A Theme of Achievement, A Theme of Caring

Families join graduates to celebrate commencement.Commencement is a time to celebrate achievement, and Carlow University’s Baccalaureate Mass and Commencement on Saturday, May 13, 2017, was no exception. But in the midst of the celebration, an appropriate theme emerged that was typically, irrefutably Carlow. 

“Carlow has allowed me to grow into myself in ways I could never imagine,” said Tara Cabache, a senior accounting/forensic accounting double major. Cabache was awarded Carlow’s highest academic honor, the Joseph G. Smith Award, and, thus, the honor of addressing her fellow graduates and their families at Commencement.

Cabache related the story of her first Mercy Service Day, which took place just three weeks into her first year at Carlow. Her group was assigned to help residents in the West Oakland neighborhood that abuts Carlow’s campus. One neighbor in particular, named Dorothy, was moving out of her house after more than 40 years.

Cabache realized how difficult it would be to sift through her life’s possessions. So, instead of carrying boxes to and fro, she sat down with Dorothy and talked through each item.

“I know some people got annoyed because it looked like all I was doing was sitting on the floor talking, while they were doing the heavy lifting,” she said. “I want to tell you guys why I was sitting there on the floor. I had been trying to do the task, but missed the whole point. The point was we were there to help a person. Carlow has taught us how to help people.”

Those words echoed in the ears of the more than 300 graduate and undergraduate students who walked in the ceremony because beginning with the Baccalaureate Mass they were reiterated throughout the day.

“Make sure your eyes connect with everyone who is suffering,” said the Most Reverend David Zubik, the Bishop of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, during the homily for the Mass.

Carlow’s president, Suzanne K. Mellon, PhD, presented two honored guests with honorary doctoral degrees during the ceremony: Jim Withers, MD, the founder and medical director of Operation Safety Net, and Carolyn Y. Woo, PhD, the former president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services (CRS), who gave the commencement address.

Withers took a few moments of privilege to describe what he has discovered while providing medical care to the homeless in the streets of Pittsburgh. “There were many people who felt that no one cared for them,” he said. “You become one with somebody when you share the same experiences.”

Woo told the graduates that her work at CRS took her to some of the most “desperate places in the world.” Despite this desperation, she said she never let it depress her.

“I am very much filled with hope for the future,” she said, encouraging the audience to feel the same way. “You are the answers to people’s prayers. By lifting each other up, we are answers to each others’ prayers. When someone has a door closed on them, you might be the person who opens a window.”

Although not everyone walked in the ceremony, more than 600 students were eligible to receive bachelor's, master’s and doctoral degrees during the ceremony at Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall in Oakland. Three hundred seventeen students were eligible to receive bachelor’s degrees, and 313 were eligible to receive a graduate degree (288 master’s degrees and 25 doctorates).


By Drew Wilson