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May 21, 2015

Commencement speakers at area colleges


Political journalist Chris Matthews will return to his native Philadelphia to deliver the keynote speech at Peirce College's 150th anniversary commencement.

The host of "Hardball" on MSNBC, Matthews' political career began as an employee in the U.S. Senate. He later became a presidential speechwriter and then the top aide to former Speaker of the House Thomas P. O'Neill. In the late 1980s, he transitioned to a career in journalism and has been on television every weekday night since he launched "Hardball" in 1997.

The commencement ceremony will be held June 11 at 6:45 the Kimmel Center for Performing Arts at Broad and Spruce streets in Center City.


Madeline Bell, president and chief operating officer at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia addressed Villanova University's Class of 2015 as commencement speaker.

Bell, a 1983 Villanova graduate with a bachelor of science in nursing, will also receive the degree of doctor of humane letters, honoris causa.

Bell manages more than 12,000 employees for the $2 billion a year health system. During her tenure as CHOP’s senior executive Bell has led significant growth while maintaining the financial strength and clinical excellence of the organization.

She began her nursing career in pediatrics, moving from a variety of different nursing roles into hospital administration in 1989.

The university’s 172nd commencement was Friday, May 15 at 4 p.m., in Villanova Stadium.


Samantha Power, U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations and Pulitzer Prize-winning author will be the speaker at the University of Pennsylvania's 259th commencement on Monday, May 18, at 10:15 a.m. at Franklin Field. She will receive an honorary doctor of laws degree.

At the United Nations, Ambassador Power works to advance U.S. interests and address pressing challenges to global peace, security, and prosperity. She received her B.A. from Yale University and J.D. from Harvard Law School.

She is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide."

Ambassador Power is married to fellow honoree Cass Sunstein.


Russell Redding, Pennsylvania's acting secretary of agriculture, will speak at the Delaware Valley University's commencement on Saturday, May 16, at 10:30 a.m. on the Quad in front of Lasker Hall.

Redding was nominated as agriculture secretary by Gov. Tom Wolf. Previously, he was DelVal's dean of agriculture and environmental sciences, and secretary of agriculture under the Rendell Administration.

A confirmation hearing was slated this week for Redding.


La Salle University senior Madeline Collins will deliver the student commencement address at La Salle’s undergraduate commencement ceremony on Sunday, May 17, at 10:30 a.m. in McCarthy Stadium on La Salle’s Main Campus.

At La Salle, any graduating senior is eligible to apply to be commencement speaker. Written entries are submitted to a selection committee, and then five finalists are invited to deliver the speech to the committee, and a selection is made.

Two words form the theme of the speech: tradition and innovation.

A student-athlete in lacrosse, Collins is an honors student with a double major in English and marketing.


Bill Nye will deliver the Rutgers University 249th commencement address during ceremonies Sunday, May 17, at 12:30 p.m. in High Point Solutions Stadium on the Busch Campus in Piscataway, New Jersey.

Famously known as "Bill Nye the Science Guy," he is CEO of the Planetary Society. He will be awarded an honorary doctor of science degree.


The following speakers addressed graduates during ceremonies at Rowan University this week:

Ken Tucker, the pop-music critic for National Public Radio’s “Fresh Air with Terry Gross” program and the TV critic and critic-at-large for, spoke Thursday, May 14, to graduates of the College of Communication & Creative Arts and College of Performing Arts.

The Honorable Rochelle Hendricks, named the first Secretary of Higher Education for the State of New Jersey by Gov. Chris Christie in 2011, addressed graduates of the College of Education on Thursday, May 14.

Mike Fasulo, a 1982 graduate of Glassboro State College and president and chief operating officer of Sony Electronics, spoke to graduates of the Rohrer College of Business on Friday, May 15.

Ashley Abdullah, a 2006 Rowan graduate and associate manager for media planning for Univision, spoke to graduates of the College of Humanities & Social Sciences on Friday, May 15.

On Tuesday, Dr. Bonnie J. Dunbar, a NASA veteran and inductee into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame, spoke at commencement for the Henry M. Rowan College of Engineering, College of Science & Mathematics and School of Biomedical Science & Health Professions.

On Wednesday, Dr. Norman Vinn, a renowned family physician from San Clemente, Calif., and the immediate past president of the American Osteopathic Association, addressed graduates of the School of Osteopathic Medicine and Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences.


Cartoonist and author Lynda Barry will be the keynote speaker at the University of the Arts' 137th Commencement ceremony Thursday, May 14 at 10:30 a.m. in Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia.

