University honors grads from the Colleges of Life Sciences, Pharmacy, Population Health, Rehabilitation Sciences and Sidney Kimmel Medical College.
With international superstar Andrea Bocelli among the honored guests, Jefferson celebrated graduates from the Colleges of Life Sciences, Pharmacy, Population Health, Rehabilitation Sciences and Sidney Kimmel Medical College in two Commencement ceremonies on May 23 and 24.
“It’s a recognition that I do not deserve,” a modest Bocelli told the Class of 2023 (through an interpreter), adding perhaps a surprising confession. “My first aspiration as a child—whether you believe it or not—was to become a great doctor. But this didn’t happen by chance. As a child, I spent long periods of my life in hospitals.”
Blind since a young age, Bocelli shared how his physicians became his heroes in white coats as they provided care at his bedside.
“How could I not want to imitate them?” he says as he accepted the honorary degree during the ceremony for the College of Life Sciences and Sidney Kimmel Medical College. “The problem is that sometimes we have plans for our future, but the future has something different in store for us. In fact, life had very different projects in store for me, and I cannot certainly complain about them.”
Before his remarks, the famed Italian tenor sang two arias—L’alba separa dalla luce l’ombra and Serenata—to rousing cheers and a standing ovation at the Kimmel Center.
University President Dr. Mark Tykocinski spoke of the wonderous voice of Bocelli, who has sold over 90 million records and performed for four presidents, three popes, the British royal family—and now Jefferson grads and their loved ones.
“Post-pandemic, our world is in desperate need of healing,” Dr. Tykocinski says. “So too, each one of us. Music is a remedy like no other. Music uplifts the spirit, unifies and unmasks our inner creative.”
As COVID slips into the background, Dr. Tykocinski noted the special timing of the Class of 2023 Commencement.
“You were at the educational epicenter of this global trauma,” he says. “During this time, you’ve learned a profound lesson in the power of resilience. No doubt, you will leverage it for the rest of your personal and professional lives.”
Speaking to grads, University CEO Dr. Joseph Cacchione discussed the attributes of being a successful leader: honesty, strong communication skills, creativity, a sense of humor, and most important, humility.
“Humility will allow you to be more empathic with your patients and colleagues,” he says. “Humility will make you more open to self-improvement. Humility will allow you to serve humanity.”
Along with recognizing the students, Jefferson bestowed two people with the Presidential Award: Dr. Janice Nevin, president and CEO of ChristianaCare, and Amanda Parezo, assistant professor and academic fieldwork coordinator for the occupational therapy department.
Almost two years ago to the day, Parezo was the victim of a random act of gun violence while sitting in a Philadelphia playground. The shooting left her paralyzed from the waist down.
Since then, she has advocated for anti-violence programs, improved accessibility in the city, educated the public about spinal cord injury and worked to normalize what it means to have a disability.
“The road to overcoming challenges after a physical disability often involves redefining our own definitions of success,” says Parezo during the ceremony for the Colleges of Pharmacy, Population Health and Rehabilitation Sciences. “Our achievements may no longer be measured solely by physical feats but by our ability to adapt, grow and make meaningful contributions to our communities. It’s through this new perspective that we discover the limitless potential within ourselves.”
Watch the ceremony replays here, and see more images from the May 23 and 24 Commencements below. Earlier this month, Jefferson recognized undergraduates from all colleges along with graduate students from the Colleges of Architecture and the Built Environment, Health Professions, Nursing and Kanbar College of Design, Engineering and Commerce. Read The Nexus recap here.