USF President Emerita Sister Elise Kriss exhorts 2022 graduates to ‘bend history’

May 7, 2022

FORT WAYNE, Ind.—Highlighted by encouraging words from President Emerita Sister M. Elise Kriss, OSF, the University of Saint Francis conferred degrees upon Class of 2022 graduates in its commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 7, at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum.

Sister Elise, an alumna who served as USF president from 1993 to 2020, delivered the keynote address, praising students for their resiliency during the COVID-19 pandemic and urging them to lead and serve others as they move forward. Sister Elise now serves as USF Director of Community Engagement.

“There are many uncertainties in our world today, and you may be apprehensive about what the future holds,” Sister Elise said. “But my message for you today is that you are ready. While it will always take creativity and courage, your University of Saint Francis education is just what you need to be successful in life and in your career.”

USF President Rev. Dr. Eric Albert Zimmer congratulated the Class of 2022 and presented an honorary degree (Doctor of Humane Letters) to alumna and longtime USF supporter Antoinette “Toni” Murray.

USF conferred 624 degrees to 427 undergraduate students, 185 graduate students and 12 doctoral students. The university recognized valedictorians Rachel Anker, Victoria Fisher and Regan Peppler.

In her address, Sister Elise mentioned the struggles students overcame in dealing with COVID-19. Precautions for the pandemic forced cancellation of the 2020 commencement, where Sister Elise was slated to give her final address as president. However, she spent most of her time Saturday looking forward and encouraging graduates to set their standards high.

Sister Elise spoke of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and how he has been compared to Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., in “bending history” through a commitment to resist aggression and injustice.

“With your Saint Francis education, you are also prepared to bend history in meaningful ways,” she said. “While you may not be recognized on the world stage, you will certainly influence your family, your profession, your church and your community in significant ways.

“Everyone here is capable of bending history by your beliefs and your actions,” she continued. “As the Greek author Plutarch stated, ‘What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality.’ We are all placed in this world for a specific God-given purpose. Trust the Lord and trust yourself to discover and then deliver upon what that purpose is. The world is waiting for you and depending on you.”

Sister Elise encouraged graduates to use their influence and leadership to speak on behalf of those less fortunate, drawing from the examples of St. Francis, St. Clare and Blessed Maria Theresia Bonzel, founder of the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration. The Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration sponsor USF.

“You are empowered to identify with the powerless and serve where you see the most need,” Sister Elise told the graduates. “Saint Francis alumni are recognized by their willingness to serve one another, the church and society, and to foster peace and justice in the world.”

Founded in 1890 in the Catholic Franciscan tradition, the University of Saint Francis offers more than 60 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral programs through the College of Health Sciences; College of Arts, Sciences and Business; and College of Adult and Distance Education. In addition to its traditional programs, USF designs focused curricula for working adults in Fort Wayne, Crown Point and online. USF Downtown houses the university’s business and music technology programs while offering enhanced internship and networking opportunities for students. The University of Saint Francis, recognized as an NAIA Five-Star Champion of Character institution, has 18 athletic programs boasting two individual and four team NAIA national championships. Approximately 2,200 students from a broad geographic region attend USF.