New England Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft advised Suffolk University College of Arts & Sciences graduates to be passionate about whatever they do in life, telling them to “choose the opportunities that are most rewarding, not financially, but personally and professionally.”

After a commencement speech that offered wisdom and anecdotes from his career, Kraft drew laughter by giving “one final piece of advice: Don’t follow the advice of others.”

Kraft is chairman and CEO of The Kraft Group, which in addition to the Patriots, New England Revolution and Gillette Stadium, holds assets in paper and packaging, real estate development and a private equity portfolio. Kraft also is involved in philanthropy focused on education, youth and athletic opportunity.

"I had to follow my instincts"

He said that he never would have met with the success he enjoys today if he had followed the guidance of his advisers on several key points along his professional journey -- acquiring a paper mill in Newfoundland, purchasing Foxboro Stadium and giving up a first-round draft pick in his bid to bring on Coach Bill Belichick.

“While I believe that it is important to listen to the opinions of others, I still had to trust my instincts and follow my heart,” said Kraft.

He also related a story about Patriots wide receiver Deion Branch, who called all of his coaches and mentors before the Super Bowl that followed the 2004 season to thank them for their guidance as he pursued his dream.

“Can you imagine how each of those mentors felt” getting a call from the player who would be Super Bowl MVP by the end of the day after the Patriots clinched the title? he asked.

Kraft then invited “the moms and dads” to stand up and be applauded by the graduates.

The College of Arts & Sciences awarded 911 bachelor’s degrees and 264 master’s degrees to the Class of 2013. Commencement exercises were held on the afternoon of May 19 at the Bank of America Pavilion on the Boston waterfront.

Honorary degrees

The following honorary degrees were awarded during Suffolk University College of Arts and Sciences exercises:

  • Kraft was honored with a Doctor of Public Service degree.
  • Boston Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis received an honorary Doctor of Public Service degree.
  • Award-winning author, historian and public television personality David McCullough received an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree.
  • Karen Kaplan of Hill Holliday, who rose from receptionist to CEO of one of the nation’s largest advertising firms, received an honorary Doctor of Letters degree.

Three commencement ceremonies

Paul Fireman, the chair of Fireman Capital Partners spoke at the morning exercises for the Sawyer Business School. He founded and served as chair and CEO of Reebok International, which rose to the top of the athletic apparel industry in the 1980s when it pioneered the concept of melding fashion with athletic gear.

Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC’s Hardball and The Chris Matthews Show on NBC, will speak at the Law School ceremony at 10 a.m. Monday, May 20. Matthews went from the Peace Corps to staff jobs on Capitol Hill and worked as a speechwriter for President Jimmy Carter before making his mark in newspapers and gaining national and international recognition in broadcast journalism.