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April 27, 2017

UPDATED: Who's speaking at Philly-area commencements in 2017

Here are the men and women who will deliver commencement addresses to area graduates – and receive honorary degrees – in the coming weeks, presented in no particular order. PhillyVoice will be adding to this list as colleges make additional announcements.


Marc H. Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League and an advocate for economic empowerment, will deliver the commencement address at the Community College of Philadelphia on Saturday, May 6, 2017, at 10 a.m. in The Liacouras Center. A long-time advocate for individuals seeking meaningful employment pathways, Morial has been a powerful voice for economic inclusion. As leader of the National Urban League since 2003, he has served as a seasoned strategist for revitalizing communities and local economies. His energetic and skilled leadership has expanded the League’s work around an empowerment agenda, which is redefining civil rights in the 21st century with a renewed emphasis on closing the economic gaps between whites and blacks, as well as other communities of color, and rich and poor Americans. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in economics and African-American studies, he also holds a law degree from the Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C., as well as numerous honorary degrees.



Eustace Wolfington

Eustace Wolfington, president of Cabrini Asset Management in King of Prussia, will serve as commencement speaker and received an honorary degree during ceremonies on Saturday, May 13 at 2 p.m. on the campus' Connelly Green. The founder of the Half-a-Car company (HAC Group), he has made an extraordinary philanthropic commitment to Catholic institutions in the Philadelphia area. After spending two and a half years at the University of Notre Dame and then serving in the United States Army in Korea, Wolfington returned to Philadelphia and St. Joseph's University. He earned a bachelor of science degree.

Honorary degrees also will be granted to two alumnae, Margo Barry Polett, a 1961 graduate of the Undergraduate College, and Ann E. Myhr, a 1997 and 1999 graduate of the Schools of Graduate and Professional Studies.



Madeline Bell

Madeline Bell, president and CEO of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, will address the Class of 2017 at Saint Joseph’s University’s undergraduate commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 20 at 9 a.m. on campus. She will receive an honorary doctorate of humane letters degree. Bell, who began her career at CHOP as a pediatric nurse, became the woman CEO of the hospital in 2015. Her contributions to the hospital include the development of the largest pediatric ambulatory network in the country; the implementation of a single platform electronic health record; expansion of a four-million-square-foot campus; and the development of numerous nationally recognized clinical and family-centered care programs. U.S. News & World Report named CHOP No. 2 nationwide in its 2016-17 Honor Roll of the Best Children’s Hospitals. 

In addition to Bell, Cora Marie Billings, R.S.M., and alumnus J. Eustace Wolfington ’56 will be honored at the undergraduate ceremony with the honorary doctorate of humane letters. Billings, a member of the Religious Sisters of Mercy for 60 years, was the first African-American to join the order’s Mid-Atlantic Community in Merion in 1956. She has dedicated her life to teaching and advancing racial equality and social justice. Wolfington is a dedicated alumnus and longtime supporter of his alma mater who is known as an innovator in the retail automobile, car leasing and insurance industries. A prominent leader in Catholic philanthropy, Wolfington was a member of Saint Joseph’s University’s Board of Trustees from 1993 to 2002, and in 2004 received the Shield of Loyola, the University’s most prestigious alumni award. 


Linda Cliatt-Wayman

Alumna Linda Cliatt-Wayman ’92 will deliver the address at the graduate and doctoral ceremony on May 20 at 3 p.m. on campus. She will receive the honorary doctorate of humane letters.leader in education advocacy on behalf of children living in poverty, she spent 20 years as a special education teacher. As principal at Strawberry Mansion High School, Cliatt-Wayman received national attention for her role in turning around the school. After one year of her leadership, the school was removed from the federal Persistently Dangerous Schools List, and student achievement and test scores improved dramatically.


