First Posted: 5/28/2010
CAMILLE FIOTI Times Leader Correspondent
WILKES-BARRE TWP. – Known around the world as the Central Park Jogger, guest speaker Trisha Meili told over 800 graduates at ’s 42nd annual commencement Thursday that the support of family, friends and strangers, as well as living in the present, is what helped her heal after her attack.
On April 19, 1989, 28-year-old Meili, an associate at the Wall Street investment bank Salomon Brothers, went for a run in New York’s Central Park shortly after 9 p.m. Hours later, two men wandering the park found her near death from a brutal beating and rape. She suffered from severe exposure, 80 percent blood loss, and a traumatic brain injury. “I was given last rites,” Meili said.
“I am an ordinary person who had something extraordinary happen to me,” Meili said. “I suffered extraordinary violence, but I also experienced extraordinary love and support.” Only eight months after her attack, Meili returned to Salomon, became vice president and continued her career there for another eight years. She ran a nonprofit in New York City, The Bridge Fund of New York, Inc., before writing her best-selling memoir, “I am the Central Park Jogger: A story of hope and possibility.”
Meili’s story is not about anger, fear, hatred or being a victim, it is a story of healing. She devotes her time giving motivational speeches around the country and conducting workshops on how to manage through unpredictable change. She urged the graduates to do everything they could to support one another. “It makes such as difference to reach out to someone,” she said. “My standing before you proves that we can do more than we ever thought possible.”
President Tom Leary reminded the students at the Mohegan Sun Arena ceremony of when they attended freshman orientation. “Many of you were apprehensive and wondered if you made the right decision. You have proceeded through this journey, and gained valuable knowledge from a dedicated faculty,” he said. “As you move forward, you know that you have the determination to succeed. I hope when you look back you can simply say, ‘I did my best’.”
The Outstanding Adult Learner Graduate Award was presented to Rachele Brennan. The Alumni Association Outstanding Graduate Award was presented to William Browne.