U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest J. Moniz, BC ’66, will be the keynote speaker at Boston College’s 140th Commencement Exercises, which will take place May 23 in Alumni Stadium.
Moniz will also receive an honorary Doctor of Science degree from University President Rev. William P. Leahy, S.J. at the ceremony.
Previous Commencement speakers include Chicago Archbishop Rev. Blase Cupich, who spoke last year, and U.S. Secretary of State and former Senator from Massachusetts John F. Kerry, who spoke at the event in 2013.
Moniz, who studied physics at BC, has been a key figurehead in major economic, security, and environmental issues in the U.S. since becoming secretary of energy in May 2013. He was involved in negotiations for the agreement on Iran’s nuclear program, helped promote American leadership in clean energy technology innovation, and spearheaded efforts to address climate change and its possible impacts.
He began his career in public service in 1995 when he was the associate director for science in the Office of Science and Technology in the Executive Office of the President. He then oversaw science and energy programs, led a comprehensive review of nuclear weapons stockpile stewardship, and was special negotiator for the disposition of Russian nuclear materials as the energy secretary.
Moniz began working in 1973 as a physics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, eventually becoming head of the department in 1991. He also led multidisciplinary studies on the future of nuclear power, coal, nuclear fuel cycles, natural gas, and solar energy in a low-carbon world.
Moniz returned to MIT in March to speak at the annual, student-run MIT Energy Conference. He talked about the rise in new jobs in energy-related fields that students from any academic discipline can enter. He also said at the talk that he believes the climate conference in Paris last fall was a great success.
The University will also present honorary degrees to Nannette Canniff, the founding president of St. Boniface Haiti Foundation, John Joyce, managing director of Deutsche Asset and Wealth Management and BC ’61, Maria Eugenia McGowan, the principal of St. Matthew Catholic School in Phoenix, Ariz., and Rev. Emmanuel Mwerekande, pastor of Our Lady of Fatima parish in Uganda and STM ’06.
Canniff, a mother of 10, transformed A Walk for Hunger into a non-governmental organization that now serves 65,000 patients and thousands more community members in the mountains of southern Haiti each year.
In 1983, Canniff decided to donate half of the money that the Walk raised to the poor in Quincy, where the Walk first began, and the other half to Mother Teresa’s Home for Children, located in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The Home said they would only accept the donation, however, if it was hand-delivered to Haiti.
Following the inspiring trip to Haiti, Canniff dedicated herself to fundraising for Haiti. Over the course of 33 years, she has helped Haiti’s poor and established a school, a health clinic, and St. Boniface Hospital.
Although she retired as president and CEO of the foundation in 2011, she still raises funds for the organization and visits the people she has helped. Canniff will receive an honorary Doctor of Social Service degree at Commencement.
Joyce has worked over the past 50 years to give back to society and to BC. He is the chairman and founder of the Boston College Club, which has awarded 80 scholarships for inner-city students to attend BC, and has a foundation of over $7 million.
He has also helped raise more than $500,000 for the Brennan Leadership and Ethics program in the Carroll School of Management, supported the McMullen Museum of Art along with his wife Nancy, and provided leadership to the Alumni Association as president.
Previously, BC awarded Joyce the William V. McKenney Award and the Presidential Centennial Award, and named him as honorary grand marshal for his class’ 50th anniversary in 2011. At Commencement, Joyce will receive an honorary Doctor of Business Administration degree.
As principal of St. Matthew Catholic School, McGowan has increased enrollment by over 100 students over the past decade.
She also led the school through two successful re-accreditation processes and restructured the way the school uses assessment data. Each student in grades three through eight now receives an iPad for instruction. This has helped boost student achievement in math and reading.
The largest change was the school’s adoption of a dual-language immersion curriculum, which requires proficiency in both English and Spanish.
Two years ago, the school joined 18 schools that are part of the BC Roche Center for Catholic Education’s Two-Way Immersion Network for Catholic Schools. The Center provides curriculum support, professional development, and a network for dual-language Catholic schools.
McGowan will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree.
Mwerekande’s ministry has been marked not only by his pastoral care for a vibrant faith community, but also by his tenacity toward improving the everyday lives of the people of Uganda.
He has served as parish priest at Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Parish in Mubende since 2011. The parish has more than 50,000 members, 41 sub-churches, and 20 Catholic schools open to students of all faiths.
Mwerekande has helped bring clean water to his community by implementing rain barrels, water tanks, and other facilities. He helped to build irrigation systems and new churches. He has also brought books and school supplies and established a lunch program in the parish schools.
Mwerekande was ordained a priest in 1990, and he received his master’s degree in pastoral ministry from BC in 2006. While studying at BC, he served in St. Mark’s parish in Dorchester.
Mwerekande will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree at Commencement.
Featured Image Courtesy of Cliff Owen / AP Photo