Southern Awards Diplomas During Inaugural Winter Commencement

Mayor DeStefanoDon't be arrogant. Don't settle for less. And don't ever give up.

Those were the recommendations of outgoing New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. in his commencement address to about 275 undergraduates who received diplomas Dec. 18, 2013 at Southern's Lyman Center for the Performing Arts.

The ceremony marked Southern's first winter commencement in its history. A total of about 450 students are expected to receive diplomas during the next few weeks.

DeStefano, in one of his final addresses as New Haven's chief

executive, told the graduates that they can often make their own luck in life through hard work and commitment. He also outlined three suggestions for the students:

"Don't think you did this by yourself." He said that family, faculty, coaches and others have played a part in their success, as have the taxpayers of the state of Connecticut for paying to "keep the lights on" at Southern.

"Don't settle for less." DeStefano said that students should expect excellence, especially from themselves, and that working a little longer, a little harder or being a little more tolerant toward someone can make a big difference in their lives.

"Don't give up." He said that no matter how bad things may be on a given day, God probably loves them enough to give them another day. Persistence pays off, he said.

Southern President Mary A. Papazian also provided some encouraging words to the graduates.

"I have to say that during my presidency, I have been highly impressed by the quality of our students and the self-sacrifice, determination and sheer hard work that they have put in to achieve their goals," she said. "And today, for you, our fall graduates, all that effort comes to a happy fruition.

"At Southern, we helped you study the deepest thoughts, the most compelling language, the most beautiful art and the most historic events," the president added. "We helped you unravel the intricacies of science and math and the latest technologies. But now, the rest is up to you."

Other speakers included: Merle Harris, a member of the state Board of Regents for Higher Education; Chelsea Schillizzi, president of the Class of 2014; and Teresa Sirico, president of the Alumni Association Board of Directors. Marianne Kennedy, interim provost and vice president for academic affairs, presented the candidates for degrees.

An evening ceremony also was held at the Lyman Center for graduate students who are receiving diplomas in December.