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Jesuit Father Gerard Stockhausen delivers the commencement address at the University of Detroit Mercy.
Jesuits Offer Advice to Graduates, Receive Honorary Degrees at Jesuit Universities across the Country

May 28, 2014 — Nearly 20,000 undergraduates at the 28 U.S. Jesuit colleges and universities received their degrees at commencement ceremonies this month. They also took home advice from a diverse group of commencement speakers, including several Jesuits.

Jesuit speakers included Father Timothy Lannon (Creighton University); Brother Guy Consolmagno (Georgetown University); Father Thomas Reese (Loyola University Chicago); Father James Martin (Marquette University); Father David Hollenbach (Saint Joseph’s University); Father Jon Sobrino (Santa Clara University); and Father Gerard Stockhausen (University of Detroit Mercy).

In addition, Jesuit Father John Padberg, Director of the Institute of Jesuit Sources in St. Louis, was presented with an honorary degree from Fairfield University in Connecticut, and Jesuit Father Joseph Tetlow, a writer, lecturer and retreat director in St. Louis,  was awarded an honorary doctorate from Saint Louis University. Jesuit Father Edward J. Durkin, director of the St. Augustine and St. Monica Scholars Programs of the NativityMiguel Middle School in Buffalo, N.Y., received an honorary degree from Canisius College.

(L-R:) Jesuit Father Paul Fitzgerald , Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs at Fairfield; Fr. Padberg; and Jesuit Father Jeffrey P. von Arx, president of Fairfield University.

Other commencement speakers at U.S. Jesuit schools showcased a diversity of views and talents. Secretary of State John Kerry (Boston College), CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer (Canisius College), former NASA astronaut Captain James Lovell (Loyola Marymount University) and soccer star Brandi Chastain (Santa Clara University) were among the speakers offering advice to Jesuit graduates.

For Fr. Stockhausen, Socius and Executive Secretary to the President and Director of Planning for the U.S. Jesuit Conference, returning to the University of Detroit Mercy (UDM) was a homecoming. He spent 10 years at UDM —including six as president — prior to joining the Jesuit Conference in 2010.

Fr. Stockhausen said it was great to be back on campus and see old friends, who “at least pretended to be happy to see me,” he said, laughing.

In his address, Fr. Stockhausen thanked a number of people he’d worked with at UDM. “That’s the first life lesson: You can’t do it yourself. Find good people to work with.”

Another message Fr. Stockhausen conveyed to the graduates was that often when you have a problem to solve and you feel like you’re in a dead end, it’s usually because you think something is given or fixed that really isn’t.

He illustrated this with an example of a challenging time at UDM when finances were tight. As he and Sr. Maureen Fay, OP, (president at the time) looked for ways to solve the problem, they realized they took for granted that the school had to operate two campuses. Ultimately, they decided to sell one campus and combine the two.

“That led to another lesson,” Fr. Stockhausen explained. “When you’re counting costs, it’s not just financial, but human.” Selling the former Mercy College campus meant that the Mercy Sisters had to give up their motherhouse — the place where they entered religious life, the chapel in which they made their vows. For the faculty it meant changing offices, routines and traditions.

“Everybody had to give and there were a few years of real adjustment,” Fr. Stockhausen said. “That led to the final lesson: Don’t underestimate people’s ability to step up and be creative when faced with a challenge.” [Sources: University of Detroit Mercy, AJCU, Fairfield University, Missouri Province]

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