Michael Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor, entrepreneur and philanthropist, will speak to graduates of Villanova University at this year's commencement on May 19. He will receive an honorary doctor of humane letter degree. A graduate of Johns Hopkins University and Harvard Business School, his invention of the Bloomberg terminal, a computer software system for the financial service sector, led to the creation of his technology startup in 1981. The company has since gone global and grown to more than 19,000 employees in 73 countries. He was elected mayor of New York City in 2001 and served three terms. His Bloomberg Philanthropies supports initiatives in public health, education, the environment, the arts and government education.

The university also will present honorary degrees to Anne Welsh McNulty, the Rev. Wally Kasuboski, O.F.M. and Irwin Medway.



Dick Vermeil

Former Philadelphia Eagles coach Dick Vermeil will address graduates and receive an honorary degree at commencement on May 11 at 9:30 a.m. in Liacouras Center. He will be awarded a doctorate of humane letters. Vermeil led the Eagles to their first Super Bowl in 1981 and went on to coach the St. Louis Rams and Kansas City Chiefs. (He led the Rams to victory in Super Bowl XXXIV.) Vermeil maintains strong local ties to the Philadelphia area and is a huge supporter of the Chester County Council Boy Scouts of America.

School Reform Commission nominee Estelle Richman, a former secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare, will receive a doctorate of laws. Richman’s honorary degree will further solidify Temple’s connections to the School Reform Commission — which has two seats filled by current Temple employees. Governor Tom Wolf nominated Richman in October to fill the SRC’s empty seat, but she is still waiting for the state senate to confirm the nomination.


Joan Semmel will address the class of 2017 at commencement on May 12 at 3 p.m. in the Historic Landmark Building, 118 N. Broad St. A feminist painter, professor, and writer, Semmel was born and raised in New York City, where she graduated from Cooper Union and Pratt Institute. She began as an abstract painter but is best known for the large-scale nude self-portraits she has been making since the 1970s. She has long been involved in the feminist movement and feminist art groups devoted to gender equality in the art world. Semmel's works are found in museum collections across the country, and she is professor emeritus of painting at Rutgers University.

Anne Minich, whose dexterous drawings and meticulously painted constructions investigate the consistency and the truth of human duality, ambiguity, and multiplicity, will receive the 2017 Distinguished Alumni Award. Minich, who attended PAFA in 1954 and 1955, is known for her abstract, mixed-media paintings on wood that are often inspired by architectural elements. She refers to them as "painting/constructs" and incorporates intentionally ordinary and mundane found objects into her work.

Lorraine Riesenbach, co-founder and director of the Artists' House Gallery in Philadelphia, will receive the 2017 Alumni Service Award. She and her husband Marvin ran the gallery in Philadelphia's Old City neighborhood for 22 years before retiring in 2013. Riesenbach, who received her certificate from PAFA in 1991, has helped many emerging young artists exhibit in a gallery.


Maria Rodale

Marie Rodale, CEO and chair of Rodale Inc., America’s largest independent, family-owned publisher, will deliver the commencement address on Saturday, May 13, 2017. A third-generation Rodale to take the reins of the family business headquartered in Emmaus, she oversees a global business with more than 700 employees and partners around the world in 70 countries. Some of Rodale’s titles include Women’s HealthMen’s HealthRunning TimesRunner’s WorldBicycling and Prevention


John Maeda

John Maeda, global head of computational design and inclusion at Automattic, the parent company of Jetpack, WooCommerce, Longreads and, will address the class of 2017 at Drexel University’s commencement on June 13 at 7:30 p.m. at Citizens Bank Park. Maeda, who will receive a doctor of humane letters degree, is a major catalyst behind the national movement to transform STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — into STEAM — science, technology, engineering, arts and math.


Steven Van Zandt

Steven Van Zandt, legendary musician, actor, and human rights activist, will address graduates during commencement ceremonies on Sunday, May 14, 2017, at 10 a.m. in High Point Solutions Stadium on Rutgers' Busch Campus in Piscataway, New Jersey. Perhaps best recognized as a guitarist and influential member of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band and for his portrayal of Silvio Dante in HBO’s The Sopranos, Van Zandt will receive an honorary doctor of fine arts degree.

