Niagara University graduated 971 new alumni during a trio of commencement exercises held May 12-14, 2016.

The celebration got underway Thursday, May 12, with the awarding of advanced degrees to 273 students, including 11 who received doctoral degrees in leadership and policy. Attendees heard remarks from Chantal Kreviazuk, one of the most powerful contemporary influences on Canadian music and culture. Kreviazuk, who has won two Juno Awards and is known for her support of War Child Canada, was presented with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters. Also receiving honorary doctorates were Kreviazuk’s husband, fellow musician and humanitarian Raine Maida, and longtime Niagara Falls City School District administrator Cynthia A. Bianco, M.S.Ed.’70.

“When you follow your heart, the orchestra of life on this earth is more beautiful, it’s more peaceful, it’s more balanced and harmonious, and it is the fruition of God’s vision for the world,” Kreviazuk told those in attendance. “In following my heart to become a singer, my other layers and dreams came true.”

On Saturday, May 14, 698 undergraduate students received their degrees during a pair of ceremonies held in the Gallagher Center.

Bret Stephens, the 2013 Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist, editorial board member, and deputy editorial page editor for The Wall Street Journal, delivered the morning commencement address to Niagara’s College of Business Administration and College of Hospitality and Tourism Management. Stephens was also presented with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters for extraordinary personal and professional success.

“What is your daydream? When you are drifting off to sleep and indulging some fantasy of where you’d like to be in 10, 20 or 30 years’ time, what is it that persistently comes to mind?” Stephens asked the graduates. “Don’t let these most personal dreams of yours die of neglect, or dismiss them as better suited for children than for adults. Those daydreams are the imaginative expression of a desire you might not otherwise be able to name. They are both the core of your being as well as the faraway light by which you make your way to safety, to recognition, to happiness, to the life you truly want to have.”

That afternoon, Niagara’s College of Arts and Sciences and College of Education heard from Catherine Lyons, a 1975 NU alumna who presently serves as executive director of patient care services at Smilow Cancer Hospital, part of Connecticut’s Yale-New Haven Hospital Center. The selection of Lyons as speaker was fitting for a day during which the first cohort of four-year nursing students graduated from Niagara since the program was reintroduced in 2012. From NU Lyons received the St. Louise de Marillac Award for Outstanding Service.

“It is so special for me to be here today to see the first cohort of nursing students graduate from our revitalized School of Nursing. Congratulations,” Lyons said.

Meanwhile, Clint Hill, a retired special agent with the United States Secret Service who served under five presidents; Margaret “Peggy” Ranft Day, ’77, a retired attorney, former NU Trustee, and current transition specialist and academic coach for AccessAbility Services; and the Rev. Thomas Rosica, C.S.B., a Basilian priest and founding chief executive officer of the Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation, were granted honorary doctorates.

The Rev. James J. Maher, C.M., presided over the commencement exercises.

“You remain at the heart of the Niagara family,” Father Maher told the Class of 2016. “As you go forth, I have one more assignment for you: Tell the world about your experience at Niagara University. Tell them about the power of Niagara University.”