May 15, 2022
One of the defining moments in Adrian Wojnarowski’s career came not when he was breaking news of another stunning NBA trade or free agent signing.
It came when his wife told him to suck it up.
ESPN’s Senior NBA Insider recounted the story in his speech to 749 graduate and undergraduate students Sunday at St. Bonaventure University’s 162nd annual Commencement.
In 1997, Wojnarowski, Class of ’91, had taken a job as a columnist at the Bergen Record in New Jersey.
“Every morning on the sports pages, I had to go up against a lot of my heroes and idols in the business. And they were crushing me,” he said. “Day after day, story after story, I was getting destroyed. It got so bad, I woke up on a Monday morning and I wouldn’t get out of bed. I just laid there for hours, and told Amy, ‘I’m failing. I can’t make it in this market.’”
Amy, a Hellinger Award winner from the Class of ’92, had heard enough.
“Rightfully tired of all my whining … in so many words, she told me: Get your butt out of bed, stop feeling sorry for yourself and go do your job,” he said.
The lesson to graduates?
“Make sure you surround yourself with truth-tellers,” he said, “with those whose love is unfailing and honesty unflinching.”
Ten years later, Wojnarowski began carving out a remarkable niche in the industry as the foremost insider on the NBA for Yahoo Sports, eventually landing at ESPN in 2017.
Wojnarowski was among three remarkable alumni Sunday who received honorary doctorates.
Also honored were Tom Marra, ’80, retired president and CEO of Symetra Financial Corp., and Brigadier Gen. Maureen Keenan LeBoeuf (ret.), ’76, the first woman to chair a department at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. LeBoeuf is part of the nine-sibling Keenan clan of Olean, whose father, Leo, taught English at SBU for 52 years and who also received an honorary degree, in 2000. All nine Keenans attended St. Bonaventure.
Student speaker Alexa Shahine of Syracuse shared many of the things that are so Bonaventure: community, the Bona Bubble, unfettered support, and alumni bonds.
“I do not know what it is about this place that forms such a strong bond,” Shahine said. “Maybe there is some magic in the Enchanted Mountain air, maybe it was the inspiring words from Dr. (Joe) Zimmer’s candlelight speech challenging us to always say yes — within reason of course.
“But people here have a tendency to take tremendous leaps out of their comfort zones and trust that things will work out. And somehow, they always do.”
John Sheehan, chair of the university’s Board of Trustees, stressed the common bond of all Bonaventure graduates.
“Never forget that Bonnies are family, and that this special place will always be your second home. Thank you for the impact you’ve made here – for your scholarship in the classroom and your service in the community,” he said.
Before the ceremony began, a tribute video was played on the arena scoreboard to honor the memory of basketball legend Bob Lanier, ’70, who died Tuesday.
Wojnarowski also took the opportunity to reflect on the passing of the university’s most famous and beloved alum, and the mass shooting Saturday in Lanier’s hometown of Buffalo.
The class was seated on the Reilly Arena basketball court that bears Lanier’s name. In 1968, Lanier, in teammate Jimmy Satalin’s dorm room, opened up to teammates about what it felt like to be a young black man on an almost entirely white campus in that era.
One of Bob’s teammates described it as a seminal moment in his entire Bonaventure experience. For all of them, it was the beginning of learning how it might feel to walk in another man’s shoes.
“Remember Bob Lanier for electrifying millions as one of the great players in the history of the game, but remember him, too, as a sophomore opening up his heart and opening up young minds in a second floor Devereux dorm room,” Wojnarowski said. “All of us need to remember that someone else’s experience may not remotely resemble what we imagine it to be. Listen and love.”
Also recognized at Sunday’s ceremony were:
- Dr. Scott Simpson, associate professor of chemistry and Department of Chemistry chair, who was awarded the Professional Excellence in Research and Publication Award.
- Dr. Elizabeth Tillman, assistant professor of political science, who received the Junior Faculty Award for Professional Excellence.
- Ideal Bonaventure Students Meghan Hall of Buffalo and Jack Steger of Webster; and Ideal honorable mentions Sonal Mahindroo of Morganville, New Jersey, and Zayba Chauhdry of Olean.
For complete Commencement coverage, visit http://www.sbu.edu/Commencement.
About the University: The nation’s first Franciscan university, St. Bonaventure University is a community committed to transforming the lives of our students inside and outside the classroom, inspiring in them a lifelong commitment to service and citizenship. St. Bonaventure was named the #5 regional university value in the North in U.S. News and World Report’s 2022 college rankings edition.