Harvey Makadon

Harvey J.  Makadon, a physician and tireless advocate for the poor, the homeless, patients living with HIV, and members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community, will receive an honorary doctor of science degree. As director of education and training programs at the Fenway Institute and a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, he continues to teach health care providers across the nation how to better serve the LGBTQ and HIV communities and improve their access to quality care.


U.S. Sen. Cory Booker

Cory A. Booker, Democratic U.S. senator from New Jersey, will address graduates during commencement on May 15, 2017 at 10:15 a.m. at Franklin Field. A graduate of Stanford University, where he received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees and played varsity football, he is an advocate for criminal justice reform and community empowerment. A Rhodes Scholar, Booker has a graduate degree from the University of Oxford, Queen’s College, and a J.D. from Yale Law. He moved to Newark and started a nonprofit organization to provide legal services for low-income families and tenants seeking to improve living conditions. He then served on Newark City Council and was elected the Newark mayor.


Isabel Allende, writer, journalist, and women's rights activist, will receive an honorary doctor of humane letters degree and the Presidential Medal of Freedom; Clara Franzini-Armstrong, emerita professor of cell and developmental biology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, will received an honorary doctor of sciences degree; Terry Gross, host and co-executive producer of Fresh Air on NPR, will received an honorary doctor of humane letters degree and the National Humanities Medal; Ada Sue Hinshaw, inaugural director of the National Institute of Nursing Research, NIH, and groundbreaking researcher in the science of nursing, will receive an honorary doctor of sciences degree; Robert P. Moses, founder and president of The Algebra Project, and educator and civil rights champion, will receive an honorary doctor of humane letters degree; and Paul Muldoon, poet and Howard G.B. Clark '21 University Professor in the Humanities at Princeton University, and poetry editor at The New Yorker, will receive an honorary doctor of humane letters degree.


Sr. Rosemary Donley

Sister Rosemary Donley, Ph.D., APRN, FAAN will address graduates and receive the Immaculata Medal at the commencement ceremonies on Sunday, May 21, at 10 a.m. Donley, whose work to improve the lives of the elderly, immigrants, veterans, children, people with disabilities or mental illness, and victims of violence, is raising awareness of national social justice issues. She is a member of the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill. Donley was dean of nursing, then executive vice president and COO of The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. In 2009, she joined Duquesne University School of Nursing where she holds the Jacques Laval Chair for Justice for Vulnerable Populations.


Carla Hayden

Dr. Carla D. Hayden, the first woman and the first African-American to lead the Library of Congress, will address graduates and receive an honorary degree at commencement ceremonies for the College of Arts and Sciences on Wednesday, May 17 at 6 p.m. Hayden was sworn in as the 14th Librarian of Congress on September 14, 2016. Nominated to the position by President Barack Obama in February 2016, she was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on July 13, 2016.

Steve Selfridge

Steven G. Selfridge SBC’79, president of government services for Day & Zimmermann Co., will be the keynote speaker at commencement for the School of Business on Thursday, May 18 at 9:30 a.m. He is known for building and leading high-performance multinational teams and uniting parties on a common mission and goals. He serves as chair of the Foundation Board of Lourdes Hospital in Camden. Selfridge received his bachelor of arts in accounting from Rutgers University – Camden, where he serves on the Leadership Council of Rutgers School of Business.

James Sandman

James J. Sandman, Esq., president of Legal Services Corp., will deliver the commencement address for the Rutgers Law School at Camden on Thursday, May 18 at 2 p.m. He has been president of the Legal Services Corp. since 2011. He practiced law with Arnold & Porter LLP from 1977 to 2007 and served as the firm’s managing partner from 1995 to 2005. From 2007 to 2011, he was general counsel for the District of Columbia Public Schools. He was named one of the “90 Greatest Washington Lawyers of the Last 30 Years” by the Legal Times in 2008. 

