First Female President of the International Federation of Catholic Universities to Speak at 143rd University Commencement

Clockwise from left: Commencement speaker Isabel Capeloa Gil, Marilynne Robinson, Thomas D. O'Malley, Dan Bunch, Robert D. Farrell, S.J.

Boston College has announced that Isabel Capeloa Gil will speak at the University’s 143rd Commencement Exercises, which are taking place on May 20. Gil, the first female president of the International Federation of Catholic Universities (IFCU), will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree, alongside fellow degree recipients Dan Bunch, BC ’79; Rev. Robert D. Farrell, S.J., GMCAS ’58, STM ’65; Thomas D. O’Malley, a former BC trustee; and Marilynne Robinson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author.

Gil has served as president of the IFCU, which has over 200 member institutions from around the world, for the past year, according to a University release. The IFCU’s next general assembly will take place at BC in 2021. Gil spent her childhood in China, where she became interested in “researching issues of diversity and conflict,” according to the release.

She is the rector of Catholic University of Portugal (UCP), where she is a professor of cultural studies in UCP’s School of Human Sciences. She has written, co-authored, and co-edited over 180 published works, the release says, concentrating on cultural theory, inter-art studies, and visual culture.

She also was one of the founders of the Research Centre for Communication and Culture and currently works there as a researcher focusing on culture, art, and conflict. Gil has held visiting professorships at prestigious universities in Europe, Brazil, and South America, in addition to once being a visiting fellow at Stanford’s Spogli Institute for International Studies, according to the release.

Bunch, who served as director of BC’s Learning to Learn program for 30 years, will be receiving an honorary Doctor of Social Sciences degree. He retired in 2017 before returning to the University in the wake of the Silence is Still Violence protests as a special assistant to the vice president of Student Affairs. He concentrated on outreach to AHANA+ members of the BC community, while also working with the Office of the Provost, the Division of University Mission and Ministry, and the Office of Human Resources.

He has served as an advisor to the Black Student Forum; has been a chair and member of the Black Faculty, Staff, and Administrators Association; was a founding member and former treasurer of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Scholarship Committee; and has served as a member of the AHANA Alumni Council, according to the release.

Bunch also co-founded Dedicated Intellectuals of the People, which is made of of “AHANA men dedicated to character-building.” He also co-founded Concerned Black Men of Massachusetts, a non-profit mentoring organization. Bunch was the 2015 recipient of the BC Community Service award, according to the release.

Farrell, who became a member of the BC faculty in 1990 teaching writing in the Woods College of Advancing Studies—where he still teaches—will be receiving an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree. He also served as assistant dean of the Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences during part of his BC tenure, according to the release. A Massachusetts resident, Farrell became a Jesuit in 1951 and was sent to teach at Baghdad College—an all-boys Jesuit high school in Iraq’s capital—in 1958, where he remained for three years. He went on to teach at high schools in New England and the University of Manitoba in Canada.

A scholarship fund at Woods has been established in his name that supports local part-time students.

O’Malley, who hails from Staten Island and has long been a benefactor of BC—as well as other non-profit organizations—established the O’Malley Family Athletic Endowed Scholarship Fund for BC student-athletes in 2015 through his family foundation and will receive an honorary Doctor of Business Administration degree. He served as the vice chair of Salomon Brothers, an investment banking firm, and he has also served as a senior executive in the independent energy business, according to the release.

O’Malley put himself through college by working as a taxi and school bus driver, a cafeteria worker, and a lifeguard. He and his wife, Mary Alice, are the most generous donors in Manhattan College’s history—its school of business was renamed in their honor and their name is also on the university’s library, according to the release. O’Malley graduated from the institution in 1963 and chaired its board of trustees for seven years while serving on the board for 15.

His family has also funded Trinity Catholic High School scholarships for children of Stamford, Conn., police officers, firefighters, and nurses, all while supporting the Greenwich Hospital in Connecticut as well, according to the release.

Robinson, who was awarded a National Humanities Medal in 2012 by former United States  President Barack Obama for “her grace and intelligence in writing,” will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters Degree. She received the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction in 2016, according to the release.

Robinson has written both fiction and nonfiction—the latter of which has earned her nominations for the National Book Award. She is professor emeritus at the University of Iowa and also taught at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop for 25 years, according to the release.

Featured Images Courtesy of University Communications

Jack Goldman
About Jack Goldman 165 Articles
Jack Goldman is a Senior News Correspondent for The Heights. He was the news editor from August 2018 to April 2019. He was a copy editor before that despite his rampant illiteracy. He was once hung up on by Mary Ann's. Don't follow him on Twitter @the_manofgold.