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Kean University

Kean Honors Graduates Recognized at Convocation

Honors graduates smile and hold up a Magna Cum Laude sign, as they wait for the convocation to begin

Kean University recently celebrated the highest-achieving members of its undergraduate Class of 2024 at a festive Honors Convocation.

A total of 1,100 students from Kean’s six undergraduate colleges were recognized for honors distinction. Proud family and friends at Harwood Arena cheered and snapped cell phone pictures and video as each of the honors graduates crossed the stage and were recognized.

President Repollet shakes an honors graduate's hand at convocation

“You are the cream of the crop of Kean University,” Kean President Lamont O. Repollet, Ed.D., said in his welcoming remarks. “Throughout your time at Kean, you have set a high bar for yourselves. You have proven you possess talent, dedication and resourcefulness to succeed at whatever path you choose. Continue to give your all, and there will be no limit to what you can achieve.”

Kean Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs David Birdsell, Ph.D., also addressed the graduates. 

“I truly understand how much effort, sweat and tears it takes, and how much sacrifice you and your family have made to get you here today,” Birdsell said. “You will graduate in a few days with a shining seal of honor on your diploma, and open a new chapter of your life with confidence and hope.”

Undergraduates will receive their diplomas at Kean University Commencement on May 16, at the Prudential Center in Newark.

Kean’s Honors Convocation recognizes students who achieved three levels of honors: summa cum laude, with a GPA of 3.85-4.0; magna cum laude, a GPA of 3.65-3.84; and cum laude, a GPA of 3.45-3.64. 

This year’s graduates overcame a particular challenge, most starting college in Fall 2020, during the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Michael Fonte of Monroe Township, earning summa cum laude honors in biology/health professions, said his achievement took “work, dedication, focus and time,” plus meeting his academically-focused girlfriend.

“If you’d asked me four years ago, I never would’ve thought I’d be here,” said Fonte, who will now attend graduate school. “It’s a great feeling.” 

Lechante Browne of Brooklyn entered Kean in 2016, left after one semester, then returned and is graduating cum laude. A graduate of Kean’s speech-language-hearing sciences program, she plans to attend graduate school and one day open her own practice.

“I feel accomplished,” she said. “It’s been a long journey. The fact that I came back and came back stronger, I feel grateful.”

Many graduates attended Kean while holding down jobs, raising families and shouldering other responsibilities – and all put in hours studying, writing papers, or in the lab.

Kean Board of Trustees Chair Steve Fastook ’06H congratulated the students and welcomed them to the ranks of alumni.

“You are now, and will always be, a member of the Kean family,” he said. “Come visit when you need to see a familiar face, or walk a familiar path, or if you simply want to enjoy a little Cougar pride. Our journey together is really just beginning.”

Undergraduate Commencement Salutatorian Amanda Coyne, who is graduating summa cum laude, highlighted “the rigorous assignments, demanding projects, high expectations, personal setbacks and moments of doubt” they all overcame.

“They were not merely obstacles, they were opportunities for growth,” said Coyne, earning her degree in psychology and psychiatric rehabilitation in Kean’s joint program with Rutgers University.

The convocation also featured an address from Alison Griffiths, Ph.D. a distinguished professor of film and media studies at Baruch College, the City University of New York and member of the doctoral faculty in theatre at the CUNY graduate center. She spoke to the graduates – a generation that grew up with social media – about the power of images.

“Be kind to yourself and others through your use of images,” Griffiths said. “Imagine that your photos would rather do the job of lifting people up rather than knocking them down.”

Among the proud family members, Julio Rodriguez of North Bergen came bearing a flower bouquet and “Congratulations” balloon to celebrate his daughter, Gianna Rodriguez. 

Rodriguez and his wife, Helene, beamed as they talked about Gianna, who earned her degree in speech-language-hearing sciences, summa cum laude, and is headed to a graduate audiology program at the University of Maryland.

“I’m just extremely proud,” Julio Rodriguez said. “She’s going to go far.”

Waiting outside Harwood before the ceremony began, Olivia Katz of Toms River, a Kean Ocean graduate in mathematical sciences education, held the “summa cum laude” sign and smiled as her mother, Renee, took pictures.

Katz, who is entering Teach for America – and will teach at an U.S. Air Force base in Hawaii – seemed to speak for all the graduates.

“It’s a beautiful day. Everybody feels proud of themselves, and I’m proud of myself,” she said. “I’m happy to be here.”