Dr. Marcel Pop

Dr. Marcel Pop, director of international relations at Semmelweis University in Budapest, Hungary, will address graduates of the School of Nursing during commencement on Thursday, May 18 at 5:30 p.m. Pop's expertise is focused on the intersections of global nursing education, biomedical education, health care systems, and internationalization. Rutgers School of Nursing–Camden is expanding its global reach through an ongoing collaboration with Semmelweis University that will allow the two higher education institutions to partner on scholar exchange programs that investigate emergency care, infection control, and health care policies in the European Union and the United States.

Dr. Sherman Leis

Dr. Sherman Leis, CCAS ’63, professor and chair of plastic and reconstructive surgery at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, will be the keynote speaker at commencement ceremonies for the Graduate School on Wednesday, May 17 at 2 p.m. Board-certified in general surgery and plastic and reconstructive surgery by the American Osteopathic Board of Surgery, he founded The Center For Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, the first private out-patient cosmetic surgery center in the region. In addition to surgery, Dr. Leis has been training plastic surgery residents since 1982 and served as a National Board Examiner for certification in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. 

All Rutgers University – Camden graduation ceremonies will be held at the BBBT Pavilion in Camden.


David L. Cohen

David L. Cohen
, senior executive vice president, chief diversity officer and senior counselor to the CEO for Comcast Corp. and NBCUniversal, will speak to graduates of the William G. Rohrer College of Business at commencement on May 9 at 10 a.m. In addition to a decades long career in law, business and government, Cohen is a civic leader whose many honors include the Americanism Award of the Anti-Defamation League and the American Red Cross Citizen of the Year Award. He will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree.

Jerry Maginnis, a volunteers Accounting Executive in Residence in Rowan’s William G. Rohrer College of Business, will be honored with a Medal of Excellence. In his position, he advises, lectures to and helps prepare students as they transition from college to careers.

Amanda Ashworth '07, former publisher at the academic publishing house Routledge, will address graduates of the Humanities & Social Sciences and School of Earth & Environment during commencement on May 9 at 2 p.m. At Routledge, she managed 140 behavioral science and social care journals. She is developing her own publishing company to write and produce children’s books exploring topics in mental health and spirituality.

Tom Stathakes '83, will be the keynote speaker and Medal of Excellence recipient during commencement for the College of Communication & Creative Arts and College of Performing Arts on May 10 at 10 a.m. Stathakes is senior vice president and general manager of Comcast SportsNet Bay Area and CSN California and generous donor to his alma mater.

Dr. Michael W. Apple ‘67, a distinguished alumnus designee, will address graduates of the College of Education on May 10 at 4 p.m. The John Bascom Professor of Curriculum and Instruction and Educational Policy Studies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, Apple is a former elementary and secondary school teacher in New Jersey and past-president of a teachers union local.

Barbara Ann Kushner, president and CEO of Armand Corp., an engineering, technology and construction management company based in New York City, will speak to graduates of the Henry M. Rowan College of Engineering at commencement on May 11 at 10 a.m. She will receive an honorary doctor of engineering degree.

Bo Niland '80CEO and co-founder of Harpoon Medical, his fourth medical device startup over a 25-year career in the industry, will receive a Medal of Excellence.

Dr. Shirley Malcom will deliver the keynote address and receive an honorary doctor of science degree during commencement ceremonies for the College of Science & Mathematics on May 11 at 2 p.m. A former high school science teacher and assistant professor of biology at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, she is head of Education and Human Resources Programs at the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, D.C. She has gained recognition for her efforts to improve access of girls and women to education and careers in science and engineering.

Dr. Adrienne Kirbypresident and CEO of Cooper University Health Care, will address graduates and receive a Medal of Excellence during commencement ceremonies for the School of Health Professions on May 12 at 10 a.m. Responsible for hospital and ambulatory operations, she has played an integral role in fostering the partnership between Rowan University and Cooper University Health Care and supporting the clinical education of students at Cooper Medical School of Rowan University.

