Molloy University fills the Coliseum to celebrate more than 1,400 graduating students


Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum was filled to the rafters for the 2024 Molloy University commencement ceremony on May 20.

“Commencement is the best day of the year,” Molloy University President James Lentini said. “Families and students are so happy and are looking forward to the next part of their life, but it is always bittersweet about leaving Molloy and the great experiences they had here.”

The Molloy class of 2024 is composed of 1,415 graduates, including Bachelors, Masters and Doctoral degree recipients, plus Associates and Advanced certificates and other graduates.

“I’m a first-generation American, so this is the first time that my family is seeing anyone attend college and cross that stage,” Eric Palencia, a political science major from Mattituck, said. “My parents are originally from Guatemala, and they have always dreamed of this moment for me. It happened with a lot of hard work and effort, but we made it here.”

Undergraduate students with the class of 2024, were seniors in high school in 2020, who had their graduation ceremony stolen by the COVID-19 Pandemic.

“In high school I had a drive-through graduation ceremony,” Matthew Floyd, a criminal justice major from Bethany, Connecticut, said. “This year is so different being able to graduate with my classmates and friends. My whole family is able to see me graduate instead of a select few in a car.”

During the ceremony, Valedictorian Madison Wakely, a psychology major from West Hempstead, and Salutatorian Susan Donohue, an honors nursing student, addressed the crowd, sharing stories about their experiences at the school and the lessons they will take with them.

Matt Higgins, co-founder and chief executive of the private investment firm, RSE ventures, delivered the commencement address to the 2024 graduating class. Known for his business savvy and acumen, Higgins is one of the preeminent investors in the consumer, sports and entertainment markets, where he has built an expansive multi-billion dollar investment portfolio including more than 100 leading brands.

He was one of the first employees, and ultimately chief operating officer, of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, which was created to plan the rebuilding of the World Trade Center site. Higgins helped organize the design competition that culminated with “Reflecting Absence,” the September 11th National Memorial, and the development of One World Trade Center, the tallest building in the northern hemisphere.

Higgins also serves as an executive fellow at the Harvard Business School, where he co-teaches a course on direct-to-consumer brands, and has appeared on ABC’s Shark Tank during seasons 10 and 11. In 2013, his debut book, “Burn the Boats,” landed on The Wall Street Journal bestseller list.

In his commencement address, Higgins imparted invaluable wisdom with the crowd. He explained how everyone in the crowd will inadvertently find themselves in situations where they may settle for less, tolerate unjust treatment from someone close, or feel like a victim when tragedy strikes, and encouraged graduates to, in those moments, ask one critical question. 

“To the class of 2024, never let anyone convince you that your past puts a ceiling on your future. It only sets the floor,” Higgins said. “And for all the blessings you pursue and all the burdens you must carry, always ask yourself the one question that has the power to change your life… ‘why not me?’” 

As part of the ceremony, Molloy University bestowed Higgins with an honorary Doctorate of Business Honoris Causa degree for his extensive work.