Chicago Archbishop Rev. Blase Cupich will be the keynote speaker at Boston College’s 139th Commencement Ceremony on May 18, the University announced on Thursday morning. Cupich was elected by Pope Francis in September 2014 to be the Archbishop of Chicago, the third-largest Catholic diocese in the United States. At the ceremony, Cupich will be presented with an honorary Doctor of Laws degree by University President Rev. William P. Leahy, S.J.
Receiving honorary degrees alongside Cupich will be Sr. Marie Chin of the Sisters of Mercy in Jamaica, Michael Motyl, president of the Guadalupe Regional Middle School in Texas and BC ’01, writer Steve Pemberton, BC ’89, and journalist Lee Woodruff.
“BC students are committed to social justice,” University spokesman Jack Dunn said. “Archbishop Blase Cupich is a proponent of social justice and a champion for the economically and socially disenfranchised.”
To pick the commencement speaker, Leahy seeks suggestions from the BC community and then presents the option to the Board of Trustees, who approve the speaker as well as the honorary degree recipients. Dunn does not believe there were any other contenders this year.
In November, Cupich began his duties as the ninth Archbishop of Chicago, where about 2.2 million Catholics live. In his ministry, he has focused on reaching out to those on the margins, such as immigrant populations and those adversely affected by economic conditions.
Previously, he served as the bishop of Spokane, Wash., and Rapid City, S.D., as well as the chair for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People. Currently, he is also the chair of the board of the National Catholic Educational Association as well as a member of the UCSB Subcommittee for the Church in Central and Eastern Europe and chancellor of the University of St. Mary of the Lake.
“We expect that the announcement will be well received and we know from experience that he is a dynamic, charismatic speaker who we believe will deliver an inspiring commencement speech,” Dunn said.
Chin has been a member of the Sisters of Mercy since 1961. She taught for over a decade in Kingston, Jamaica, and then served a director of formation, administrator, vice president, and then president of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas. Currently, she works as incorporation and vocation minister and local administrator for the Sisters of Mercy. At commencement, she will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree.
Motyl, the next honorary degree recipient, graduated from the Lynch School of Education in 2001. For the past seven years, he has been president of the Guadalupe Regional Middle School in Rio Grande Valley in Texas, where over one-third of the residents live below the poverty level. While earning his masters degree at the University of Notre Dame, Motyl was assigned to teach in the Rio Grande Valley. He will be presented with an honorary Doctor of Science in Education degree.
Pemberton is a corporate executive, youth advocate, best-selling author, husband, and father. While at the University, he joined the Talented Tenth, a student group that spearheaded campus initiatives and community outreach projects. He earned a degree in political science and returned to BC to work as senior assistant director of admissions. Later, he became the first diversity and inclusion officer at Monster.com, and then a divisional vice president and chief diversity officer at Walgreens. He also founded a non-profit called A Chance in this World, which helps those aging out of foster care. He will receive an honorary Doctor of Business Administration Degree.
Finally, Woodruff, a CBS reporter, is a journalist and author writing about family and parenting. She has four children, one of whom is a member of the class of 2015. Woodruff and her husband Bob—who sustained a traumatic brain injury in Iraq in 2006—founded the Bob Woodruff Foundation, which has raised over $20 million to help veterans integrate into their communities and receive needed care. She will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree, which her husband also received at the 2012 commencement ceremony.
“As an academic institution, Boston College tries to invite a variety of individuals with varying perspectives to speak to students to impart their wisdom on our graduating students,” Dunn said.
Featured Image by Charles Rex Arbogast / AP Photo