United States Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania will be the keynote speaker for Boston College’s 141st Commencement Exercises on May 22 at Alumni Stadium, the University announced. At the ceremony, University President Rev. William P. Leahy, S.J. will present Casey with an honorary Doctor of Laws degree.
Previous Commencement speakers include former U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest J. Moniz, BC ’66, who spoke last year; Chicago archbishop Rev. Blase Cupich, who spoke in 2015; and former Secretary of State John F. Kerry, BC Law ’76, who spoke in 2014.
Casey graduated from the College of the Holy Cross in 1982 before becoming a member of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, spending a year teaching fifth grade at Gesu School in inner-city Philadelphia. He then earned his law degree from the Columbus School of Law at The Catholic University of America in 1988.
Casey, son of former Pennsylvania Governor Robert P. Casey, was first elected to the Senate in 2006 after serving as Pennsylvania’s state auditor general for eight years and state treasurer for two years. Upon seeking re-election to the Senate in 2012, Casey became the first Democrat in 50 years to be elected to a full term and win re-election from Pennsylvania.
Throughout Casey’s 10 years on Capitol Hill, he has advocated for early learning, fought for minimum wage increases, advocated for legislation to invest millions into infrastructure, and has been a Senate leader in efforts to cut off ISIS’s financing.
Casey also was the prime Senate sponsor of the Stephen Beck, Jr. Achieving a Better Life Experience Act (ABLE), which modifies the tax code to allow individuals with disabilities, and their families, to save for long-term care using tax-advantaged savings accounts.
The University will also present honorary degrees to Boston-area community activist Amy Guen MSW ’52; CEO of Building Educated Leaders for Life Tiffany Gueye, BC ’00 and PhD ’07; actor Chris O’Donnell, BC ’92; and missioner for Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers Rev. Leo B. Shea, MM ’60.
Guen, who will be attending her 65th BC alumni reunion this spring at age 94, has a long and accomplished career as a social worker and will be presented with the honorary Doctor of Social Science degree. Guen has served on Massachusetts’ first social work licensing board, advocated for hospice care, and has facilitated funding for various agencies, like the Asian American Civic Association and the Golden Age Center, to assist immigrants. She has also worked as a community activist and leader in Boston’s Chinatown opposing the displacement of the neighborhood.
Guen is the first American-born daughter of her family, and was sent to China during her childhood to continue her education after her mother had died. After World War II, Guen returned to Massachusetts, then earned her undergraduate degree from Regis College and her graduate degree from BC’s Graduate School of Social Work.
Gueye, will be awarded an honorary Doctor of Science in Education degree. Along with being CEO of Building Education Leaders for Life (BELL), she she is also a member of the board of the Center for Effective Philanthropy, the Board of Overseers for the YMCA of Greater Boston, and the advisory board for Results for America.
BELL is a leader in providing expanded learning programs for children from pre-k through eighth grade living in under-resourced communities. BELL currently serves around 15,000 students in public schools across America. Gueye joined BELL in 1998, became CEO in 2008, and has overseen the expansion of its summer and afterschool programs, as well as the improvement of BELL’s models and evaluation methods.
O’Donnell, who will be awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree, was still a student at the Carroll School of Management during his first movie appearance playing Jessica Lange’s son in “Men Don’t Leave.” His critically acclaimed performance then launched into an acting career spanning over 25 years, earning him a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
O’Donnell has five children with his wife of 20 years Caroline O’Donnell, his BC roommate’s sister. He currently serves on the board of REDF, an organization that helps people who have been homeless, previously incarcerated, and those who have mental health issues find employment. He has also established a student scholarship fund at BC.
Shea, who has served more than 50 years with the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, will also be presented an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree. Shea earned a degree in English from BC before joining the BC Jesuit Lay Mission program, where he travelled to Jamaica to teach at a Jesuit high school and a parish in an impoverished neighborhood.
Later, Shea completed a 16-year assignment for the Maryknoll mission in Venezuela, leading efforts to serve a quarter million displaced people in the Caracas slum of Nueva Tacagua. He then taught English to university students and worked with Catholics in both the public and “underground” churches. He has helped around 150 Chinese priests and women to study in the U.S., including at BC.
Featured Image Courtesy of the Associated Press