Commencement Speaker: Cardinal Turkson

Isabella Bruni, Co-News Editor

In just a little over a month, on Sunday, May 21, seniors will bid St. John’s farewell, but not before taking in the last bit of advice given to them by a commencement speaker before they set off.

The person delivering the commencement address on the Queens campus will be His Eminence Peter Kodwo Appiah Cardinal Turkson, Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, according to a statement from the University on April 7.

Known as one of the most energetic leaders of the Church, according to the University, Cardinal Turkson is a Roman Catholic from Ghana.

He was selected by Pope Francis to serve as Prefect of the Dicastery on Promoting Integral Human Development, a new department as of Jan. 1, 2017, that takes on the tasks of the Pontifical Councils for Justice and Peace, Migrants and Itinerant Peoples, Healthcare Workers and Cor Unum.

This department essentially provided humanitarian assistance and encouragement in coordinating Catholic charitable works through the papal charity.

“We are humbled and honored that Cardinal Turkson has accepted our invitation to speak to our graduates at this year’s commencement ceremony,” President of St. John’s University, Conrado “Bobby” Gempesaw, Ph.D., said in a statement from the University.  

“Cardinal Turkson’s tireless work with the sick and homeless around the globe serves as a model for our students to love and respect all individuals and to serve those most in need,” he continued.

This dedication is at the core of who we are as a Vincentian university, and we are proud to have Cardinal Turkson share his message of social justice and caring for the marginalized with our newest alumni.”

The Staten Island campus’ commencement speaker on Saturday, May 20 will be Lois Nicotra ‘77NDC, ‘79GEd, the Chairman and CEO of the Nicotra Group LLC.


Separate commencement exercises will be held for graduate students earning degrees beginning on May 15. The speakers for each of the six ceremonies, according to the University, are:

  •      Michael Dorato ’71P, ’73GP, ’76Ph.D., Executive Vice President, Smithers Avanza – College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences Graduate Commencement, May 15 at 6 p.m.
  •      Sonia Nieto ’65ED, Professor Emerita, Dept. of Teacher Education and Curriculum, Studies, University of Massachusetts, Amherst – The School of Education Graduate Commencement, May 16 at 6 p.m.
  •      William Janetschek, Jr. ’84CBA, Member and Chief Financial Officer, Kohlberg, Kravis, Roberts & Co. L.P. and member of the Board of Trustees, St. John’s University – The Peter J. Tobin College of Business Graduate Commencement, May 17 at 6 p.m.
  •      Patricia Castel Skarulis ’66C, ’68G, Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and member of the Board of Trustees, St. John’s University – St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Graduate Commencement, May 18 at 6 p.m.
  •      Frank Bisignano, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, First Data Corp. – College of Professional Studies Graduate Commencement, May 19 at 5 p.m.
  •      Hon. Janet DiFiore ’81L, Chief Judge of the State of New York and Chief Judge of the New York Court of Appeals – School of Law Commencement, June 4, 12 p.m.    

For the complete Commencement schedule, information can be found at