Steve Lavin, St. John’s men’s basketball coach, was humbled to speak at not one but both University Commencement ceremonies and said the experience for him was “as good as it gets.” More than 3,000 St. John’s graduates combined to take part in the weekend ceremonies that began on Saturday, May 12, in Staten Island, and culminated on Sunday, May 13 in on the Jamaica campus.
The Staten Island Commencement saw 264 graduates receive degrees and close to 3,000 walked across the stage in Queens for St. John’s 142nd academic year.
The Very Rev. Perry Henry, C.M., provincial superior of the Western Province of the Congregation of the Mission in the U.S., received the degree of Doctor of Sacred Theology, honoris causa; Patti Ann Norris McDonald, mayor of Malverne, L.I., was awarded the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Medal; and William Collins, a member of St. John’s Board, was presented the degree of Doctor of Commercial Science, honoris causa.
President, Father Donald Harrington, C.M., presided over both ceremonies.
“Today is one of my favorite days of the year when we get to celebrate the accomplishments of our students. And, I have to say that in my 23 years as president, each year I’m more proud of the students who walk across that stage,” said Father Harrington, C.M. “I can’t help but reflect on how they’ve had such a great impact on our university and now (upon graduation) will have a great impact on our world.”
Coach Lavin used his speeches as “pep talks” to the graduates as he would during a locker room session with his team. He was also careful not to duplicate his efforts and give both audiences a fresh speech that hit home with the graduates, their families and friends.
“Although you’ve come to the finish line to celebrate your graduation from St. John’s, there’s also new hope and a fresh start on the horizon,” said Lavin in Staten Island before 2,500 attendees. “Now you can strive to be at your best when your best is needed. I call that competitive greatness.”
In Queens, Lavin continued his words of wisdom the following day to an overflow crowd estimated at 19,000 that stretched the entire length of the Great Lawn on the University’s main campus.
“There are no short cuts. Cancer (Lavin was diagnosed with the disease in 2010) has taught me about humility and the ability to bounce back. Life is precious and fragile. Don’t take it for granted,” added Lavin. “You can take pride in knowing that you’ve prepared at St. John’s for the challenges ahead, and you’re capable of striving for excellence and blazing your own trail as St. Vincent de Paul did.”