 with the Baccalaureate Mass. Bishop Frank J. Caggiano of the Diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut, presided.

In his homily, Bishop Caggiano encouraged the graduates to not be afraid to go forth and witness to the Lord in the world.

“You, my young friends, are graduating from a university that has given you a graced confidence and every tool you need to climb whatever mountain the Lord asks of you and to traverse any valley,” Bishop Caggiano said. “Go forward with confidence and joy because the Lord will always be at your side.”

“The victory is ours in Jesus Christ, and that is what the world does not know yet,” he added. “All of us are ambassadors of hope and truth in a broken and confused world. All of us need to speak clearly, speak authentically, and speak without words about the kingship of Jesus Christ and how he is alive in his Church.”

A member of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis and chair of the subcommittee on the Catechism, Bishop Caggiano received an honorary doctorate in catechetics and evangelization. He was commended for his leadership within his diocese and beyond, as well as his “deep knowledge and passion for sharing the faith that engages both hearts and minds.”

During commencement on May 11, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr., received an honorary doctorate in Christian ethics “for his decades of exemplary public service and tireless efforts to protect and uphold justice and the rule of law.”

The graduates and guests gave Justice Alito a standing ovation when Father Dave Pivonka, TOR, president of Franciscan University, noted Justice Alito’s legacy writing the majority opinions for landmark cases including Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, which upheld religious liberty, and Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned Roe v. Wade.

Justice Alito delivered an address at both the morning and afternoon ceremonies where he told the graduates to “go out boldly and engage the world.”

He offered advice on how to do so inspired by the United States Constitution. This advice included recognizing the fundamental principles of life and guarding against unwise change.

“There will be troubling times, times of temptation,” he said. “If we have fixed and clear principles, principles that are written in bold letters in our hearts, we may be able to find our way through, but if we don’t, we could easily go astray.”

He highlighted the need to respect tradition while also engaging in civil discourse.

For the Constitution’s framers, “their ideal was a person of real character who was strong, prudent, temperate, and fair—a person who was willing to sacrifice for the good of others,” he said. “They were confident that ordinary people are capable of responsible self-government if they did not try to stop the people from making changes that don’t undermine what really matters. In the same way, your challenge during troubled times will be to distinguish between dedication to principles that never change and mere nostalgia.”

Justice Alito also encouraged the graduates to draw strength from their relationships with others.

“Decades from now, you may possess more than you do today. You may have more money, more power, more accomplishments, more status. You may also have more responsibilities, worries, regrets, and bruises,” he said. “But underneath all of these things that the years will hang on you, there will be the same person who is here today, and it will be good for you to stay connected to the people who know the real you.”

In his closing remarks, Father Pivonka honored the graduates for their faith and courage, especially since many of them started their college careers in 2020 when COVID-19 policies were causing much uncertainty. He noted a large percentage didn’t have an in-person high school graduation, yet they came to Franciscan’s campus during the Step in Faith initiative, which offered 100 percent tuition coverage for incoming students in fall 2020.

“This is your first step in faith, but you will have a thousand more,” he said. “God has a plan for you. He will satisfy that plan. He will give you everything you need to be faithful to that. There is no other way to live than by continually walking in faith.”

The commencement ceremonies also included an invocation by Father Jonathan St. André, TOR, vice president of Franciscan Life; a welcome by Father Joseph Lehman, TOR, chairman of the Board of Trustees; and a benediction by Father Shawn Roberson, TOR, University chaplain. The senior ranking faculty member, psychology professor Dr. Regina Boerio, led the faculty processions and carried the ceremonial mace.

 

View the livestreamed ceremonies at academics.franciscan.edu/commencement-live.

Photos of Franciscan University’s 2024 Commencement can be found here.

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