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Franciscan University to send forth largest-ever graduating class

STEUBENVILLE — Franciscan University of Steubenville will celebrate its largest graduating class during commencement exercises to be held May 14-15.

The anticipated 756 graduates of the Class of 2021 will eclipse the record held by the Class of 2012, which totaled 731 students.

School officials said the record number can be traced to the steady growth of online programs, a large class in the clinical mental health counseling program, and students who postponed graduation in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Events begin at 6 p.m. May 14 with the Baccalaureate Mass.

Archbishop Bashar Matti Warda, CSsR, the Chaldean archbishop of Erbil, Iraq, will preside and give the homily during that Mass and will receive an honorary doctorate of humane letters for his dedication to preaching the Gospel and nourishing the faith amid the heightened persecution, terrorism and unrest in Iraq in recent decades.

Born in Baghdad, he was ordained a priest in 1993 and was consecrated as archbishop of Erbil in 2010.

Warda helped provide aid to Christians who fled to the relative safety of Erbil, in Northern Iraq, prior to the defeat of ISIS in 2017. In 2015, he founded the Catholic University of Erbil, the country’s only Catholic university.

In 2019, Archbishop Warda and the Rev. Dave Pivonka, TOR, Franciscan University of Steubenville president, signed a memorandum of understanding that paved the way for increased cultural exchanges and programs between the Catholic University of Erbil and Franciscan University.

Commencement exercises take place May 15, starting with the science commencement at 9 a.m., followed by the arts commencement at 1 p.m.

Eugene Scalia, former U.S. secretary of labor, will receive an honorary doctorate of public administration for his service to our country. He will deliver the commencement address at both ceremonies.

The second oldest of the nine children of Maureen and Antonin Scalia, the late U.S. Supreme Court justice, Scalia grew up in a family that cherished their Catholic faith, their Irish and Italian heritage and America’s founding ideals.

Scalia began his career in public service in 1985, serving for two years as an aide to Secretary of Education William Bennett. He served as a special assistant to Attorney General William Barr from 1992 to 1993, and in 2002, President George W. Bush appointed Scalia as solicitor of the Department of Labor, the principal legal officer for the department. Appointed by President Donald Trump and confirmed by the Senate, Scalia served as the 28th U.S. secretary of labor from September 2019 until January.

To allow for proper social distancing, all ceremonies will take place on Vaccaro Field, with Finnegan Fieldhouse held in reserve for inclement weather.

Pivonka, a graduate of the Class of 1989, will preside at the ceremonies along with members of the board of trustees and board of advisers.

For those unable to attend, ceremonies will be streamed online at franciscan.edu.

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