On April 10, Fairfield announced that Yale University Chaplain Sharon M.K. Kugler will be the commencement speaker for the undergraduate class of 2014. According to a university press release, Kugler is the first female, Catholic and layperson to be Yale’s chaplain.

Kugler transferred to Yale in 2007 after working as the university chaplain for Johns Hopkins University since 1993, and is currently a member of the executive committee of the International Association of Chaplains in Higher Education.

As chaplain, Kugler’s role is to support and guide students spiritually, which she may do through community activities and personal counsel.

According to the press release, “Her main focus at Yale is … serving the needs of the richly diverse religious and spiritual traditions on campus allowing for deeper dialogue, increased accessibility, personal growth, creative educational opportunities and pastoral leadership.”

While Kugler does have the religious connection to Fairfield, some seniors said they wish there would be a more recognizable name standing behind the podium next month.

“I would have preferred an [alumnus] or like a cool celebrity … someone I had known or like could have done a simple Google search on,” said Brian Gillespie ‘14.

No matter who gives the address, Gillespie said he already knows what he wants to hear at graduation.

“I’d want [the commencement speaker] definitely to find a way to calm me down in my post-graduation fears about you know getting a job and stuff,” he said. “I’d rather they kind of be honest about it, like but be honest on a positive note.”

Senior Amina Seyal said she was excited to hear Kugler speak, and hopes Kugler will infuse her spiritual counsel in the address.

“I feel that graduating from Fairfield upon listening to a commencement speech … a woman who focuses much of her work on religious pluralism will be an extraordinary send-off,” she said. “I predict it’ll be representative of the many interfaith dialogues I’ve experienced here at Fairfield.”

In addition to Kugler, Fairfield alumna Mary Ann Christopher ‘79 will be delivering the commencement address for students in Fairfield’s graduate program, and Fairfield will be awarding honorary degrees to Sister Elizabeth A. Johnson, C.S.J., the Reverend John W. Padberg, S.J. and John S. Santa, as well as Kugler and Christopher.

Ultimately, despite being unfamiliar with Kugler, Gillespie said he’s still anticipating the commencement ceremony.

“I am looking forward to this commencement speaker only because it is a part of graduation,” he said.


Contributing Reporter Jennifer Calhoun

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