Bon Jovi crashes Commencement!

Bon Jovi rocks Commencement

Bon Jovi performs their song "Reunion" at Commencement 2017! MTVU ran a national contest to have Bon Jovi crash graduation. Fairleigh Dickinson University's student response on Twitter was incredible, and thanks to them, FDU won! See Bon Jovi singing at Commencement on Good Morning America. (Photo by Dan Landau)

By Kenna Caprio and Angelo Carfagna

May 16, 2017 — Commencement 2017 featured the traditional pomp and circumstance, an honorary degree for a devoted alumna, inspired speeches by honored students, the conferring of more than 3,000 degrees and — one other little thing — a surprise performance by a legendary rock band!

View of graduates and stage at graduation“FDU Class of 2017, please welcome Bon Jovi!” With those words, President Christopher Capuano stunned the graduates and their guests by bringing one of New Jersey’s own rock icons on stage for a surprise appearance. The band performed “Reunion,” a song from their album “This House is Not For Sale.” Before playing, Jon Bon Jovi told the graduates, “Choose your words wisely — not only the ones you’ll say to others, but also the ones you say to yourself … The truth is, there are many surprises awaiting you on your journey.”

Earlier this spring, MTVU ran a national contest for colleges and universities — to enter, students had to tweet their best college memories and use the hashtag #jbjreunioncontest. Winners received a mini acoustic performance, with Bon Jovi crashing graduation.

Amid cheers of “Bon Jovi” from the graduates, President Capuano announced, “Our student response was amazing and thanks to their participation, FDU was the national winner!”

While both the announcement and performance were kept largely hush-hush to preserve the excitement, several national media outlets, including “Good Morning America,” were in on the secret, and on hand and on site, ready to capture the moment.

Good Morning America! Bon Jovi graduation tweetSuperfans, super-tweeters and juniors Sam Durham, Miranda Dworak and Amanda Salazar spoke to MTVU about the contest. The three worked hard to whip up student enthusiasm across social media.

“This moment is something we’ll always remember and talk about,” said Salazar. “We wanted Bon Jovi to come home to New Jersey to perform.”

“His song had such a good message and was a great send-off for the graduating class,” added Dworak, who referred to the band as a “childhood staple.”

Bon Jovi tweets from FDU's CommencementAfter the performance, the student Pinnacle Award recipients from the Metropolitan and Florham campuses gave brief remarks on behalf of their classmates.

“With experience and knowledge, we are able to bring order from chaos. And chaos today is everywhere,” said Melissa Orlando, the Florham Pinnacle. She continued, “With our skills, talents and passions … and with the education we have gained and the challenges that we have faced, we indeed are ready and capable.”

Orlando, of Washington, N.J., graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor of science in chemistry and a minor in Spanish. This summer, she will work as a synthetic chemist at Pfizer Inc. and plans to work as a discovery chemist upon completion of her master’s degree in pharmaceutical chemistry.

“Being a first generation college student isn’t easy … You find out very quickly that any other time you doubted yourself compares nothing to this and that this is the first time you truly understand what it means to be stressed,” said Greih Wilson-McClain, the Metropolitan Pinnacle. “But more than anything, you figure out that you’re capable.”

Wilson-McClain, of Danbury, Conn., graduated cum laude with a bachelor of science in business administration and a minor in global and cultural studies. She sang the national anthem at the start of the Commencement ceremony. Wilson-McClain will complete her MBA in marketing at FDU in May 2018.

This year’s honorary degree went to alumna Mary Kay Mastronardy Stratis, BA’69 (Ruth), and MAT’71 (Metro), a former member of the University’s Board of Trustees.

Stratis suffered a tragic loss when her husband, Elia, BS’67 (Ruth), MBA’76 (Metro), was killed in the 1988 terrorist bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. A retired high school teacher, she has gone on to counsel families, specifically widows, as they cope with the difficulty of loss through terrorism. She’s a consultant to the Board of Directors of “Remember Me” Rose Gardens, a 9/11 tribute, and is chairman of the Board of the Victims of Pan Am Flight 103, Inc. At FDU, she served as a member of the Board of Trustees from 1999-2016.

“It means so much to me to be honored this way by my FDU family,” said Stratis, who received a doctor of humane letters, honoris causa.

She addressed the graduates and said, “You are part of the founders’ vision — the new branch of their family tree.” And captured the sense of excitement, accomplishment and pride in the air at Commencement when she said, “You have all moved yourselves. You have equipped yourselves to move the world.”   

Congratulations, Class of 2017!