By Angeline Boyer, Manager of Media Relations, Saint Peter’s University
Saint Peter’s University has a multitude of national honor society chapters that recognize the achievements of students in a wide-range of programs and fields. However there is only one honor society on campus that acknowledges students who have not only excelled in their coursework, but have also embraced the ideals of a Jesuit education: Alpha Sigma Nu.
Alpha Sigma Nu acknowledges students who distinguish themselves in scholarship and demonstrate loyalty to the ideals of a Jesuit education. Members are students who attend one of the 28 Jesuit colleges and universities in the United States, Regis and Campion Colleges in Canada, or Sogang University in Seoul, South Korea. Induction into Alpha Sigma Nu is one of the highest honors that can be given on a Jesuit campus. Eligibility is open to juniors, seniors and graduate students who are in the top 15 percent of their class academically and are dedicated to Jesuit values.
“In order to be inducted into any honor society on campus, students must be extremely dedicated to their academics,” said Rev. Michael Braden, S.J., vice president for mission and ministry at Saint Peter’s University. “The Saint Peter’s students who are members of Alpha Sigma Nu have not only invested time and effort to their studies, but have also carved out time from their demanding schedules to explore the significance of a Jesuit education.”
Alpha Sigma Nu has a long history with Saint Peter’s and the efforts and activities of the chapter have grown in the past few decades. One major player in these efforts was former chapter president, Jacob Hayden ’10.
In his senior year at Saint Peter’s, Hayden was named president of the Alpha Sigma Nu chapter. Alpha Sigma Nu hosts triennial conferences in which all chapter presidents are invited to attend and 2009 happened to be a conference year. Hayden attended the conference at Saint Louis University and had the unique experience of meeting Alpha Sigma Nu members from all across the country. The conference inspired him to spread the Jesuit mission and message beyond the Alpha Sigma Nu members to the entire University upon his return.
In March 2010, under Hayden’s direction, Saint Peter’s celebrated its first-ever Ignatian Heritage Week, designed to strengthen the Jesuit mission and principles upon which the University was founded. The week kicked off with a scavenger hunt to explore Ignatian symbols throughout the Jersey City campus. Other events included weightier fare such as a dramatic reading of The Witness, a one-act play about the murder of six Jesuits in El Salvador in 1989. The event also featured inspiring speakers such as Rev. Greg Boyle, S.J., founder of Homeboy Industries, who discussed his experiences working with inner city gangs and at-risk youth. Students also came together as a community and celebrated a Mass.
The tradition of Ignatian Heritage Week continues at Saint Peter’s, along with other Alpha Sigma Nu initiatives such as dinner with the Jesuits and meetings with the New York City Area Alpha Sigma Nu Alumni Club.
Today, Hayden is a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Seattle, studying for the priesthood at Mount Angel Seminary in Saint Benedict, Oregon. Prior to entering formation for the Archdiocese of Seattle, he taught at Bellarmine Preparatory School, a Jesuit high school in Tacoma, WA. In addition, he volunteered as a coordinator of youth ministry at Saint John of the Woods Church, where he led weekly youth group meetings and organized activities to enrich the faith life of high school-aged young people. He also served as a confirmation catechist and a Catholic chaplain at Pierce County Jail.
Hayden credits his experience at Saint Peter’s and in Alpha Sigma Nu as an important step toward the path he is on today. “Saint Peter’s and Alpha Sigma Nu helped me to realize that I can succeed in leadership roles and empowered me to try new things, make mistakes, learn from them and be successful,” he said.
This year, Alpha Sigma Nu is celebrating its 100th anniversary. The centennial triennial conference was held at Marquette University on October 15-18 and in honor of this celebration, Alpha Sigma Nu awarded Magis Medals to 100 Alpha Sigma Nu members who best exemplify scholarship, loyalty and service in their work to better the world. Hayden is one of four members of the Saint Peter’s chapter who were honored. The additional honorees include Christopher Giorlando ’12, Jerome Bongiorno ’84 and Marylou Tibaldo-Bongiorno ’84.
Giorlando has worked with young people from the Appalachian Mountains to the inner-city of Brooklyn. He is dedicated to serving under-resourced schools in high-poverty areas and was a member of the Magis Catholic Teacher Corps, a two-year service teaching program at Creighton University. He is currently serving abroad for the Peace Corps.
Bongiorno and Tibaldo-Bongiorno are a husband and wife team of Emmy-nominated award-winning filmmakers who focus their lens on social justice issues. Their critically-acclaimed 3Rs Documentary Trilogy on urban America does just that, examining the microcosm of their home city of Newark, N.J. The trilogy includes Revolution ’67, The Rule and Rust, which focused on issues such as the 1967 Newark riots, the success of Benedictine monks with inner city minority youths and solutions to reducing inner city poverty.
The members of the Alpha Sigma Nu chapter at Saint Peter’s have made a lasting impact on the entire University through their dedication to Ignatian spirituality. While their influence is enduring on campus, it has also spread beyond the institution. From education to religion to social justice issues and more, these leaders have raised the bar in countless fields and are making a substantial impact on the world.