Hartford HealthCare academic officer encourages education, nursing graduates to embrace a life of learning

Quinnipiac conferred 400 degrees to graduates of the School of Nursing and 157 degrees to graduates of the School of Education on Sunday on the Mount Carmel Campus Quad

May 14, 2023

A group of doctoral nursing graduates clap and cheer

In an address that was both inspirational and insightful, Rocco Orlando, MD, challenged School of Education and School of Nursing graduates to consider their past challenges during the pandemic as lessons learned while committing to their future as lifelong learners.

“You have each selected a profession dedicated to the service of others,” said Dr. Orlando, chief academic officer at Hartford HealthCare. “Our celebration of your accomplishments must also include the fact that you are a pandemic class – educated during the height of the pandemic – and two fields that are essential to human well-being and development: healthcare and education.”

Rocco Orlando looks out into the audience from the library steps
Rocco Orlando, MD, Chief Academic Officer at Hartford HealthCare delivered the keynote address.

As the first chief medical officer for Hartford HealthCare, Dr. Orlando directed and assisted clinical staff in their efforts to achieve national pre-eminence in patient quality and safety, as well as creating seamless care coordination across the network.

Speaking about his personal commitment and deep family ties to the fields of education and healthcare, Dr. Orlando commended the graduates for their resilience and dedication as they balanced their education with a worldwide crisis and noted the critical roles students, faculty and staff performed as essential workers, caregivers, teachers and administrators.

“You all responded, you showed up to do what had to be done and you demonstrated flexibility in pivoting from in-person to online and back to in-person. For the nurses in the early pre-vaccine days of the pandemic, you did so at great personal risk, and we salute you for this,” said Dr. Orlando. “The teachers strived to continue to educate students whether in person, via Zoom or hybrid – and you had to withstand the criticism of your efforts from many in our communities – we salute you for this. Congratulations to all of you for your success as we have emerged from the pandemic.”

During his address, Dr. Orlando cited the influence of two great thinkers of the last two centuries — John Dewey in education and Florence Nightingale in nursing — as examples of trailblazers who confronted the challenges of their time and profoundly influenced the trajectory of their professions. He encouraged the graduates to commit to lifelong learning by noting that they will need to master new technology while not losing sight of the human connections that are central to nursing and teaching.

“You are now about to receive your degrees and most of you will be going to work in a world that is certain to change. You will need to adapt and persevere as you meet challenges to come,” said Dr. Orlando. “I am convinced that your Quinnipiac education will prepare you not for a single future but for many possible futures.”

Tom Ellett, PhD, chief experience officer, formally opened the ceremony followed by Mia Calore ’23, who performed the national anthem before Quinnipiac President Judy Olian, PhD, officially welcomed the guests and graduates to the formal proceedings.

After extending a special Mother’s Day welcome, Olian recognized School of Nursing Dean Lisa O’Connor, EdD. Olian credited O’Connor’s “steady and bold leadership for achieving many very positive changes in the school and for creatively addressing classroom and clinical needs in the support of community healthcare.”

During her remarks, Olian reflected on the accomplishments of the Class of 2023 and highlighted the milestones they shared together during unprecedented times. She noted the kindness exhibited to each other and to the community by the Class of 2023 and encouraged the graduates to stay connected to their Bobcat community as they continue their journey.

Paul Benjamin rests his hand on the podium and speaks into a microphone
Paul Elliot Benjamin, MS ’23, welcomed the Class of 2023.

“I congratulate you and thank you for adapting and adjusting so gracefully and generously to the very unusual and likely difficult period during your time at school, which included a pandemic,” said Olian. “You managed to weather that period while supporting each other and also reaching out to others who needed your help. You adjusted, made the most of it and you are now finishing with a roar.”

Olian added, “Whether earning an undergraduate or graduate degree today, you’ve had a very unique experience, sometimes a challenging experience, but you dealt with that adversity with tremendous grace and courage. You shined and you brought your talents, your joys and your kindness to others.”

Paul Benjamin, MS ’23, welcomed the Class of 2023 and urged them to recognize the importance of gratitude, community and lifelong learning.

“Fellow graduates, I guarantee you that you will face great challenges in the future, and it’s critical that you always say thank you to those who help you overcome those challenges,” said Benjamin. “I want to remind you that there is a name that is actually bigger on your diploma than your own name, and that is the name of Quinnipiac University. For while you were the key driver in achieving this milestone today, Quinnipiac provided the community that made this achievement possible…Communities that you have today and those you form in the future will be critical to your success. ”

Michael Cunningham speaks into a microphone at a podium with the ceremonial mace in the foreground
Michael Brawley Cunningham, BSN ’23, delivered the response of the Class of 2023.

As he took the stage to deliver the “Response of the Class of 2023,” Michael Brawley Cunningham ’23, asked each graduate to reflect on the valuable lessons they learned at Quinnipiac.

“When we walk across this stage, remember that we carry the knowledge, skills and passion that enable us to make a difference in countless lives,” said Cunningham. “Let this day mark the beginning of our new journey. One that will challenge us, inspire us, and ultimately, make us better people.”

The presentation of degrees was conducted by School of Education Anne Dichele, PhD, O’Connor and President Olian.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, Alumni Association Board Member Pamela Martinez ’86 recognized alumni in attendance and invited the graduates to ceremonially move their tassels to the left of their caps. With that symbolic gesture, she warmly welcomed the members of the Class of 2023 into the Bobcat alumni community of more than 60,000 worldwide with the departing reminder that a Quinnipiac education is a relationship that lasts a lifetime.

