Alumnus William Pesce ’73 Tells Graduates to “Live the Life You’ve Imagined”

--Shares personal journey as a first-generation college graduate as nearly 2,600 students earn degrees at 192nd Commencement ceremony

William Pesce '73 and President Kathleen Waldron

William Pesce, the retired president and CEO of John Wiley & Sons, Inc., and a 1973 graduate of William Paterson University, told the nearly 2,600 graduates who earned degrees at the University’s 192nd Commencement ceremony on May 13 to “live the life you’ve imagined.” (Read full speech here)

Pesce, the son of a plumber and the first in his family to graduate from college, shared his personal journey with the graduates who filled the Prudential Center in Newark. “Education changes lives,” said Pesce, who noted how he worked his way through school and he wondered whether he belonged in college.  “It changed my life.  It will continue to change your lives.  This is our story. And this is your time.”

“Today, we stand on the rock solid foundation built by our ancestors,” he continued.  “They transformed dreams into reality through hard work and strong values, not entitlement.  As a result of their perseverance and yours, we share the privilege of being college graduates.”

In her comments to the graduates, President Kathleen Waldron reminded them that they now join a select group, as only 33 percent of adults in the United States possess a college degree.  “Obtaining this university degree was a struggle, but it is worth it,” she said. “You have sacrificed and worked hard to reach this milestone Whatever challenges the future holds, you have proven that you have what it takes to succeed and we are so proud of your accomplishments.” 

More than 10,000 family and friends filled the Prudential Center to celebrate with the graduates. During the ceremony, the University awarded a posthumous honorary doctor of humane letters degree to the late Kurt Landsberger, a New Jersey businessman, environmental activist, and philanthropist. His son, Allen Landsberger, and grandson, Seth Landsberger, were present to accept the honorary degree.

Valedictorian Rebecca Wance encouraged the graduates to leave a mark. “It is up to you now to choose a positive attitude and to do the best you can to reach out and leave your mark on someone else to make a change for the better in this world...for those of us who are strong in will power, we will succeed no matter the obstacles we face."

Master's degree recipient Miranda Van Dunk, who spoke on behalf of graduate students, reminded the graduates that they are the next generation of innovators.  “Now it is important to fine-tune your craft and improve upon your growth.  Whatever path you may take next, continue forward.  Continue to push the boundaries and expand your horizons.”

More than a dozen alumni from the Class of 1965 processed with the graduates and were acknowledged for having just celebrated their milestone 50th reunion.