May 24, 2021

Dear William Paterson Students,

What a week! One virtual Commencement exercise, eleven in-person ceremonies, and one nurse Pinning Ceremony. Nearly 2,400 happy graduates, including some 1,330 in the Wightman Field ceremonies. Thousands of proud parents, family members, and friends, and plenty of sunshine and blue skies. Commencement is one of the most special times for everyone who works in higher education, when we are fortunate to be able to see and hear first-hand the life changing impact of our work in the smiles, hugs, cheers, and tears of joy  from our graduates and their families and friends.

I want to thank everyone who made it all possible, beginning with the faculty and staff who educated and supported our graduates throughout their William Paterson journeys. After every ceremony, I watched as grads sought out professors, advisors, and other mentors for hugs and photos and to give thanks. I can’t think of better validation of the impact you all have on them and their prospects for happy, healthy, productive lives. 

I also want to thank everyone who worked so tirelessly to plan and conduct so many ceremonies over several days. Commencement is always a big production and having to carry out multiple versions was a truly epic task. Everyone involved did it with grace and a dedication to our graduates that was evident in every aspect, from the programs to the ushers to the streamer cannons that punctuated the close of each ceremony. In particular, I want to thank all of the Commencement Committee members: Francisco Diaz, associate vice president for campus life; Pam Fueshko, director of Technology Services; Marybeth Zeman, senior director of public relations; Patrick Ryan, associate director of Information and Research Technology; Laurie Nyulassy, assistant director of technology services; Michelle Martin, campus life program assistant; and Amanda Oleski, senior administrative assistant in my office. Thanks also to everyone from IRT, Technology Services, the Office of Student Development, and Physical Plant Operations who had a hand in making Commencement 2021 such a success.  

I look forward to returning to the Prudential Center this time next year for Commencement 2022!

As many of you are aware, Governor Murphy last week issued an executive order eliminating the mask requirement for people in outdoor public spaces. We learned of this change midway through Tuesday’s ceremonies, and I was glad to be able to announce it from the stage to the many graduates and guests who were relieved to be able to safely remove their masks. This is another positive step forward for New Jersey, which is possible thanks to our collective adherence to the State guidance and increasing vaccination rates. Masks are no longer required outdoors on campus, but are still required in all buildings. Let’s continue making progress, including toward our planned full reopening in the fall, by continuing to follow the guidelines. I will notify you of additional changes in this space.  

This week’s WPWe are Proud – Congratulations to all the players and coaches on our Pioneers baseball team, which capped off a very successful season by reaching the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) Tournament finals for the first time since 2009. The Pioneers posted a 27-8 overall record this spring and landed eight individuals on the All-NJAC Team.

I hope everyone has a safe, relaxing, and enjoyable summer.

Richard J. Helldobler, Ph.D.