John Cabot University Celebrates the Classes of 2020 and 2021

“You are stepping into a world that needs not only your skills, but also your resilience and compassion, a world which will benefit from your realization that your endurance, and ability to confront life’s obstacles and unexpected challenges is much greater than you thought.”                     – John Cabot University President Franco Pavoncello

A Hybrid Commencement
On May 17, John Cabot University honored the Classes of 2020 and 2021 in a hybrid Commencement event, which took place in full compliance with the anti-COVID-19 safety protocols established by the Italian government. Graduates were given the choice of attending the event in person or remotely, as their families and friends watched through live streaming.

The ecumenical invocation was given by Fr. Riccardo Lufrani, O.P., Prior of the Santa Maria Sopra Minerva convent, Chaplain of John Cabot University.

President Franco Pavoncello’s Greetings
JCU President Franco Pavoncello congratulated the Classes of 2020 and 2021, and commented on the fact that this Commencement was different from all the previous ones held at JCU, due to current public health restrictions. “But it will certainly be a most memorable one, the fruit of our dedication to our graduates, and our willingness to devise unprecedented solutions to honor them all,” said President Pavoncello.

JCU President Franco Pavoncello addresses the Classes of 2020 and 2021

JCU President Franco Pavoncello addresses the graduates

According to the President, this Commencement epitomizes the strength and resilience of our entire community. “The inventiveness, creative motivation, constant care of health and safety, attention to detail, and dedication of our outstanding Faculty and Staff,  were the qualities that made it possible for John Cabot University to turn on a dime and move to remote education in March 2020. We have been able to remain open, thanks also to the maturity and collaboration of our students, while continuing to provide the excellent education our University is known for, worldwide,” he said.

President Pavoncello praised the graduates for continuing to remain engaged and contribute to the community, to study and work diligently towards their goals, despite the challenges presented by the pandemic. “Your impressive resilience defines you – make it the rock you stand upon in looking at the horizon of your life ahead.”

JCU graduates, said President Pavoncello, now face the responsibility to chart the way to a better future for humanity, and the resilience and commitment they have shown will serve them well and be their compass. “The extraordinary experiences of these past two years will give you the strength and the opportunity to build something truly innovative and remarkable, with a new appreciation of the value of ordinary life, and the commitment to work for  a better, cleaner, and more peaceful world.”

Congratulations from Board of Trustees Chairman
The President then introduced Sal Salibello, Chairman of the JCU Board of Trustees, who congratulated the graduates on behalf of the Board. “Despite these extraordinary circumstances, you have persevered and completed your studies. You are graduating with a degree from a unique American university in Rome and are now equipped with an excellent education and the skills to follow your dreams through further education or building a career.”

Commencement Speaker Staffan De Mistura
The Honorable Staffan de Mistura served as Special Envoy for Syria of the United Nations Secretary-General from July 2014 to December 2018. Prior to this assignment, he was notably the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Iraq (2007-2009) and in Afghanistan (2010-2011), and Italy’s Deputy Foreign Minister (2012/2014). During a career of over four decades with United Nations agencies, he served in numerous conflict zones, directing complex relief operations, food distributions, and vaccination campaigns. In particular, he was posted in Sudan, Ethiopia, Albania, Afghanistan, Iraq, Bosnia, and Somalia. He has also held senior political and humanitarian assignments in Lebanon and Iraq and served as Deputy Executive Director of the World Food Programme.

The Honorable Staffan de Mistura addresses the Classes of 2020 and 2021

At the podium, the Honorable Staffan de Mistura; seated, President Pavoncello

In his address to the graduates Mr. De Mistura said that sooner or later, there will be an event, or a person, or a book that will inspire them and help them answer the question, “what am I to do now that I have this degree?” In his case, the question was answered when he was an 18-year-old volunteer in Cyprus. “As you know the Green Line divides Cyprus into two parts, Turkish and Greek. In front of me, a boy about 8 or 9 years old was playing football and was suddenly hit by a sniper. I had never seen anyone die and certainly not killed before. The feeling of outrage that I felt has marked all my life. So I decided that in my profession, I would make life difficult for those who kill civilians.”

Mr. De Mistura also told the graduates that they would soon be facing the “chicken and egg syndrome,” which is how he describes the problem of applying for jobs and being told, “you don’t have any experience.” The solution, according to Mr. De Mistura, is to not get discouraged but to “make an omelet,” i.e., do volunteer work in order to gain experience, preferably in a small setting, where you can learn more and make a difference.

In conclusion, Mr. De Mistura told the graduates that they belonged to a special group, who managed to finish their education in this challenging time, despite the distances, zoom meetings, and inability to do what had been taken for granted until now. “You are that group and you will be remembered for this. So you should be proud, your parents should be proud, we are proud of you! Godspeed!”

Conferral of Honorary Degree
President Pavoncello then conferred the degree of Doctor of International Affairs, honoris causa to the Hon. De Mistura, describing him as an outstanding diplomat and indefatigable pursuer of international peace and reconciliation. “You have served as a trusted and respected mediator in the most dangerous war-ravaged areas of the world, working incessantly for a solution to the most complex and painful conflicts of our age. Your contribution to human progress is invaluable and lasting.”

Giacomo Di Capua

Giacomo Di Capua

Giacomo Di Capua, Class of 2021 Valedictorian
Born in Rome, Giacomo Di Capua obtained a B.A. in International Affairs summa cum laude. He has been the President of JCU’s Grassroots Environmental Club since 2019. He recently won the Academic Excellence Award in International Affairs, the Presidential Award for Outstanding Service to John Cabot University, and the Student Leadership Award.

In his address, Giacomo talked about the many lessons learned at JCU. “Of these years, we will remember the value of the sense of community. Whether you have ever joined a student club, a study group, or created a lifelong bond with someone here at JCU, you will always remember how empowering, energizing, and emboldening is the notion of being part of something bigger such as the community we have created here in the past four years. Having been part of a small yet vibrant group of people will help us navigate the hardships of our future lives.”

He concluded by saying, “When you leave here today, celebrate your accomplishments with an eye on how you can, and how you inevitably will shape our common future, through the spirit of humanity, community, and service you have learned here, in Rome, at our John Cabot University. Ad Majora, class of 2021!”

Jacopo Olmo Antinori, Class of 2020 Valedictorian
Jacopo, who is also from Rome, received his B.A. in English Literature with minors in Communications and Creative Writing. An actor, he decided to study English Literature in order to develop English skills with a view to becoming a screenwriter, a director, and eventually a producer.

Jacopo Olmo Antinori

Jacopo Olmo Antinori

For Jacopo, if there’s one thing that the pandemic has shown with uncontestable certainty is that we are all interconnected. “Each thing that we do, say, or even think, generates an effect that reverberates in the lives of others. If on the one hand, this means that a virus can spread throughout the world in a matter of weeks, it also means that what each of us does with his or her life, is of tremendous importance to society as a whole,”  he said. “When we realize how much we can impact reality with our choices, we can begin to see how important it is to study and work for others as well as for ourselves. We have all enjoyed the beautiful privilege of education. Let us put this gift in service of the global community that surrounds us and especially for those who did not enjoy the same privileges that we do. Let us use these things that we have learned to build a truly equal, truly sustainable, and truly human world. Let us study and work not only for ourselves but also for every other human being on this planet.”

Conferral of Degrees
Next, in individual sessions, academic department chairs and senior professors conferred degrees upon 442 graduates from 59 countries. Graduates received their Master of Arts degrees in Art History, Bachelor of Arts degrees in Art History, Business Administration, Classical Studies, Communications, Economics and Finance, English Literature, History, Humanistic Studies, International Affairs, International Business, Italian Studies, Marketing, and Political Science, and Associate of Arts degrees in Art History, Communications, English Literature, Humanistic Studies, and International Business.

Congratulations Classes of 2020 and 2021 from the entire JCU community!

See more Commencement photos on the JCU Facebook page

Watch the Welcome session (including speeches by President Pavoncello, Hon. De Mistura, and Valedictorians)