Organizer of Papal Visit to Speak at 2016 Commencement
Not very many can say they’ve met the pope once, nevermind multiple times. However, the 2016 commencement speaker, King’s alum Robert J. Ciaruffoli, is someone who has both met Pope Francis and has helped organize the recent papal visit to the United States.
This September, the eyes of the world were on Pope Francis’s visit to the United States. The pope made history when he became the first pope to address Congress, and from there travelled to New York City to speak to the United Nations before heading to Philadelphia to address the World Meeting of Families. And Ciarfulloli had a role to play in all of it.
Fr. Jack Ryan, C.S.C., president of King’s College, got the idea to ask Ciaruffoli to be the 2016 commencement speaker while watching coverage of Pope Francis’s visit.
“When we’re watching the papal visit, which captured the imagination of the country and the world, particularly with the pope’s address to Congress, it dawned on me that the man maybe the most responsible for making that happen is Bob Ciaruffoli,” Ryan said.
Ciaruffoli is the president of the World Meeting of Families, which occurs once every three years. Started in Rome in 1994 by Pope Saint John Paul II, the World Meeting of Families is intended to be an event that strengthens the sacred bonds of the Catholic family.
Ciaruffoli is also the head of the committee that organized the papal visit.
“He’s spent twenty months organizing the logistics, the fundraising, the planning . . . all the necessities that made this visit possible,” Ryan said.
So how did a Swoyersville native end up organizing the papal visit? It begins with his childhood. The oldest of 10 children, Ciaruffoli moved to Forty-Fort with his family when he was a teenager.
He joined the United States Marine Corps after he graduated from Kingston’s Central Catholic High School in 1969. During his time in the Marines, he served in Cuba, Panama, Italy, Greece, Turkey and Spain. Following his military service, Ciaruffoli attended King’s College where he earned an accounting degree.
A member of the King’s College class of 1975, he also served as a member of the King’s College Board of Directors from 1994-1997.
Ciaruffoli joined Parente Randolph LLC, an accounting firm, when he graduated from King’s, eventually becoming chief operating officer and managing partner. He went to Philadelphia to essentially start the Parente Randolph office there, grew it to the largest office which became ParenteBeard, LLC, and was instrumental in the merger with Baker Tilley, a large international accounting firm. He continues his leadership role at Baker Tilley today and is an active member in both state and national accounting professional organizations.
His career with ParenteBeard, LLC put him the perfect place to be involved in such an historic event. Archbishop Charles Chaput approached Ciaruffoli, and active parishioner in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, to preside over the 2015 World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. Ciaruffoli accepted.
For a year and a half, Ciaruffoli managed more than 70 fulltime employees and subcontractors in order to make the World Meeting of Families and the papal visit possible. Ciarufoli considers his role in bringing Pope Francis to Philadelphia the opportunity of a lifetime, and met with the Holy Father in Rome a number of times to arrange the pope’s visit. During Pope Francis’s visit, Ciaruffoli was never far from his side.
Ryan said Ciaruffoli is perfect for the role of commencement speaker because of all he has accomplished and experienced. Furthermore, Ciaruffoli embodies all that King’s College stands for.
“He’s a very accomplished individual and a great role model, I think, of a successful King’s alumnus in so many areas,” Ryan said. “Obviously he’s very accomplished professionally, but he’s also a great citizen and believes strongly in building up communities. He was an engaged citizen in every community that he was in, he’s a strong family member and a great friend. Bob’s just one of those people that exemplifies the concept of ‘making a living, making a life,’ as many members of the King’s community do.”