Watch the Recording

Dozens of graduates clap and cheer in the sun

Education, Nursing Ceremony

Watch the recording of the School of Education and School of Nursing Undergraduate and Graduate Commencement.

Sunday, May 14, 3 p.m.

Download the program (PDF)

Order of Exercises

School of Education
School of Nursing

3 p.m.

Trumpet Prelude and Processional

Pomp and Circumstance, Sir Edward Elgar

Call to Commencement

Tom Ellett, PhD
Chief Experience Officer

National Anthem

Mia Calore, BSN ’23


Judy D. Olian, PhD

Welcome from the Class of 2023

Paul Elliot Benjamin, MS ’23

Response of the Class of 2023

Michael Brawley Cunningham, BSN ’23

Introduction of Commencement Speaker

Liana Kappus
Director of Simulation

Commencement Address

Rocco Orlando, MD
Chief Academic Officer, Hartford HealthCare

Presentation of Candidates for Degrees and Awards

School of Education: Anne Dichele, PhD, Dean
School of Nursing: Lisa O’Connor, EdD, Dean

Conferral of Degrees

Judy D. Olian

Alumni Welcome

Pamela Martinez ’86
Board Member, Alumni Association


Amor Vittorioso | G. Gastoldi
March | A. Valenti

Rocco Orlando, MD

Rocco Orlando looks out into the audience from the library steps

School of Education and School of Nursing Undergraduate and Graduate Ceremony | Sunday, May 14, 3 p.m.

As the first chief medical officer for Hartford HealthCare, Rocco Orlando III, MD, directed and assisted clinical staff in their efforts to achieve national pre-eminence in patient quality and safety, as well as creating seamless care coordination across the network. His extensive experience includes multiple internships before completing his residency at Hartford Hospital. Dr. Orlando also participated in a fellowship at the University of Miami, Jackson Memorial Hospital. He is a member of numerous professional societies and was named a fellow of the American College of Surgeons. With a national reputation for research and clinical excellence, Dr. Orlando has delivered more than 100 medical presentations internationally and across the United States, while also writing and contributing to more than 50 medical publications, abstracts and book chapters. He received his medical degree from the University of Connecticut’s School of Medicine and his undergraduate degree from Hamilton College in Clinton, New York.

A Message from the President

President Judy Olian

Congratulations to the Class of 2023! You are well prepared to continue your life journey as professionals who will impact the world and the workplaces of tomorrow. We are confident you will apply your talent, passion and education to serve boldly as engaged citizens in your communities — and beyond. These qualities are at your core and will continue to propel you well into the future.

As graduates of Quinnipiac University, you have learned from a distinguished faculty and a committed staff who proudly stand beside you today. You also have learned valuable lessons from each other during this most transformative time in your lives. Please stay connected to our Bobcat family, visit us often, and draw upon the many friendships and mentorships you have formed here.

This day is shared with your families and friends, those who also deserve special recognition and appreciation for their contributions to your success. Enjoy this momentous achievement! Together, we are cheering for you, with utmost pride.

Judy D. Olian

Mace and Medallion

The mace — a symbol of authority — has antecedents in both Roman and Medieval history. The Roman mace (fasces) was carried by a lictor before the chief magistrate of the city, as well as before the legions. During the Middle Ages, the mace (mateola), a weapon of war, became first a symbol of victory and then a symbol of authority. The mace emblazoned with the Great Seal of England became a symbol of authority in Parliament by the end of the 13th century. It is this form of the mace that was the prototype of those symbols of authority, not only of legislative bodies, but also of cities and universities.

In 1246, following some 20 years of strife, the University of Paris was finally conceded the right to its own common seal. Since then, the use of the seal engraved on the mace has come to symbolize the authority of the academic community. In July 2000, Quinnipiac commissioned the noted sculptor Robert Meyer of Westport, Connecticut, to design and execute a new mace for Quinnipiac University. Cast in bronze, the mace incorporates elements of the university seal.

The medallion (medal of office), like the mace and the seal, is also a symbol of authority. It is possible that its roots may be traced back to the Roman “bulla” (a gold amulet of honor). The obverse of the medallion shows the seal of the office the wearer holds — in our case, the seal of the university. Not infrequently, the reverse would show the personal seal or coat of arms of the bearer. Since the High Middle Ages, the medallion has been worn by such officials as the chancellors of England, mayors of cities, and rectors of universities, and came to signify the high personal position such figures occupied in their respective governments. During the Renaissance, medallion design reached unique artistic heights, and in certain portraits the medallion was given particular prominence. The medallion is worn by the university’s president. The Quinnipiac medal showcases the university seal, sculpted in relief and cast in bronze.

Doctoral Hooding Ceremony

The 12th and 13th centuries saw the formation of universities under the jurisdiction of the Church. Most students of the day were clerks in the Holy Order, monks or priests. Cowls or hoods adorned their habits and protected the young scholars from harsh weather and the pervading dampness of the stone buildings in which they studied. Hoods also served to cover tonsured heads before the use of the skullcap.

Today, the cap, gown and hood have taken on a symbolic meaning. Color and shape conform to an academic code signifying a university’s conferral of the degree and the nature of the degree conferred. Gowns for the doctoral degree carry velvet panels and three horizontal velvet bars on the upper arm of the full, round, bell-shaped sleeves.

Download the program (PDF)

Quinnipiac University conferred 3,141 degrees during six Commencement ceremonies May 12-14 at the M&T Bank Arena and the Mount Carmel Campus.

Get all the details at commencement.qu.edu

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