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350 graduates earn degrees at Centenary University’s 148th Commencement

Internationally renowned expert on happiness studies Tal Ben-Shahar, Ph.D. addresses the Class of 2023 and receives an honorary degree during ceremonies of the Hackettstown campus.

HACKETTSTOWN, NJ (Warren County) — Centenary University awarded degrees to 350 graduates at its 148th commencement, which was held as four separate in-person ceremonies on campus.

Bachelor’s and associate degree candidates received their degrees during two ceremonies today, while master’s and doctoral degree recipients were celebrated in person on Wednesday, May 3. In addition, the University held a special commencement ceremony for the Centenary softball team, which missed the undergraduate commencement due to a playoff game.

At the commencement ceremonies, Centenary University President Bruce Murphy, Ed.D., told the graduates, “The Class of 2023 has made its mark on Centenary and I know Centenary has made its mark on each of you. As one committed to achievement and service, you have assumed your place in a remarkable company of distinguished graduates of this University.”

Internationally-renowned expert on happiness studies Tal Ben-Shahar, Ph.D., delivered the commencement address at the two ceremonies on May 6. Co-founder of the Happiness Studies Academy, Dr. Ben-Shahar has taught courses in happiness at Harvard University, Columbia University, and Centenary University, where he is director of the Master of Arts in Happiness Studies, the world’s first advanced degree in the field. He is also a best-selling author and has appeared as a happiness studies expert on major media including The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, CNN, the BBC, Today on NBC, and Time.

In his address, Dr. Ben-Shahar cited research demonstrating the direct link between gratitude and lives filled with happiness, success, generosity, and good health. “Being grateful triggers a positive spiral of growth and wellbeing,” said Dr. Ben-Shahar, who was presented with a Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, by Dr. Murphy in recognition of his extraordinary contributions to the field of happiness studies. “When you take stock of something positive in your life, you feel better and as a result, bring more positivity to your environment…You can initiate this positive spiral at every moment—even right now—by choosing to reflect on the things for which you are grateful. Visually, this spiral of positivity reminds me of Centenary’s Cyclone mascot, which is always moving onward and growing upward.”

Skyle R. Verry of South Bound Brook, NJ, who was awarded a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration: Management and Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice with a minor in law and government, is valedictorian of the Class of 2023. During his years at Centenary, the Dean’s List student was presented with the University’s award for Outstanding Achievement in Business, as well as certificates of merit from the Criminal Justice and Business, Writing, and Media departments. Verry also holds an Associate in Liberal Arts from Centenary. He is currently a paralegal with Gray Law Group in Lake Hopatcong, NJ, and plans to attend law school in fall 2024.

In his valedictory address during both undergraduate ceremonies, Verry—who graduated with a perfect 4.0 grade point average, recalled the early days of the pandemic, when classes moved online and in-person student activities were halted. He urged fellow graduates to always embrace the lessons learned through their experiences at Centenary: “As we move forward, let us carry the spirit of Centenary University with us. Let us be inspired by the values of perseverance, resilience, and excellence that this institution has instilled in us. Let us remember the lessons we have learned, the friendships we have made, and the memories we have created. Let us use the skills we have acquired to positively impact the world, pursue our passions with vigor, and achieve our dreams with determination.”

During the undergraduate commencement ceremonies, Noah Haiduc-Dale, Ph.D., was recognized as Centenary University’s Distinguished Teacher of the Year, while Janet Zatta, was recognized with the Joel K. Kobert Adjunct Teacher of the Year award. An associate professor of history, Dr. Haiduc-Dale earned a Bachelor of Arts in English and Philosophy from Hope College, a Master of Arts in English Language and Literature from Central Michigan University, a Master of Arts in Near Eastern Studies from the University of Arizona, and a Doctor of Middle Eastern Studies and History from New York University.

Zatta is an adjunct instructor in the University’s writing program. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Human Development, Family Studies, and Related Services and a Bachelor of Arts in Magazine Journalism from Syracuse University, as well as a Master of Arts in Corporate Communications from Fairleigh Dickinson University.

At the May 3 hooding ceremony/commencement for master’s and doctoral graduates, Jessica L. Garcia Torres of Dover, who earned a Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership: Special Education Certification, was recognized with the University’s prestigious Alyce Hunter Dissertation Award.

Jay Edwards

Born and raised in Northwest NJ, Jay has a degree in Communications and has had a life-long interest in local radio and various styles of music. Jay has held numerous jobs over the years such as stunt car driver, bartender, voice-over artist, traffic reporter (award winning), NY Yankee maintenance crewmember and peanut farm worker. His hobbies include mountain climbing, snowmobiling, cooking, performing stand-up comedy and he is an avid squirrel watcher. Jay has been a guest on America’s Morning Headquarters,program on The Weather Channel, and was interviewed by Sam Champion.

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