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St. Bonaventure makes good on late president’s promise to Class of 2020

Jun 18, 2022

Class of 2020 grads process into the Reilly Center

Promise kept.

Two years after Dr. Dennis DePerro vowed in an online graduation ceremony caused by the pandemic that the St. Bonaventure University Class of 2020 would one day celebrate their commencement on campus, almost 120 members of the class flipped their tassels in person Saturday morning in the Reilly Center Arena.

“This weekend is the fulfillment of a promise made to you by Dr. DePerro,” said Alice Miller Nation, director of the university’s Franciscan Center for Social Concern and the keynote speaker chosen by students in the Class of 2020.

“There is no doubt in my mind that he so wanted to be with you this weekend. And my faith tells me that he indeed is present with us today, in a way that we can only capture glimpses of at times.”

President DePerro passed away from COVID-19 complications March 1, 2021, just three weeks shy of a year after the Class of 2020 was sent home to finish their academic careers online at the outset of the pandemic.

“Your class has learned the hard way that life is not always fair,” Miller Nation said. “Do you remember back to March of 2020 when we really believed all we had to do was flatten the curve for a few weeks? We have learned so much over the past two years. And somehow, someway – you have figured out how to move forward, how to keep going and live the dreams that have been forming in your hearts.”

Alice Miller Nation delivers the keynote addressDubbed as GradUnion 2020 — a hybrid weekend of graduation and reunion — students also were able to participate Friday in the traditional Baccalaureate Mass and Candlelight Ceremony welcoming them into the university’s National Alumni Association. A picnic for the graduating students was held Saturday afternoon and the Alumni Office treated them to events Saturday night at The Other Place and Burton.

Dana Porzio, a summa cum laude education major who’s now a kindergarten teacher, was selected as the student speaker two years ago before the pandemic struck and returned to campus to follow up on her commitment to address her classmates. She returned with a perspective shaped daily by her place in the classroom.

“My challenge to you, as we continue moving ahead in our lives, is to never lose sight of your inner 5-year-old,” Porzio said. “Find something that you love and share it with everyone you know. Spontaneously tell those in your lives you love them, because I promise, it will make their day. … Be fascinated by science and remind yourself that taking a break is a good thing. But most importantly, never stop wanting to learn.”

The ceremony was the last event for Dr. Joe Zimmer in his role as acting president of the university. In his remarks, Dr. Michael Hill, president of Chautauqua Institution and outgoing secretary of the university’s Board of Trustees, thanked Zimmer for his selfless service and keeping the university’s momentum going during one of the most challenging periods in the school’s history.

Dr. Jeff Gingerich begins his role as SBU’s 22nd president on Tuesday. Zimmer will return to his previous position as provost and vice president for Academic Affairs.


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.