The senior champagne brunch is also one of my favorite activities. Of course, I am looking forward to the Commencement Ball this evening and to welcoming our students’ families back to campus for the Family Dinner Dance tomorrow night.
Commencement ceremonies – on Saturday for graduate students and Sunday for undergrads – are our opportunity to celebrate the hard work of our students, the relationships that we have built with them and the confidence we have in them as they leave us to make their mark on the world. Our commencement speakers this year are E. Patricia Llodra, first selectman of Newtown, for the undergraduate ceremony and Paul Baumann, editor of Commonweal magazine, for the graduate ceremony. They will receive honorary degrees along with author Terry Eagleton and Barry H. Ostrowsky, president and chief executive officer of Barnabas Health in New Jersey. The Class of 2013 includes 756 undergraduates who will be receiving associate and bachelor’s degrees and 722 graduate students who earned master’s degrees, professional certificates and doctorates. The weather report for the weekend is almost too good to be true. As the students always respond to Father Jerry, we are blessed.
Before I head to the dry cleaners to pick up my robe, I want to talk about the Class of 2017. As I write this, we have 1,320 deposits, which means this class will be – by far – the largest freshman class in Sacred Heart history. More importantly, the academic profile of this class is at least as strong as that of any previous class. I want to congratulate everyone who worked so hard to admit one of the largest classes in the history of Catholic higher education in New England. That includes the folks in admissions, financial aid, student life, athletics and more.
I also need to thank Dona Perrone and her team and everyone in academic affairs for the effort they are putting in to prepare for this incoming class. They are adding additional sections and hiring professors to ensure that these students receive the same hands-on, warm and attentive experience that a smaller class would have. I know that as these students come to campus for orientation, Welcome Days and to start their first semester, I can count on all of you to ensure that they receive the personalized attention and sense of community that continues to be the hallmark of this University.
Finally, I have exciting news regarding retention – an important component of our strategic plan. The retention rate for the Class of 2016 going into their sophomore year is 85 percent. This is the second consecutive year we have retained 85 percent of the freshman class at this point in time. In addition, the retention rate for the Class of 2015 is 73 percent. We have never before had a retention rate in the 70s, and they are on pace to be the largest graduating class in school history.
To the faculty and staff: You have much to be proud of, and there is much still to do. I am proud to be on this journey with you.