The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

Flames of the Torch

Last year, St. John’s graduates received a commencement address from George Stephanopoulos, ABC news anchor and White House press secretary for President Bill Clinton. The event garnered a great deal of attention and was highly publicized.

The University announced that Stephanopoulos would be the commencement speaker in late March of 2007. Yet as of right now, at the end of April, there has been no such announcement regarding the speaker for the 2008 commencement ceremony on the Queens campus.

According to administrators, the commencement ceremony will feature a speaker and a number of individuals have been contacted and invited to speak at graduation.

What exactly is taking so long to confirm a speaker? And why does there appear to be such a lackadaisical approach to what is traditionally a memorable moment for graduates?

While the fate of the Queens campus commencement address is still up in the air, the speaker for the Staten Island campus has already been announced. Dominic Scianna, the director of Media Relations, told the Torch weeks ago that WCBS-TV news anchor Dana Tyler will be the keynote speaker for the Staten Island commencement.

So how was St. John’s able to finalize their Staten Island speaker weeks ago, yet still be unsure who will be coming to the Queens campus?

Administrators such as Pamela Shea-Byrnes, the vice president for University Ministry and University Events, and Jose Rodriguez, associate vice president of Student Affairs and Dean of Students – gladly mentioned the Staten Island commencement speaker, though when they were asked about Queens, they became tightlipped. They explained that they did not even know who the potential candidates were. If that is indeed the case, then who does know what is going on?

It is understandable that the University would be hesitant to name names or at least throw out a few possibilities. Without a solid commitment, it could lead to misunderstandings and hard feelings if someone mentioned did not in fact appear.

Graduation will be the last experience most students have at St. John’s, and those in attendance will want to get something out of it besides sunburns and heat exhaustion from the three-hour wait in the sun. An interesting commencement address can certainly go a long way to ease the long hours that graduates, friends, and family spend on the Great Lawn on Graduation Day.

George Stephanopoulos gave a great presentation to graduates, leaving them with inspiring words, solid advice, and a few jokes and anecdotes to commemorate the occasion. Stephanopoulos should be the benchmark used by the University to choose future commencement speakers, including the one scheduled for this year.

Of course, a figure of nationwide fame is not necessary to engage students and leave them with a positive memory of their graduation. St. John’s has had plenty of other interesting speakers at past graduations, like NYC police commissioner Ray Kelly in 2005.

Years from now, St. John’s graduates of the class of 2008 might remember their commencement ceremony or they might not. What could be the deciding factor in that memory is who came to speak to them on the day of their graduation.

It’s up to the University whether the commencement speaker is a big name or a member of the alumni who has some advice to share. Either could result in good memories for graduates. The real issue is when are we going to find out? Students do not want to wait until May to learn that their commencement address is being given by someone they’ve never heard of, or no one at all.

Unfortunately, this hanging question as to who will be presenting the commencement address in May leaves students with little to do now but wait.

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