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Patrick Terranova wondered how he could sum up four years in college, overseas trips, acting on stage, and doing basketball play-by-play in eight minutes. The La Salle University senior wanted to give the commencement speech at the University’s graduation exercises on May 15, but what would make his experiences and those of his fellow graduates relevant?
“While brainstorming, I thought about the timing of when the speech would be delivered,” said Terranova, a dual major in Sociology and Public Administration from Arnold, Md., who has a 3.89 GPA. Doing further research, Terranova discovered that May 15 is an important date in the history of the Christian Brothers, the Roman Catholic teaching order started by St. John Baptist de La Salle. In 1863, the order founded La Salle College (later University).
“As Lasallians, something important also happened specifically for us this day in history,” Terranova told the graduates. “On May 15, 1900, St. John Baptist de La Salle was canonized as a saint. On May 15, 1950, Pope Pius XII declared St. John Baptist de La Salle the patron saint of teachers. Having laid the groundwork for a community that today has grown to consist of 5,000 Christian Brothers, 900,000 students, and 1,000 different institutions in 84 different countries, St. La Salle is certainly deserving of such an honor. And it is also an honor for me to be able to say, 111 years since the founder’s canonization and 61 years since he became patron saint to the day, La Salle University is officially unleashing to the world the Class of 2011!”
Any student can apply to deliver the commencement speech. Submissions are rated by a committee, and six finalists deliver “the speech” to committee members. “I wanted to speak at Commencement as a representative of the graduating class, with the hope of meeting the challenge to do justice to our years spent here in eight minutes,” said Terranova, who will begin studying for a master’s degree in City and Regional Planning at Georgia Tech next fall. “I wanted to help in a small way to make the day even more meaningful for our class, and to make my mother proud.”
After learning he’d be giving the speech, Terranova said he felt ecstatic, but, “I was shy to tell anyone about it, but I did make sure to call my mom.”
Terranova has had a busy career at La Salle, both during the school year and summers. In 2009, he was a Kemper Scholar and was one of only two undergraduate students to intern with the Mayor’s Office in Chicago. One of his projects there was to work on the city’s bid to host the 2016 Olympic Games. Last summer, he interned with the Baltimore Development Corporation for its Baltimore Main Streets program, where he created and maintained a database of vacant commercial properties in the Main Street districts, translated the Baltimore City Commercial Property Code Enforcement Brochure into Spanish and created a handbook of environmental best practices and “green” opportunities for small businesses.
At La Salle, he did play-by-play broadcasts of the men’s basketball team for the University’s radio station, was as member of the La Salle Students’ Government Association, a peer educator, a tour guide for the University’s Admissions Office, and a member of the student theatre troupe, the Masque.
“I never did anything drama-related in high school, and on a whim, just for kicks, decided to audition,” said Terranova. “I watched my sister Shannon perform on stage most of my life, so I thought it might be funny to reverse the roles. My freshman year roommate and another friend were auditioning so I went along for the ride…and ended up getting cast!”
He also travelled quite a bit while at La Salle. He participated in travel-study trips to China, Brazil, Argentina, and Vietnam, and spent a semester in Rome, which he’ll talk about in his speech
“My experience (there) helped me realize just how global and interconnected the Lasallian community truly is. And there is something to be said for that. We are part of something special, something much greater than ourselves. Wherever we go, we carry with us the virtues of our Lasallian education.”