She will also receive an honorary doctor of fine arts degree.

Barry is a 1978 graduate of Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash. In 1979, while pursuing a career as a painter, Barry began drawing a weekly comic strip incorporating stories considered to be incompatible with comics at the time—stories, as Barry puts it, “that had a lot of trouble in them.” Widely credited with expanding the literary, thematic and emotional range of American comics, Barry’s weekly comic strip ran in alternative newspapers across North America for 30 years.

She has authored 19 books, worked as a commentator for NPR, and had a regular monthly feature in Esquire, Mother Jones, Mademoiselle and Salon magazines. She created an album-length spoken word collection of stories called “The Lynda Barry Experience” and was a frequent guest on “Late Night with David Letterman.”


Deogratias Niyizonkiza, founder and CEO of Village Health Works in the African country of Burundi, addressed graduates at Arcadia University’s 2015 commencement ceremonies on Friday, May 15.

Niyizonkiza, a leading advocate and key voice in global health, will receive an honorary doctor of humanities degree.

Village Health Works is a nonprofit that provides compassionate, quality health care to the most vulnerable community members (150,000 people) in the East African country of Burundi.


Three individuals will receive honorary degrees and address graduates during Haverford College's commencement ceremony at 10 a.m. Sunday, May 17, on Roberts Hall Green.

Thandeka Luthuli Gcabashe is a key figure in the movement to end apartheid. The daughter of 1960 Nobel Peace Prize winner and African National Congress President Chief Albert Luthuli, she emigrated from South Africa to the United States in 1970.

As a political exile in the U.S. during the last decades of the apartheid regime, Thandi and her family settled in Atlanta, where she became a nationally known activist engaging in educational projects and divestment campaigns.

She returned to Johannesburg in 1994 to vote in the first post-apartheid election. During the Nelson Mandela presidency, she served as South African ambassador to Venezuela and the West Indies. She currently lives in Durban.

Sister Mary Scullion joined the Sisters of Mercy and began working on behalf of the homeless in 1976. She has been involved in service work and advocacy for homeless and mentally ill persons since 1978.

In 1989, she and associate Joan Dawson McConnon co-founded Project H.O.M.E., a nationally recognized organization providing solutions to homelessness and poverty.

Her advocacy efforts earned homeless persons the right to vote and led to a landmark federal court decision that affects the fair housing rights of persons with disabilities.

Bryan A. Stevenson is the founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, a private, nonprofit organization headquartered in Montgomery, Alabama, and a professor of law at New York University School of Law.

A graduate of both Harvard Law School and Harvard School of Government, he has devoted his life to helping disadvantaged people in the Deep South, fighting poverty and challenging racial discrimination in the criminal justice system.


Colleen Carroll Campbell will be the speaker during commencement ceremonies at Immaculata University on Sunday, May 17 at 1:30 p.m. in the Villa Maria quadrangle on campus.

Campbell is an author, print and broadcast journalist and former presidential speechwriter. In addition to her critically acclaimed first book, The New Faithful, and her award-winning spiritual memoir, My Sisters the Saints, her journalism credits include contributions to the New York Times, Washington Post, First Things and America, and appearances on CNN, FOX News, MSNBC, PBS and NPR.

She has served as executive producer and anchor of a television newscast airing worldwide on EWTN, the world’s largest religious media network, and as creator and host of EWTN’s Faith & Culture television and radio interview show.


Suzanne Dunham Fong, an attorney and civic volunteer, and the wife of the late Ursinus president Bobby Fong, served as commencement speaker during ceremonies at Ursinus College on Friday, May 15, under the big tent on Berman Lawn.

Fong, who will receive an honorary baccalaureate degree, has been an English teacher, a law clerk with the Kentucky Court of Appeals and a research associate for the Kentucky College of Law.

At Ursinus, she has proved a champion of the liberal arts, and a passionate supporter of the Collegeville campus and greater community.


Rana Elmekadem, a 21-year-old student who was recognized for her outstanding leadership as state president of the top honor society for community college students, will deliver the graduating student. address 

Elmekadem, a 2012 Haddon Heights High School graduate who lives in Barrington and Honors Program student, earned Dean’s List for three semesters of study and President’s List status for three semesters. She is receiving her associate in science degree in pre-pharmacy, graduating with a 3.75 grade-point average.

Her speech will focus on self-determination and urge her classmates to be inspired by the completion of their Camden County College studies to remain undeterred by obstacles and achieve even more. She will be joined on stage by keynote speaker and fellow CCC graduate U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross, D-NJ-1, and U.S. Deputy Secretary of Labor Christopher P. Lu.


