Hartford Healthcare CEO urges graduates to run in, not away — and answer the call
Jeffrey A. Flaks, president and CEO of Hartford HealthCare, was a 30-year-old healthcare executive in Manhattan when the 9/11 terrorist attacks shook the nation and cemented his commitment to help others.
“Immediately, my colleagues and I rushed to the emergency room entrances, ran to stand outside ambulance bay doors — grabbing wheelchairs and stretchers, IV poles and blankets — waiting for the ambulances with their casualties,” Flaks told the Class of 2022 Sunday at graduate Commencement exercises on the Mount Carmel Quad.
“Within minutes, the sidewalks of 7th Avenue became extensions of the hospital, lined with beds and caregivers in a sea of white lab coats and green and blue scrubs,” Flaks added. “Off-duty staff did not wait to be summoned; they came streaming in to help, running into the crisis.”
A generation later, as a global pandemic spread without warning, Flaks and healthcare professionals around the world came together with agility and ability to help save lives.
“In both events, we have countless examples of people staring into the abyss of the unknown, figuring things out even as their world tumbled around them — literally in the case of the Twin Towers, and figuratively for COVID,” Flaks said.
“On your path, my advice is that you answer the call,” he added. “It may come from a colleague, it may be a situation, and more often than not, it will happen when you least expect it. And yet, you will know it when you hear it. Answering it could change your life, and fuel your own calling.”
In total, degrees were conferred on 1,187 graduates — 366 from the School of Health Sciences, 344 from the School of Business, 197 from the School of Education, 112 from the School of Communications, 118 from the School of Nursing, 35 from the College of Arts and Sciences, and 15 from the School of Computing and Engineering.
The event also marked a university milestone with the first degrees conferred on the Master of Arts graduates from the School of Communications' Cinematic Production Management program.
Provost Debra Liebowitz opened the ceremony with a reminder that Commencement is a celebration for not only the graduates but also for the entire Bobcat community. With enthusiasm, she praised the national anthem performance of Taina Echevarria ’21, MBA’22, as a representation of the exceptional talent and skills of the Class of 2022.
“And that is just the tip of the iceberg of the talent we have right here,” exclaimed Liebowitz as Echevarria’s last note resonated throughout the Quad. “I am honored to be here with you today and to be celebrating a traditional Commencement ceremony outdoors on our beautiful quadrangle. Graduates, this is your day. You are on your way.”
During her address, President Judy Olian noted the tenacity and drive of the graduate students of the Class of 2022, who joined Quinnipiac from 80 different undergraduate institutions, representing 30 states, with ages ranging from 19 to 68.
“As you endured a pandemic while continuing your graduate studies, you’ve become quite familiar with pivoting on a dime, with tremendous resiliency, adapting to new models of learning and technology, acting with consideration of the whole community, and appreciating the importance of relationships and human-to-human connections,” said Olian. “And now, you’ll embark upon new ambitions and lead the way in defining what can be, as you shape the world.”
Seventeen members of the Class of 2022 have already been hired by Hartford HealthCare as the result of a university-wide strategic partnership announced earlier this year.
Thirteen of the graduates have accepted nursing positions at Hartford HealthCare. Two more graduates will join the health system as radiologic technologists and two others as ultrasound technicians and sonographers.
“Just a few months ago, we announced a bold vision for this partnership between Hartford HealthCare and Quinnipiac University. I am so proud to say our work together is already making a tremendous difference,” Flaks said.
“Today, Quinnipiac graduates and students are realizing new and exciting career opportunities. They can look forward to expanded access to services for student health, with more coordinated care on and off campus,” Flaks added. “This is just the beginning, and it will open up a host of new opportunities for Quinnipiac students in all disciplines.”
Graduate Student Council President Alyssa Mesaros ’22 delivered the Class of 2022 welcome and provided a reflection on the collective experiences that shaped their graduate education. She encouraged her fellow graduates to bravely face adversity, embrace opportunities, and cherish the life lessons learned along the way before inviting everyone in the audience to take a selfie with her from the podium.
“Sometimes opportunities will present themselves, and other times we’ll need to forge our own. If, and when, an opportunity transforms into an accomplishment, don’t hesitate to celebrate it,” said Mesaros. “Should an opportunity not work out – do not label it as a failure; for failure should not be accepted as the end result. The overall experience can provide valuable life lessons leading to achievements larger than ever imagined.”
At the conclusion of the ceremony, Alumni Association Board President Jeanna Doherty ’94 extended an official welcome to the Class of 2022 into the Bobcat alumni community of more than 60,000 worldwide, with a reminder that a Quinnipiac education is a relationship that lasts a lifetime.
“I invite you to move your tassel to the left of your cap,” said Doherty. “This simple act signifies your transition from student to alumnus, and the continuation of your unique, meaningful and lifelong relationship with Quinnipiac. I’m especially pleased to have you all as fellow alumni. You are a Bobcat for Life. Congratulations!”
The university conferred 3,347 degrees during five Commencement ceremonies May 14-16.
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