John Cabot University Celebrates the Class of 2022
JCU Returns to Villa Aurelia
On May 16, 2022, John Cabot University celebrated the Class of 2022 at the Villa Aurelia on the Janiculum Hill overlooking the city of Rome. 188 students received their B.A. degrees, and 17 students received their M.A. in Art History. The ceremony marked a return to a completely in-person Commencement, after the restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Professor Tom Govero: Taking Inspiration from the Classics
The invocation was given by Professor Tom Govero, Lecturer in Classics at JCU. Quoting Greek essayist Plutarch, Professor Govero said, “What we achieve inwardly, will affect outward reality.” He then proceeded to give students advice on how to best affect outward reality, such as being good listeners, embracing complexity, and asking frequent questions. He recalled the words of eminent Ancient Greek poet Pindar, who wrote, “Oh my soul, do not strive for immortality but maximize the possible.” “May you maximize the possible in your lives, your careers, and your friendships as you adventure through life and affect outward reality,” concluded Professor Govero.
President Franco Pavoncello’s Address
President Pavoncello congratulated the Class of 2022 for their achievements and told students that they were graduating in a special year: “50 years ago, in September 1972, John Cabot International College opened its doors to its first group of 30 students, starting a journey that would take it from a tiny building on the outskirts of Rome to the very heart of the Eternal City, and from a small international college to John Cabot University, one of the most prestigious overseas American universities in Europe.”
The President commented on the enormous impact that Covid-19 has had upon the lives of the Class of 2022. He praised the graduates for overcoming the challenges, anxieties, limitations, and isolation that the pandemic has produced: “Make this courage and resilience the compass to guide your future and inform your life.”
According to the President, the present, characterized by one of the bloodiest European wars since World War II, should not dim our view of the promises of “a more peaceful, compassionate future, based upon sustainable, global shared prosperity, where reason and collaboration between free and open societies can prevail.” It is up to the new generations, said the President, to work hard to make sure that this new future becomes a reality by striving for progress and promoting dialogue, wisdom, and compassion.
The President described John Cabot University as an environment deeply immersed in the spirit of the liberal arts, characterized by an international community of scholars and students, where dialogue, reason, and respect are the center of academic life: “The quality of John Cabot’s academic programs, together with its outstanding international faculty, and dedicated staff, has given you the tools to succeed,” he told graduates.
Congratulations from Board of Trustees Vice-Chair Portia Prebys
The President then introduced Dr. Portia Prebys, Vice-Chair of the JCU Board of Trustees, who congratulated the graduates on behalf of the Board.
“Our generation is counting on you, as educated individuals, to actively conceive and maintain, each in your own creative and inventive way, true international understanding, every single tomorrow, for an enduring, peaceful world for everyone,” said Dr. Prebys.
Commencement Speaker Billy Collins
Billy Collins was appointed United States Poet Laureate 2001-2003 and served as New York State Poet 2004-2006. A former Distinguished Professor of English at Lehman College of the City University of New York, he is a member of The American Academy of Arts and Letters. Three of his collections have broken sales records for poetry and his readings are usually standing room only. A great friend of John Cabot University, Dr. Collins was Poet in Residence during the Summer 2012 Institute for Creative Writing and Literary Translation. In 2017, JCU’s Italy Reads program welcomed him as the keynote speaker on American poet Emily Dickinson.
In his talk, Collins explained “what is found in Poetry with a capital P.” Poetry asks us to slow down, “it can be a check on what one psychiatrist calls ‘the hurry sickness.’” Poetry, according to Collins, is the only history we have of the human heart, and it teaches us to pay attention to the ordinary wonders of human experience. Poetry also lights up our imaginations and is a home for ambiguity. “A respect for ambiguity and uncertainty could help reduce the kind of hard-headed absolutism and demagoguery that has created the horrors of this recent war,” said Collins.
Collins then proceeded to give the graduates advice, including this one on reading: “The purpose of a university, wrote Scottish historian and philosopher Thomas Carlyle, is to teach people to read. He did not mean literacy, he meant the ability to read critically, that is, with skepticism and curiosity, and openheartedness to be a proactive reader who writes on the margins. I’m guessing nothing could make your teachers more proud of you than knowing you will continue your education on your own, carrying the habit of learning beyond the classroom and into your life. Your head is the classroom now, and you are the teacher and the student as well.”
After talking about the importance of gratitude, Collins ended by reading his famous poem “The Lanyard,” in which the narrator’s remorse for giving his mother such a modest gift as a lanyard, is mitigated by the realization that a mother’s love is pure and unconditional. The lanyard’s expression of thanks and goodwill was more than enough to reward her.
President Pavoncello then conferred the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa to Collins, describing him as someone “who brought poetry into people’s daily lives and made the literary, creative experience an accessible dialogue.”
Conferral of Honorary Degree to Dr. Azza Karam
Dr. Azza Karam is Secretary-General of Religions for Peace – the largest multireligious leadership platform with 92 national and 6 regional Interreligious Councils. She also holds a Professorship of Religion and Development at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam, The Netherlands – of which she is a citizen. Born in Egypt, she now lives in the United States. She studied at JCU during the 1984-1985 academic year.
In presenting Dr. Karam with the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, President Pavoncello said, “You have made an extraordinary contribution to world peace and interreligious dialogue. The success of your efforts to encourage religious mediation has greatly impacted peace-keeping negotiations.”
In thanking the University for this honor, Dr. Karam reminded the graduates that “no one is safe until everyone is safe.” She encouraged students to embrace the value of servant leadership, which means that we do not serve ourselves, but we serve one another. “Leadership through service is quintessentially what our world is lacking,” said Dr. Karam.
Giulia Leo, Class of 2022 Valedictorian
Born and raised in Bari, in Italy’s Puglia region, Giulia Leo, earned a B.A. in Communications summa cum laude, with a minor in Creative Writing. Giulia is also pursuing a second B.A. in English Literature with a minor in Classical Studies, which she will complete next year. At JCU she discovered a passion for journalism and in September 2021, she became President of JCU’s student-run newspaper The Matthew. She recently received the 2022 award for academic excellence in Journalism and the Student Leadership Award.
Giulia thanked everyone who made Commencement day possible, from the families and chosen families who supported students every step of the way, to the professors who created a safe space for students to grow and express themselves in, to all the members of administration and staff. JCU, says Giulia, is “a place for love, gratefulness, and extraordinary connections,” a place that graduates will always consider a home.
Conferral of Degrees
In the presence of Vice President of Academics Mary Merva, Associate Dean Pamela Harris presented diplomas to graduates, who received their Master of Arts in Art History and Bachelor of Arts in Art History, Business Administration, Classical Studies, Communications, Economics and Finance, English Literature, History, Humanistic Studies, International Affairs, International Business, Marketing, Political Science, and Psychological Science.
Congratulations Class of 2022 from the entire JCU community!
Watch the recording of the Commencement Ceremony.