E. Roe Stamps IV, founder of the Stamps Leadership Scholars, will speak during Elizabethtown College's 112th commencement on Saturday, May 16, at 11 a.m. in The Dell.

So inspired by the impact that university experiences had on their lives, Roe Stamps and wife, Penny, chose to support exceptional students in their pursuit of higher education by creating programs that offer enriched educational experiences for Stamps Leadership Scholars.

The first three Elizabethtown College Stamps Scholars will graduate with the Class of 2015.

Stamps is a private investor and cofounder of the Boston-based private investment company Summit Partners. He is a former lieutenant in the U.S. Navy Reserve, an industrial engineering graduate of Georgia Tech and an MBA graduate from Harvard Business School.

He and his wife have devoted significant time and resources to philanthropic causes and, through the Stamps Family Charitable Foundation, formed 20 years ago, have shown deep commitment to education, supporting projects and scholarships at 35 universities nationwide. The foundation has created innovative scholarship programs currently supporting 425 students.

Stamps will receive an honorary degree along with Hatfield Foods' Phil Clemens, an active member of the College's High Center; and Don Kraybill, retiring Senior Scholar at the E-town's Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies.


Drexel University will award honorary degrees to prominent individuals distinguished in their fields for this year’s 128th Commencement. The following individuals will speak at ceremonies at the John A. Daskalakis Athletic Center.

Billie Jean King, tennis legend and gender equality champion, will speak at undergraduate commencement for the School of Education, Center for Hospitality and Sports Management, LeBow College of Business and Goodwin College of Professional Studies. She is founder of the Billie Jean King Leadership Initiative. The ceremony is at 2 p.m. Friday, June 12.

Dan Shechtman, winner of the 2011 Nobel Prize in chemistry, will address graduates at commencement ceremonies for the College of Engineering, School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems and College of Computing & Informatics. He is the Philip Tobias Professor of Materials Science at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, and professor of materials science at Iowa State University. The ceremony is at noon Saturday, June 13.

Christine Grady, Chief of the Clinical Center's Department of Bioethics, National Institutes of Health, will speak at commencement for the College of Nursing and Health Professions. The ceremony is at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, June 13.

Ralph Rucci, acclaimed Philadelphia-born fashion designer, is the commencement speaker for graduates in the Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, College of Arts and Sciences and Pennoni Honors College. The ceremony is at 7 p.m. Saturday, June 13.


The following individuals will deliver keynote addresses during commencement ceremonies for the graduating Class of 2015 at Rutgers University–Camden during events on Thursday, May 21.

Chris Satullo, vice president of news and civic dialogue for WHYY, will speak during the commencement ceremony for the Rutgers School of Business–Camden at 12:30 p.m. in the Susquehanna Bank Center. Satullo previously served as editorial page editor at the Philadelphia Inquirer. At WHYY, he has led the launch of several programs including First, NewsWorks Tonight, and most recently, the Pulse, WHYY’s weekly health and science show. Additionally, Satullo spearheaded the launch of

Gloria Bonilla-Santiago, Board of Governors Distinguished Service Professor of Public Policy and director of the Community Leadership Center, both at Rutgers University–Camden, will speak during the Rutgers School of Nursing–Camden graduation exercises at 2:30 p.m. at the Rutgers–Camden Athletic and Fitness Center. Her work on behalf of children and families has resulted in the development of Camden’s LEAP Academy as a national model charter school. In 2008, she received the L’Oreal Paris Women of Worth Award, a national recognition that honors 10 women for their exemplary and transcending service to communities.

Walter MacDonald, president and CEO of Educational Testing Services, will deliver the keynote address for the Rutgers–Camden College of Arts and Sciences at a 6 p.m. ceremony at the Susquehanna Bank Center. As president and CEO, his priority is to achieve the mission of the nonprofit organization—advancing quality and equity in education for all people worldwide.


William R. Sasso, left, chairman of law firm Stradley Ronon, will deliver the undergraduate commencement address for Philadelphia University at 2:30 p.m. Saturday in the Terrace ballroom at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

Sasso has served as chairman of the firm’s management committee and board of directors since 1994, with responsibility for oversight and management of more than 200 attorneys in seven offices, including Philadelphia, Malvern and Cherry Hill.

Christopher Rondeau, CEO of Planet Fitness, will receive the honorary degree Doctor of Humane Letters, at the undergraduate ceremony.