Fox Sports Broadcaster Kevin Burkhardt ’97 Encourages Graduates to “Dream Big” during Commencement Address

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Alumnus Kevin Burkhardt '97 gives the commencement address on May 14

Watch Kevin Burkhardt talk about receiving the President's Medal on SNY

Kevin Burkhardt, a play-by-play announcer for Fox Sports and a 1997 graduate of William Paterson, told the nearly 2,400 graduates who earned degrees at the 191st commencement ceremonies on May 14 to “dream big.”

Burkhardt, who gave the commencement address and received the President's Medal, began his career as a sports broadcaster for WPC-TV on campus. He recalled how 11 years ago, after trying hard to break into the sportscasting business, he gave up and became a car salesman. “It was, without a doubt, the turning point in my life,” he said. “What it did was make me more determined than ever...it jumpstarted the desire in me that I didn't want to settle.”

“Today is about dreaming big,” he told the graduates. “I am a proud William Paterson graduate here today. Life is about experiences...I wouldn't be here today without the experiences I gained (at William Paterson). Now, it's your turn. Today is the day all of your dreams start to come true. This is just the first part of a wonderful journey that will define who you are. Will you settle? Or will you hold absolutely nothing back to get what you want? You didn't come this far to settle...There are a lot of big dreamers in this room! Now it's time to go chase them.”

For President Kathleen Waldron this commencement marked a special milestone. “Many of you graduating today began your studies in September 2010 as I began my first semester as president of William Paterson University," she said. "I can still remember walking through the Student Center meeting and greeting students with such excitement...You've accomplished so much during your time on campus and it is with special joy that I watch you cross the stage today."

Waldron pointed out that only 33 percent of adults in the United States have earned a college degree, placing the Class of 2014 in elite company. “You have learned a higher level of thinking, a broader perspective on analyzing information, an appreciation for the arts and music and life of the mind that could only be achieved by the effort you made to obtain your degree today," she continued. "Make the best of your future, continue to seek opportunities, advance your education and make a difference in the world.”

More than 10,000 family and friends filled the Izod Arena to watch their loved one pick up their degrees. During the ceremony, the University awarded its first doctoral degrees to eleven graduates who earned the doctor of nursing practice degree. In addition, honorary degrees were presented to Dr. Mary O'Neil Mundinger, former dean of the School of Nursing at Columbia University, who developed the first doctor of nursing practice program; Bucky Pizzarelli, the renowned jazz guitarist; and Robert Taylor, William Paterson's first trustee emeritus, who served on the University's Board of Trustees for 22 years.

Valedictorian Barbara Van Vugt encouraged the graduates to commit themselves to working for the good of others. "While the pursuit of financial security may be a motivator...we have the chance to set ourselves apart if instead we work for the good of others."

Master's degree recipient Jacqueline Sabale, who spoke on behalf of graduate students, shared the bittersweet story of the death of her brother a decade ago.

“This single moment in time set into motion a ten-year transformative journey that taught me there is no limit to the amount of knowledge and lessons you will learn through life," she said. "Throughout life, we all encounter bends in the road and gaze upon mountains, but it is up to you to choose the path to take…Your presence here today is proof you have what it takes to climb a mountain.”

Nearly 30 alumni from the Class of 1964--including Professor Anthony Coletta, professor of elementary and early childhood education--processed with the graduates and were acknowledged for having just celebrated their milestone 50th reunion.