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More than 1,000 graduate from St. John’s

For Whitestone-born Stephen Ho, college was, as he put it, "just something to pass the time." His goal was to be a rock star and he chose to attend St. John's University so he could stay home and play in his band, "the Drowners."

On Sunday, Ho, 21, was awarded the prestigious Vincentian Mission Award and gave the student commencement speech at one of two commencement ceremonies Sunday.

"I never thought I'd be able to give a speech in front of all of these people," the breathless, newly minted graduate said after addressing his class and a packed auditorium. "I feel I'm a real representative of the class."

The graduating class at St. John's, the 130-year-old university with seven colleges, was so large that the university held two ceremonies instead of one, said Jody Fisher, a spokesman for the university.

More than 1,100 graduates donned red robes and turned the tassels on their graduation caps from one side to another, symbolizing their passage from college student to graduate during commencement exercises Sunday.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Thomas Donahue, an alumnus and the recipient of the St. John's Medal of Honor, offered graduates some pointers on succeeding in life after college at the afternoon commencement.

Among them: embrace globalization, use technology to build relationships rather than let it isolate, and use their newly acquired skills to the fullest in a job market that increasingly demands highly skilled workers.

"For the best amongst you, you will find bidding wars for your skills and services," he said.

But he told graduates the most important challenges ahead involved relationships with loved ones.

"Ultimately you will be judged by how you care for your families and how you treat other people," said Donahue, who met his wife when he was a student at St. John's during the 1960s.

Alumnus Robert Shepard, the New York Yankees public address announcer, was given an honorary degree in pedagogy. Alumnus Jack Carew, a businessman and motivational speaker, delivered the commencement speech at the morning ceremony and was given an honorary degree in commercial sciences.

Barbara Buxton, supervisor for Catholic Charities in Brooklyn and Queens, was given an honorary degree in humane letters.

Graduates spent a moment in silence at the opening of each ceremony Sunday to pay respects to St. John's graduate and basketball star Malik Sealy, who was killed Saturday in a car crash in Minnesota.

Ho, the baby-faced graduate, said the day was a momentous occasion, especially because he chose St. John's so he could stay at home in Whitestone and pursue a future with his band.

The band broke up last year, he said, but he hopes to combine his love for music with his degree in accounting. He is taking a job with Arthur Anderson Consulting, where he will be an auditor, he said, hopefully in the entertainment industry.

"So maybe I'll be able to merge the two fields," he said.

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