Dr. Boyd R. Buserthe president of the American Osteopathic Association, will be the keynote speaker and receive the Medal of Excellence at commencement for the School of Osteopathic Medicine and Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences on Friday, May 12, at 2 p.m. A board-certified physician in osteopathic manipulative medicine and family medicine, he is also vice president for health affairs and dean of the University of Pikeville-Kentucky College of Osteopathic Medicine.

Dr. Linda Boyd '84a nationally-known expert in medical education, empathy and burnout in medicine, and women’s health issues, is a distinguished alumnus designee. In 2013, she returned to RowanSOM as a professor senior associate dean for academic affairs, leading efforts to create a holistic review admissions process, enhance faculty development and modernize the medical school’s curriculum. Most recently, she oversaw the growth of class size through an innovative expansion of the Problem Based Learning curriculum.

Dr. Robert J. Laskowskia well-known educator, consultant, writer and retired physician executive, will be the keynote speaker and receive the Medal of Excellence during commencement for the Cooper Medical School of Rowan University on Friday, May 12 at 6 p.m. He is principal of Laskowski Advisors, consultancy devoted to assisting healthcare organizations and professionals innovate through understanding value, and serves on the Board of Directors of the Association of American Medical Colleges, where he is past-chair.


Dan Mullen

Dan Mullen ’94, the head coach of the Mississippi State Bulldog football team, will address graduates during commencement on Sunday, May 14 at 2 p.m. He will receive the honorary doctor of humane letters degree. Earning his first head coaching opportunity at Mississippi State in 2009 and against nationally-ranked competition, he has seven straight bowl games under his belt. Mullen is credited with making classroom achievement a priority. He produced a school-record 31 student-athletes on the 2016 SEC Fall Academic Honor Roll, which ranked fifth in the league.


Jack Markell

Jack Markell, who completed his second term as the 73rd governor of Delaware earlier this year, will speak at commencement at 9 a.m., Saturday, May 27, in Delaware Stadium. After a career in the private sector, including a top leadership position at Nextel, Markell served three consecutive terms as state treasurer. Elected governor in November 2008 and re-elected in 2012, his focus was on growing the economy, creating jobs, strengthening schools, improvements to the environment and protecting taxpayers. The son of a distinguished UD professor, the late William Markell, he grew up in Newark and graduated from Newark High School. He holds an undergraduate degree in economics and development studies from Brown University and an MBA from the University of Chicago.


K. Neil Van Dine ’88, founder and country director for Haiti Outreach Inc., will speak to graduates and receive an honorary degree during commencement ceremonies on Sunday, May 21, 2017, at 10 a.m on Science Field.

The following also will receive honorary degrees: Karen A. Rightmire ’69, trustee emerita and president of the Wyomissing Foundation; Dr. Sun Hye Hwang, past president, Sookmyung Women’s University in South Korea; and Bishop Stephen Gill Spottswood (posthumously), Schuylkill College, class of 2017.


Wanda Austin

Wanda Austin '75, an engineer who recently retired as head of one of the nation's leading aerospace research centers for defense-related space programs, will deliver the commencement address on May 13. President and CEO of California-based Aerospace Corp., she leads efforts to attract more women and minorities to careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). She was appointed by President Barack Obama as an adviser to the president and White House on matters of science and technology in 2015. In 1975, she was among the first African-American women to graduate from the college, which presented her an honorary degree in 2012.

Evelyn Farkas

Evelyn Farkas '89, who served from 2010 to 2015 as the Pentagon's top official overseeing military relations with Russia and Ukraine, will receive an honorary degree. She is now a national security analyst for NBC/MSNBC. Farkas, who earned master's and doctoral degrees from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, writes on international affairs, and is author of the 2003 book, "Fractured States and U.S. Foreign Policy: Iraq, Ethiopia, and Bosnia in the 1990s." As U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, Farkas advised three secretaries of defense on Russian and Ukrainian policy. 

