HACKETTSTOWN, NJ (Warren County) — Centenary University awarded degrees to 430 graduates at its 146th commencement, which was held as three separate in-person ceremonies on campus to comply with outdoor gathering restrictions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. 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 5.
In keeping with the University’s Centenary Choice initiative, members of the Class of 2021 could “walk across the stage” at commencement in person or virtually, respecting the comfort level of each graduate. During the current academic year, Centenary Choice permitted the University’s students to attend classes in person on campus, online, or in a HyFlex format combining the two. The initiative has allowed Centenary students to design their classroom experience—and now their commencement—in a way that meets the individual comfort level of each person during the pandemic.
Referring to the theme of this year’s Commencement, Salva Semper Fortis (Safe and Strong Forever), Centenary University President Bruce Murphy, Ed.D., told the graduates, “For you, Class of 2021, are the first class to start and finish a complete academic year under the pandemic. You did everything that was asked of you and you did it—largely—without complaint. Remember this year. Remember your sacrifices. Remember your service. Remember that you did things to protect others. These are lessons we can’t teach in the classroom. They must come from inside you—each of you.”
Aakash Shah, MD, an addiction and emergency room doctor at Hackensack Meridian Health (HMH), delivered the keynote address at both undergraduate ceremonies. A member of the medical team that treated the first COVID-19 patient diagnosed in New Jersey, Dr. Shah has helped to shape national healthcare policy in a supporting role with the Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force. He urged the Class of 2021 to dedicate their heads, their hearts, and their hands to assisting others: “What is needed, is for us to put our head, our heart, and our hands in conversation to make a real, tangible difference in the lives of others…Centenary Class of 2021, today, you will begin to confront the complexity and uncertainty of this world in ways that none of us can anticipate. This year, more so than many before it, has made that clear.
“I do not know how you will respond. I do not know whether you will embrace hope and humility. I do not know whether you will bring your head, your heart, and your hands together to make a difference in the lives of others. I do not know whether you will pursue a life of the mind and the heart. I do not know whether you will make the change that you so very wish to in this world. For I know but one thing. It is in your hands.”
Kevin Chroback of Califon, NJ, who was awarded a Bachelor of Science in Biology with a minor in chemistry and earned a perfect 4.0 grade point average, is valedictorian of the Class of 2021. In his valedictory address during both undergraduate ceremonies today, Chroback told his classmates, “By nature of making it to this day, we each have shown that we can handle life’s twists and turns. To get here, we not only faced the challenges of courses and exams, but also of our everyday lives over all these years. In the process, we have changed. We learned, we taught, and perhaps we started to understand a bit more about our own hearts, and what we really wanted to make of our futures.”
Co-valedictorian for the Class of 2021 is Lauren Makarevich of Great Meadows, NJ. The recipient of a bachelor’s degree in elementary education/liberal arts, with certifications in early childhood education and New Jersey students with disabilities, she transferred to Centenary from a university in Virginia. She also graduated with a perfect 4.0 grade point average.
In addition, Linda Poisseroux of Hackettstown, NJ, was recognized as Centenary University’s Distinguished Teacher of the Year, while John A. Bermingham Jr., Esq., of Mount Bethel, Pa., was recognized with the Joel K. Kobert Adjunct Teacher of the Year award. An assistant professor of business, Poisseroux is the director of Centenary Enactus, the University’s competitive business team, which has garnered state, regional, national, and international honors. Bermingham is an assistant professor of paralegal and legal assistant studies, and teaches courses in constitutional law, government, business law, and health law.
Centenary University’s commencement ceremonies will be available as soon as possible at https://www.centenaryuniversity.edu/academics/registrar/graduation-commencement/.