SLU-Madrid Celebrates Midyear Commencement
Friends, family and the SLU-Madrid community came together to honor the newest Madrid Billiken graduates at this year’s midyear commencement. SLU-Madrid conferred degrees to 15 students from four countries and six U.S. states.
Assistant Dean Jaime Ortiz served as master of ceremonies, opening the event with words of welcome. After Rev. James O'Leary, S.J, led the invocation, Director and Academic Dean Paul Vita, Ph.D., reflected on the power of the craft of teaching in impacting the lives of students.
“The formative partnership between faculty and students lies at the heart of the academic enterprise,” Vita said. “All faculty are, by turns, transmitters of knowledge, purveyors of culture, initiators of professional training, mentors, role models, research colleagues, and in some cases, lifelong friends of our students.”
Before introducing the two student speakers, Paula Otero Santos and Farida Rehab, Vita presented the graduates with a special gift commemorating the University’s 200 years of educating men and women in the Jesuit tradition: the bicentennial coin. The laurel leaves on the coin represent each of the University’s 33 presidents, and the stars represent each of the University’s schools and college as well as one star for each of the campuses – St. Louis, Missouri and Madrid, Spain.
In keeping with the tradition of a bilingual ceremony, Otero delivered her address in Spanish. For Otero, one of the most meaningful parts of the SLU-Madrid experience was the friendships she developed. “Ha sido un camino bonito e inolvidable,” Otero said. “Y lo mejor de los caminos no es cuando empiezas o donde acabas, sino quien te acompaña en ese camino.”
The second student speaker, Rehab, who hails from Cairo, Egypt, offered her remarks in English, a language she continued to develop during her time at SLU-Madrid. Rehab compared her University experience to sampling a new kind of sandwich that stimulated her taste buds in surprising new ways.
This year, students nominated business professor Marta Moreno, Ph.D., to deliver the faculty remarks. After 20 years as an educator at SLU-Madrid, Moreno conveyed her passion, wisdom and common sense in urging students to enjoy the new phase of their lives and to never be afraid to make mistakes.
Acting Provost Michael Lewis, Ph.D. gave the commencement address on the topic of vocation.
“I hope your SLU education has taught you to think about vocation in a broader sense than an occupation or career,” he said. “I hope you see your path ahead, using your SLU education, your talents, to be in service to humanity, to be in service to those on the margins of our society: the homeless, persons displaced from war, famine, environmental disasters, those suffering from racism, religious bigotry – those who need our attention and our help.”
In a video message specially prepared for the event, SLU President Fred Pestello, Ph.D., also addressed the graduates.
“You are prepared to show joy with those who are low, direction with those who are lost, and hope with those who live in fear,” he said. “Wherever your path takes you, lead with love and mercy.”
The video came to a close as he officially declared the graduates sons and daughters of Saint Louis University forever.