TEMPE — Seventeen students donned caps and gowns March 2 to celebrate their status as the first graduating class from the University of Mary and its programs in the Phoenix metro area.
The daylong celebration included a board of regents meeting and a Baccalaureate Mass followed by a banquet. Students and those involved with bringing the historic partnership between U-Mary and Arizona State University this school year expressed gratitude.
“I am one step closer to fulfilling the dream God set on my heart years ago,” Traci Esposito said during a presentation to the school’s board of regents. “This degree has prepared me with the knowledge and passion needed to help make a difference on a larger scale. Most importantly, I have grown fervently in my faith with a new-found passion for Catholic education.”
Esposito is a teacher at St. Theresa Catholic School alongside Barbara Nicol, who also graduated from U-Mary. Other graduates who teach at or lead local Catholic elementary schools included:
- Catherine Lucero and Sr. Maria Chinelo Nwokafor at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Glendale
- Rochelle Emling and Adrian España at St. Catherine of Siena
- Kelley Perry at St. Francis Xavier
- Janis Pusch-Good at St. Gregory
- Elizabeth Lozano and Elizabeth Ulloa at St. Jerome
- Kimberly Koontz at St. Matthew
- Cynthia Amrhein at Ss. Simon and Jude
Graduates working at Catholic high schools included Ray Medhus, Tom Mar and Jan Carteaux at Notre Dame Preparatory in Scottsdale, Tom Welsh at Bourgade and Gail Hartman at Xavier College Preparatory.
Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted, Bishop-emeritus Paul Zipfel of Bismarck, and U-Mary President Msgr. James Shea con-celebrated the Baccalaureate Mass at the All Saints Catholic Newman Center in Tempe. Fathers Rob Clements and John Muir with the Newman Center where classes are held, joined them. Graduate, their families and university supporters filled the pews.
“How proud we are of you, the first graduates for Catholic higher education in Arizona!” Msgr. Shea said. “To Bishop Olmsted and all those whose hospitality and support have made this possible, we are so grateful. We pray that this happy moment will lay the foundation for programs that will benefit generations to come in the Phoenix area and beyond.”
More than 170 University of Mary students, faculty, clergy and friends attended a banquet at nearby Tempe Mission Palms. Several leaders spoke about the importance and the gift of Catholic education from pre-K to doctoral degree including Bishop Olmsted, Msgr. Shea and Mary Beth Mueller who serves as superintendent of Catholic schools in the Diocese of Phoenix.
Mar, one of three graduates sharing his new found knowledge with Notre Dame Preparatory students, also addressed the crowd. He described his University of Mary experience as life-changing.
“No one here can rightly claim that what we celebrate this night is through our work and merit alone. Appropriately, God is the primary object of our gratitude and the Eucharist we just shared is the best way of expressing our thanks to God.”
The University of Mary is currently enrolling new students in Arizona for both its Master’s of Education program and its undergraduate offerings at ASU.