ALEXANDER BROWN/THE HOYA Br. Guy Consolmagno, S.J., addressed the Georgetown College Class of 2014 on Healy Lawn this morning.
Br. Guy Consolmagno, S.J., addressed the Georgetown College Class of 2014 on Healy Lawn.

Vatican astronomer Br. Guy Consolmagno, S.J., addressed the Georgetown College Class of 2014 in a speech this morning, focusing on the role of truth in education.

The ceremony began at 9 a.m., with many seniors arriving to line up at 7:45 a.m. shortly after wrapping last night’s Senior Ball celebrations.

Before the speech, Georgetown bestowed Consolmagno an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters.

Associate Dean of Georgetown College Helen Karn read the citation for the honorary degree.

“In recognition of a life of science that is dedicated ad maiorem Dei gloriam – ‘to the greater glory of God’ – and a life of faith that finds God in all things scientific, Georgetown University is proud to bestow upon Br. Guy Joseph Consolmagno, S.J. the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, Honoris Causa,” she said.

After the speech, the Class of 2014 received their diplomas from Dean of Georgetown College Chester Gillis and University President John J. DeGioia. First in line were the two valedictorians of Georgetown College, Jenny Hammer and Blair Vorsatz.

Consolmagno opened his speech by explaining his role at the Vatican and the church’s role in science.

“By supporting the observatory, the church is doing more than just apologizing for Galileo. We’re reminding the world, including Catholics, that the church supports and embraces science,” he said. “We’re not afraid of the truth; we actively seek it.”

The main body of Consolmagno’s speech focused on using education in life beyond college through the metaphor of teaching extraterrestrials.

“There’s a lot of aliens out there … Is what you learn here going to cut any ice with them? Are you prepared to survive the encounter, much less, on occasion, baptize them into your way of thinking?” Consolmagno said.

He concluded that the Class of 2014 was in fact prepared because of their Georgetown educations.

“You’re ready because the things you learned here are really true,” he said. “These truths are bigger than Georgetown, bigger than planet earth, bigger than the universe.”

Consolmagno tied in the Jesuit idea of cura personalis.

“Being a person for others really works,” he said. “What you have learned here is that you never need to be afraid of the truth but you should never think that your comprehension of the truth is ever finished or ever complete.”

To close the speech, he doled out his advice to the Class of 2014.

“Go out and find those aliens, be ready to baptize them, and maybe be ready to go under a few conversions of your own. Be ready to be surprised,” he said. “Good luck. Godspeed.”

Attendees generally found him interesting and different from usual commencement speakers.

Tracey Frazier-Akparawa, an usher at the ceremony, found the speech out of character for Georgetown.

“I thought it was quite, to be sincere, a little different, a little strange,” she said. “I expected something a little different from Georgetown.”

George Spyropoulos (COL ’14) agreed but found Consolmagno refreshing.

“He was very charismatic,” he said. “He was unconventional but fresh.”

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Associate Dean of Georgetown College Sue Lorenson read the honorary degree citation for Consolmagno.

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