LORETTO - Members of the St. Francis University Class of 2014 were told Sunday not to be afraid to take the road less traveled.
"I took the road less traveled and it has made all the difference. I have failed plenty of times but have had triumphs, too. I have lived a life I believe in. Consider the unexpected, seek challenges," 1979 SFU graduate Thomas C. Cosgrove said during the school's 163rd commencement in the DeGol Arena. "As you journey forward, imagine a path very different than that expected of you and by yourself."
Cosgrove, who become one of the top political strategists in the United States, has held several positions throughout his career since leaving Loretto.
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Marla Beck (right) and fellow sign language interpreters (from left) Dominique Mitch, Chelsie Adams and Lorraine Oliver rehearse before the St. Francis University commencement program at DeGol Arena on?Sunday afternoon. Please see story on Page A2.
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
St. Francis held ceremonies for 377 undergraduate students on Sunday.
According to a press release, he has been a field director for the National Clean Air Coalition, worked on Congressional and Senate races in Connecticut and on the Mondale and Dukakis Presidential campaigns. He also served as northeast regional representative for the Sierra Club according to a press release.
In 1990, he co-founded MacWilliams Cosgrove Smith Robinson Inc., a campaign consulting business, a press release said, adding the following year he formed The Cosgrove Group, a consulting firm specializing in solving communications problems.
According to the release, Cosgrove now is part of a nonprofit organization utilizing wiki technology as a catalyst for change. New Voice Strategies works with stakeholder groups - including the White House - to solve difficult problems, the release said.
Cosgrove said when he left St. Francis, the most important thing was the friendships he had made. He said being a friend is more than being a friend on Facebook.
"Being in someone's life takes more than observing it. Providing comfort in times of sorrow is as important as observing joy," Cosgrove said. "In today's world we are all products of a network. Here at St. Francis you have developed your own network and will continue to build on it as life goes forward. It is not how big and powerful it will be, it is how you choose to use it."
Cosgrove was presented with the annual Assisi Award, which honors a person, group, organization or agency that exemplifies the spirit of ministry of St. Francis of Assisi.
A total of 751 students (377 undergraduate and 374 graduate) received diplomas. Those students represent 16 states including California, Florida and Hawaii as well as six other countries - Vietnam, Scotland, China, Canada, Sweden and Brazil.
Hollidaysburg attorney Louis C. Schmitt Jr., a 1984 SFU graduate, was the speaker for the graduate ceremony.
Several local students were among those receiving their undergraduate degrees.
Cullen Kirkpatrick of Duncansville, who received a degree in computer science, said he was excited to graduate.
"It's been a long time coming, but the past few years have really flown by. I'm excited to move to the next stage of my life, but will definitely miss the opportunities that I had while in school," Kirkpatrick said.
He said he enjoyed every minute of his time at St. Francis.
"There's definitely something different about the small school in Loretto that can't be found many other places. The sense of family within the school and community is amazing, yet it still provides the opportunity to thrive in the university environment, said Kirkpatrick, who has obtained a job in the Washington, D.C. Metro area working as a technical analyst for an IT Consulting company.
Marla Beck of Roaring Spring, who received a bachelor of science degree in occupational therapy and a minor in American sign language, said she has made some great memories along the way.
"My experience at SFU has been full of wonderful opportunities and great people. I think what I will miss the most from my time at St. Francis is the people. I've met a lot of great people and made friendships that I think will last beyond my days at SFU," said Beck, who plans to continue her studies at SFU to earn a masters in occupational therapy.
Amanda Johnson of Tyrone said she had a successful career at SFU.
"I was the president of my sorority, the director of new student orientation, and an undergraduate researcher. I was supported by faculty and administration in whatever I wanted to do, and I was able to set my sights high," said Johnson, who will be attending medical school at the Kent State University College of Podiatric Medicine in Cleveland.
Sunday's commencement was the final one under President Rev. Gabriel Zeis, who has completed ten years in the position.
"Father Gabe has completed a very successful tenure. He has done outstanding work with the faculty and administration and shown his tremendous love for his students," said Very Rev. Richard Davis, chairman of the board of trustees.
State Sen. John Wozniak, D-Cambria, was presented with an honorary degree - Doctor of Humane Letters.
"Senator Wozniak has always been a great friend of St. Francis University and education in general throughout his district. Through his efforts we have received $7 million from the commonwealth," Zeis said.