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It is not often that a grandfather and his granddaughter graduate from college on the same day. Danny Aiello, star of stage and screen, and his granddaughter Dawn Aiello both received their diplomas at La Roche’s 38th annual commencement, held in the Kerr Fitness and Sports Center on Saturday, May 10. At the ceremony, the College bestowed degrees upon more than 240 members of the class of 2003.

“I thank you for this magnificent gesture. I will cherish it always,” said Aiello, who received the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters and served as this year’s commencement speaker.

Known for his roles as Cher’s jilted fiancé in the movie “Moonstruck” and as Sal the pizza shop owner in Spike Lee’s film “Do the Right Thing,” Aiello offered a personal message to his granddaughter, the firstborn of his ten grandchildren.

“You are the pathfinder. You have shown the way brilliantly,” said Aiello, choking back tears at times. “You are the one who will lead the rest of my grandchildren toward education, and hopefully a successful life. I love you for that.”

Aiello went on to tell the graduates that he had always regretted not getting a formal education.

“I guess I didn’t have the kind of dedication and discipline it takes to go through all those hours, weeks, months and years it takes to earn enough credits to receive a degree,” said Aiello. “I went as far as a cup of coffee in high school.”

Aiello told the audience that he received a street education, often relying on good luck. He closed his remarks by challenging the class of 2003 to help shape their own futures.

“We live in difficult times,” said Aiello. “Education is probably more important now than ever before in our history. So, go out there and teach the world how to be better.” <

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