In accepting the honor, Dr. Di Stefano designed his remarks to graduates to include three themes: legacy, public health and political action.
“Legacy is our institutional foundation; public health is our personal and professional responsibility as our University name ‘Salus’ envisions; and political action is the critical dimension to transforming the healthcare system to one in which you will prosper,” said Dr. Di Stefano.
Delivering the oration for Dr. Di Stefano’s honorary degree was president emeritus, Thomas Lewis, OD ‚70, PhD, FAAO
, president of the Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO) from 1989 to 2008 and then Salus University, which PCO established, from 2008 to 2013.
“When I became president of PCO in 1989, my first, and easiest decision, was to offer Dr. DiStefano the position of vice president and dean,” said Dr. Lewis. “If asked to name the five people throughout the history of this institution who have contributed most to its growth, development and mission, I can assure you Dr. Di Stefano would be included.”
After the presentation of candidates and conferring of degrees, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, Barry Eckert, PhD, recited the Oath of Professionalism — which all health professionals recite at graduation — after which Alumni Association president David W. Friess, OD ‘02, FAAO
, offered congratulations from the University.
“Only you and your family realize the sacrifices that you made to reach this moment. Not only financial sacrifices, but great sacrifices of time, tremendous effort, and anxiety-evoking stress that you, and only you, had to endure to reach this moment. But you made it,” said Dr. Friess. “And always remember, each day you walk into your place of employment, that you are representing Salus and the very best of your profession.”
Graduates, families and friends watched the ceremony from a variety of locations and were complimentary to the University on its efforts to make the day special.
“Looking at it as a whole, it was very untraditional, but it was very well done and it felt like a nice ending to my time at Salus,” said Anthony Oliveti, AuD ‘20
, who watched from an apartment in Washington, D.C., with some college friends from undergraduate school as well as on Zoom with colleagues from his cohort and various family members.
Dr. Oliveti said the uniqueness of the ceremony blended well with what he learned during his time at the University’s Osborne College of Audiology (OCA).
“One thing they talk about at OCA is that it’s a non-traditional audiology program. We’re much more biomedical-based, we don’t have a capstone traditionally like other programs,” he said. “So it was kind of full circle for me. It was a non-traditional ending for a non-traditional program.”
Lesnoy, who gave the class commencement address, said it was a little weird watching herself on YouTube while the ceremony played out. The unofficial YouTube count logged 1,315 views of the ceremony within an hour after its conclusion.
“I went on Zoom with a couple of my best friends from the OT program and we were all watching it together,” said Lesnoy, who viewed the ceremony while sitting on the couch with her boyfriend Patrick Murphy in their Philadelphia apartment. “I was nervous watching myself, but it was funny watching them watch me.”
She added that she loved the finished video of the online ceremony.
“They did a really good job of making it special, even though it wasn't in person,” said Lesnoy. “I liked seeing the people actually at Salus making it seem more real for us. The speeches were great, although I wasn’t sure that they were going to say everyone’s name. But I was really happy that everyone got the mention that they deserved.”