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​John A. Cervione ’87

​School of Business Holds First Awards Ceremony Since Accreditation

At the first awards ceremony since the Providence College School of Business- was accredited by AACSB International, the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, graduating students were urged to find meaning in their work and in life beyond work.

The message was emphasized by the guest speaker, John A. Cervione ’87, managing partner of Blue Fin Group, a management and technology consulting firm, who explained how synchronicity played a role in his life.

About 200 students, family members, and faculty attended the awards ceremony in the Ryan Concert Hall in the Smith Center for the Arts. Both Dr. Sylvia Maxfield, dean of the School of Business, and College President Rev. Brian J. Shanley, O.P. ’80, offered congratulations to the seniors and MBA students receiving awards.

“You will be tempted to make work the be-all and end-all of your life. We will be successful if you resist the temptation,” said Father Shanley. “Search for the meaning of your life as a whole — why God created you the way he created you.”

Maxfield introduced Cervione, a member of PC’s National Board of Overseers and a former member of the National Alumni Association Board of Governors.

Cervione explained “The Law of Truly Large Numbers” — the concept that a large enough sample will yield unusual events and unexpected coincidences. With 7 billion people in the world, a “once-in-a-million” shot could happen to more than 7,000 people today and more than 2 million people in a year, Cervione said.  

“Some people believe that life is all chance and coincidence,” said Cervione. “Others think that seemingly random coincidences are actually meaningful, a concept called ‘synchronicity.’ But are these coincidences meaningful in themselves, or do we give them meaning?”

Importance of friends and family

Cervione discussed such coincidences in his life. When he wanted to study for an MBA and visited the Stern School of Business at New York University, he felt the same “incredible feeling of family” as when he first visited PC. The day he began his MBA classes, he was promoted at work. Later, he was drawn to Blue Fin Group, with a mission to make the company’s workers “trusted advisors” to their clients.

“You may be thinking, ‘Sure, it’s easy to see synchronicity when everything works in your favor. But what about unfavorable circumstances?’” Cervione asked.

Five years ago, following a trip to Warsaw, Poland, Cervione was paralyzed by Guillain-Barré Syndrome, breathing only with assistance from a ventilator, his eyelids locked open. His doctors warned that even if the paralysis eased, he might remain wheelchair-bound.

Cervione said he was mentally alert day and night, and passed the time by replaying in his head memories of family, friends, holidays, and vacations — “a movie in my head, all these great moments in my life. That’s what I thought about to pass time and stay sane.”

“In rehab, my family and friends were my cheerleaders. Who would have thought that at 42 I would learn to walk again, talk again, eat again, and write again?”

Six weeks into his rehabilitation, he met another patient, a 25-year-old man who had been in a medically induced coma in intensive care for three months.

“Justin’s arms and legs were curved into his body; his wrists curled underneath and touched his forearms,” said Cervione. “I knew from the moment I saw Justin, there was meaning and purpose for me being there, at that time and at that place. I became his coach, his mentor, and his trusted advisor.”    

The man made a complete recovery and is a successful real estate broker, Cervione said.

“Encouraging him inspired my own physical and spiritual recovery,” Cervione said. “Reaching out and giving back to Justin was the most rewarding and fulfilling experience of my life.”

Since his illness, Cervione has become more involved with his parish, St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, by helping with its restoration program. He speaks to MBA candidates at NYU. And he established a scholarship at PC in memory of his late roommate, William T. Kennedy ’87.  

“Your success is also a result of all the family, friends, teachers, and trusted advisors who have helped you along the way,” said Cervione. “If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it is all about family and friends. In the end, nothing else matters, because it’s impossible to go it alone.”

Students, faculty lauded

Also at the ceremony, the School of Business formally established its own chapter of Beta Gamma Sigma, the national business administration honor society.

Twenty-nine undergraduate students, nine MBA students, and 16 faculty were inducted into Beta Gamma Sigma by Dr. Mark Higgins, dean of the College of Business Administration at the University of Rhode Island. Higgins noted that it is the centennial year for Beta Gamma Sigma, which has 520 chapters in 22 countries. 

MBA students receiving awards were Jennifer Abrams, most inspiring student; William Campbell, best collaborator; Bryan M. Leet, highest GPA; and Dionne A. Nickerson, outstanding graduate, highest GPA, and major field test top scorer.

Top scorers in the major field test for the undergraduate business program were Brendan A. Nelson ’13 (Wethersfield, Conn.), accountancy; Lee T. Carey ’13 (Warwickshire, United Kingdom), management; Sarah C. Travis ’13 (Plainville, Mass.), marketing; Michael P. Kelly ’13 (Norwell, Mass.), finance; and Andrew J. Kelly ’13 (Oneida, N.Y.), top overall score. 

Faculty awards also were presented. Dr. David P. McIntyre, associate professor of management, received the award for research excellence, while Dr. Mark DeFanti, associate professor of marketing, received the award for teaching excellence. Dr. Patrick T. Kelly, associate professor of accountancy, department chair, and director of the MBA Program, was recognized as outstanding MBA faculty member.   

Two awards were presented for teaching innovation. Janet M. Letourneau, adjunct professor of marketing, led business students in creating a marketing plan to increase attendance at St. Cecilia School in Pawtucket, R.I. Dr. Francine Newth, associate professor of management, had students partner with executive mentors to solve real-world business problems.     

— Vicki-Ann Downing


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