OLEAN – A survivor’s tale from the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks was related Sunday at St. Bonaventure University, where graduates were urged to embrace the faith of their childhoods but only if they “respect that same passion in the faith of others.”
The keynote address for the university’s 154th commencement was delivered by the Rev. Dr. Joan Brown Campbell, who retired last December after 13 years as director of the Department of Religion at Chautauqua Institution. A total of 610 students – 404 undergraduates and 206 graduates – received their degrees in Reilly Center Arena.
Campbell spoke of a man who survived the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City by ignoring the call to remain in his office and instead racing down 47 flights of stairs to safety.
“He was unable to get out of his mind the scene that he left behind – people of all ages, races, gender, nationalities were praying, in languages he could not understand, in postures of prayer with which he was unfamiliar,” Campbell said. “But all were praying to one God.”
That memory left the man not with guilt but with hope.
“Perhaps it is this vision that should be the passion of our hearts – a vision, a commitment that binds us together in pursuit of a better world,” said Campbell.
The student speaker Sunday was Makeda Loney, a journalism and mass communication major from Brooklyn.
Loney is a student in the Arthur O. Eve Higher Education Opportunity Program – named after former Deputy Assembly Speaker Arthur O. Eve, D-Buffalo – which provides access to continuing education for promising students with special academic and financial needs.
She’s the first HEOP student to receive the university’s Dr. Mary A. Hamilton Woman of Promise, an award that recognizes a woman journalism and mass communication student who has excelled in and out of the classroom, set an example for peers and possesses the skills necessary not only to succeed, but also thrive, in her postgraduate career.
“No other school has the soul or qualities or feeling of warmth, home and energy like Bona’s,” Loney said. “So once you leave this campus today, do not for a second doubt yourself as a person. St. Bonaventure has provided you with the tools to grow spiritually, educationally and professionally.”
Loney plans to move to Atlanta to attend copywriting classes at The Creative Circus, a portfolio-building educational program.