Donald Graham

Donald Graham, former publisher of The Washington Post, will receive an honorary degree. Eighty years after his grandfather, Eugene Meyer, bought the newspaper at a bankruptcy sale in 1933, Graham sold the newspaper in 2013 and became chairman of Graham Holdings Co., which comprises a range of companies in diversified business sectors, including media properties such as the online magazine Slate. He co-founded TheDream.Us for students who qualify under the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAMers), a national scholarship program launched in 2014 that has served more than 1,700 students.


Marie Harf

Marie HarfFOX News commentator and former senior adviser for strategic communications to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, will deliver the commencement address during ceremonies on Saturday, May 13, 2017 at 10 a.m. on Chryst Field at Biemesderfer Stadium. Harf has held a variety of roles across the foreign policy landscape since arriving in Washington over a decade ago. Most recently, since January 2017 she has served as a FOX News contributor focused on national security and political analysis. Previously, she was a key member of Kerry’s team during his tenure leading the State Department. During her time at the State Department, Harf led the Obama Administration’s communications and outreach strategy on the Iran nuclear negotiations.


The following will be honored with honorary degrees at commencement ceremonies on Saturday, May 13, on Roberts Hall Green on the campus:

Chimamanda Adichi

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is one of the most prominent African writers of her generation. Her Purple Hibiscus (2003) won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for first work. Her most recent book, Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions, was published in March 2017. At age 19, Adichie left her native Nigeria for the United States, first to Philadelphia and Drexel University to begin her undergraduate work, which she completed at Eastern Connecticut State University. She earned a master's in creative writing from Johns Hopkins and a master's in African Studies from Yale. Her TED talks, including 2012’s notable "We Should All Be Feminists," are among the most-viewed of all time.

Yvon Chouinard

Yvon Chouinard is an American environmentalist and entrepreneur. A pioneering rock climber and lifelong outdoorsman, he forged a career promoting active and responsible human engagement with the natural world. Chouinard’s early ventures included selling climbing gear that he designed and produced himself to advance the techniques of “clean climbing” that avoid damage to rock faces. In 1973, Chouinard founded the company Patagonia. Since 1986, Patagonia has “tithed” a portion of its annual revenues to environmental groups.


The following will be honored with honorary degrees at commencement ceremonies at 8:30 a.m. on Sunday, May 21, in Scott Outdoor Amphitheater on the campus.

David Gelber

David Gelber '63, is managing director at Roaring Fork Films, where he produced Years of Living Dangerously, an Emmy Award-winning documentary on climate change which aired on Showtime. He spent 29 years at CBS News, mostly as Ed Bradley's producer at 60 Minutes. He also was executive producer of Peter Jennings Reporting at ABC News, where he won Emmy and DuPont Awards for his coverage of the war in Bosnia. Gelber earned a B.A. in history from Swarthmore and has served on the college's board of managers since 2004. 

John Goldman

John Goldman '71 is a civic volunteer who has dedicated his life to public service following his business career. A member of the college’s board of managers for more than a decade (1997-2009), he has remained committed to Swarthmore throughout his life. Goldman graduated from the college with a B.A. in economics and received an MBA from the Stanford University Graduate School of Business in 1975. He is the co-founder and president of the John and Marcia Goldman Foundation, which aims to impact the quality of life of individuals and communities in the San Francisco Bay Area. 

Anna Deavere Smith

Anna Deavere Smith is an acclaimed actor, playwright, and author who has demonstrated a commitment to civic engagement throughout her career. Since the early 1980s, she has been a pioneer of verbatim theater (also known as documentary drama) with her series of one-woman shows, including most recently, Notes from the Field: Doing Time in Education. Smith is driven by the belief that art can motivate, provoke, and inspire real-world action through civic engagement. This philosophy led her to found the Institute on the Arts and Civic Dialogue, and it has inspired her to tackle the most vexing and contentious issues of civil rights and social justice.

PhillyVoice will be updating this list of area commencement speakers in the coming weeks.