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Loyola University Chicago


Mario L. Cuttone

Student speaker: Quinlan School of Business

Well, we made it.

Four years after the freshman orientation ice-breakers where we shared two truths and a lie about ourselves to complete strangers, we sit in this arena next to some of our best friends. Today we celebrate the hard work of the past four years. Every final exam, every 5-Hour Energy, every late-night pep talk has gotten us here. We really made it.

But we mustn’t forget that Loyola has made us too. Our time here has transformed us; I know I’m not the same person I was four years ago. The world around us has changed, too. Just for reference, our freshman year, the Grammy for Best Song went to Beyonce’s “Single Ladies,” Blackberrys still had higher sales than iPhones, Twinkies were still being produced, the Pope was not yet Jesuit, and a certain beloved Chicago Bar and Grill was still open for business.

Loyola also made a few changes. Four years ago, this beautiful arena was a glorified high school gym. Remember the ashtray in front of Mertz?  Or Alumni Gym? What about the old Damen building that looked like a prison? They’ve all been replaced by brand-new environmentally-sustainable reminders that our campus was mostly a labyrinth of green fencing for the majority of our time here. The construction wasn’t all bad; we are, after all, the only Loyola class ever to have class in Damen and Cuneo. Maybe we would have preferred just once to walk across campus in a straight line—but what can you do?

As our campus has changed for the better, so have we. Like true Jesuit-educated students, we have gone forth to all corners of the world—Rome, Beijing, Ho Chi Minh, and more—to grow into the best versions of ourselves. We have tried to find God in all things, even when He seemed incapable of being found—which, for students who had her, was any day in class with Professor Gillespie. But I guarantee that anyone fortunate enough to take Professor Gillespie’s classes will retain more about debits and credits than if they hadn’t.

We have been blessed with countless other professors also dedicated to pushing us to become our best. One prominent marketing professor comes to mind. She gulps down a triple shot of espresso in the morning, bounces into class with more energy than the Energizer bunny on speed, and pulls up Twitter to discuss the newest branding campaigns. Aren’t we lucky to have Stacy Neier at Loyola?

Our professors’ commitment to us is our model for serving others, for we are not just businessmen and women. In an economic climate stained with corruption and greed, we, like them, are called to be true stewards of our disciplines. As starry-eyed freshmen, that seemed daunting. Now those stars have been replaced with the flames of our passions, cultivated by our professors and friends. We arrived eager to learn; today we leave not only with a diploma but also the tools we earned through our studies and internships that will allow us to use our gifts to change our world.

So as we sit here with friends and loved ones eagerly watching and taking bets on whether we will trip up these stairs, we know that we have completed another chapter in our lives. We made it. The question is what will we create next? Whether we work for a hedge fund, try non-profit work, or attend graduate school, we must, by our actions and choices, make a world that puts the needs of others first, especially those who haven’t had our advantages. Loyola gave us an example; now we must embody it for others. 

I’ll close with a line from Grammy-award winning band Fun: “Tonight, we are young, so let’s set the world on fire/we can burn brighter than the sun.” Obviously they plagiarized from St. Ignatius of Loyola. We all know the Jesuit mission is to go forth and set the world on fire. For four years, we have collected the kindling for that fire.  Today we officially light the spark.

This celebration marks the beginning of our personal missions. May we all draw strength from our time at Loyola and, driven to succeed in those missions, turn the world into one massive bonfire.


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