NYU pres. receives honor

With a string and horn quartet leading the procession, Dr. John Sexton, President of New York University, received the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters from St. John’s University on Wednesday, November 7 for his work as an educator, which he has been for more than 40 years.

Dr. Sexton was joined by colleagues, friends, and admirers last week at the convocation, which was held in Belson Moot Courtroom in the Law School. His address was entitled “Faith In/And the University.”

The President of St. John’s, Rev. Harrington, C.M., a longtime friend and colleague of Sexton’s, conferred the degree.

“When you find someone who understands the struggles and challenges, but at the same time, also understands
the vision, it’s greatly reassuring,” said Rev. Harrington.

Provost Dr. Julia Upton, RSM, presented the 15th president of NYU for the honorary degree, followed by the reading of the citation by Dr. James Pellow, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of St. John’s.

“It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge,” Pellow said, quoting Albert Einsten. He went on to explain that Dr. Sexton has “awakened that joy” in his students.

Considering himself first and foremost an educator (he teaches three courses a semester), Dr. Sexton joined the faculty of NYU in 1981 and became Dean in 2002.

He has received numerous degrees from Fordham, St. Francis College, Syracuse University, and others as well as a J.D. magna cum laude from Harvard.

Sexton noted that if it was not for 9/11, he would not have seen the potential for New York University.

Another tragic event has also helped him see life in a new way: this past January, his wife of 31 years, Lisa, passed away.
Dr. Sexton said of his wife’s sudden passing that “[she] has changed me for the better.”

He also explained that he believes “human life has transcendence” and that she is still with him, just not in a physical sense. “…I know that when I pass from this physical earth we will be united in our love,” he said.

These tragedies, according to Dr. Sexton, have strengthened him as a person.

He said that he not only applies this newfound strength to his own life, but also to the lives of his students and colleagues.
He would advise his own students to “learn the joy of a life of love, and to never sacrifice a meaningful personal life.”
He added that it is also key to understand the “joy of living
a useful life.”