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Class of 2024 Commencement: Who Will Set the World on Fire?

Class of 2024 Commencement: Who Will Set the World on Fire?

"We gather to confer these diplomas and to celebrate the accomplishments of the Class of 2024 just above the crypt in which Archbishop John Hughes—the founder of Fordham Prep—is buried, and in the seat of the Archdiocese on which he built a foundation of Catholic schools that still endures today,” said Principal Joseph Petriello, PhD ‘98 on May 29th at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Graduates of the Fordham Prep Class of 2024, their families and friends, faculty, staff, and trustees filled the sky-scraping neo-Gothic style church to celebrate the Prep’s  179th Commencement Exercises.

Fordham Prep faculty, staff, and the Board of Trustees stand before the Class of 2024 at commencement.

After the signing of the national anthem, Chaplin Fr. Jim Coughlin, SJ, opened the exercises with an invocation to the Holy Spirit. He was followed by the traditional Speaker for the Graduates, John Barisano ‘24.

"This day marks my 160th Fordham Prep speech in the last two years,” said President of Student Government Barisano, a member of the Speech and Debate team as well as the Fordham Prep Dramatic Society (FPDS).

Barisano reflected on the hardships brought on by the pandemic in September 2020, a time when he and his freshman classmates “thought the world might fall apart.

"We were faced with so many new challenges—hybrid learning, restricted sports, no hands-on activities—do you know how hard it is to learn chemistry without touching a chemical?” he asked.

A freshman year of hybrid learning made returning to Shea Hall together as sophomores in the fall of 2021 more meaningful. They formed stronger connections with each other and their teachers. Barisano acknowledged social studies teacher Edward Jennings P’08 ‘10 ‘14, science teachers Matthew Distefano and Jennifer Muller, English teacher William Magner, religious studies teachers Paul Homer (Director of Christian Service) and Randall Pedro P’12, ‘17 (Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion), and modern language teacher Teresa Faustini P’06, ‘10, among others, in his tribute to Prep faculty.

Barisano took another look back in time to the freshman summer assignment, focused on developing the qualities of a Jesuit high school graduate at graduation. “As the years go by, you actually live [those qualities] out,” he began. “You learn what it means to be a man for others through the Freshman Retreat, Global Education, Emmaus, [Christian Service Immersion in] Tennessee, and the Great Ignatian Challenge. Moments like these call us to be open to growth, intellectually accomplished, religious, loving, and committed to doing justice. This is who we are as a Jesuit school community. We now reflect and represent the five pillars that were instilled in us when we were just 14 years old,” he continued.

His speech concluded with a note of accountability and a few questions for the Class of 2024, honoring their potential to change the world.

"Who is going to set the world on fire?” he asked.

"Chances are it's going to be one of us,” he proclaimed, adding, “A real man for others is a revolutionary. We need to be the ones to cure cancer, to end wars, to find alternatives, and to care for our common home. If we fail in our efforts to save this world, we may be the generation tasked with seeking a new one. So who will find it for us? Back in junior year I made a catchphrase, and I said it with every single speech that I made. For the last time, it goes like this: As brothers of Fordham Prep, we aim and we shoot higher, so that one day we go forth, and set the world on fire,” said Barisano.

The Class of 2024 will matriculate to a diverse array of schools both in the United States and abroad. Intended matriculations include Dartmouth, Georgetown, Boston College, University of Notre Dame, University of Southern California, New York University, the University of St. Andrews-Scotland, and Binghamton University.

In his address to the graduates, former member of the Fordham Prep Board of Trustees Maurice Hyacinthe, Esq. '77, P'99, '08, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at HMH Management Company, gave advice on making the most of the next four years.

Realizing your passion is the culmination of the process that starts with knowing and pursuing your talents,” he stated. “Your upcoming college experience—the next step in your educational and developmental process—will be the perfect time and environment to undertake these initial steps of this personal transformative process,” he added.

Hyacinthe went on to note that this process might not be completely linear. After graduating from the Prep in 1977, he received a bachelor of science from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania before obtaining a doctorate from the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University. These achievements led to a career spanning the worlds of finance, operations, real estate, and law. He credits his success to his family and his Jesuit education.

I believe that the various educational and social experiences that you acquired at Fordham Prep have more than adequately prepared you for your college years and later as you pursue a career path that will ultimately lead to the realization of your passion. Bon chance,” he continued, honoring his Haitian heritage, “and God bless every member of this stellar Class of 2024.

Diplomas and special awards were conferred to the graduates before Petriello and Fordham Prep President Anthony Day took a moment to honor retirees Dr. Martin Carney, Teresa Faustini P ‘06,‘10, Paul Homer, Pete McNamara P‘11, ‘12, ‘17, and Dr. Patricia Morris. A ram sculpture was bestowed upon each retiree as a token of our appreciation for their combined 186 years of service to Fordham Prep.

Retirees of the 2023-24 academic year (right to left) Peter McNamara P‘11, ‘12, ‘17 (Science, Soccer; 39 years of service), Paul Homer (Religious Studies and Christian Service; 35 years of service), Dr. Patricia Morris (Mathematics, Modern Languages, Financial Aid; 35 years of service), Teresa Faustini P ‘06, ‘10 (Modern Languages; 28 years of service), Dr. Martin Carney (Religious Studies; 29 years of service).

Before the recessional, Day reminded the Class of 2024 of their newly minted status and responsibility as members of the long maroon line of alumni.

"Now we send you off to take all that you have learned and experienced at Fordham Prep into a world that needs your kindness, your compassion, your leadership, your spiritual grounding, and your intellect,” he remarked. “You are the hope we long to see."


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Watch the 179th Commencement Exercises: