Irish Prime Minister Ahern to Address Class of 1998 at Commencement Exercises

(4-27-98) -- Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, a prominent figure in the recent Northern Ireland peace accord, will receive an honorary degree and address the Class of 1998 at Boston College's 122nd Commencement Exercises on Monday, May 18, in Alumni Stadium.

Boston College -- host to many noted Irish government officials, politicians, scholars and artists over the years -- will honor Ahern for his two decades in public service, and for his continuing efforts in the peace process, which culminated in the historic accord reached earlier this month. Other distinguished Irish visitors to the University have included Nobel Prize nominee and prominent Northern Irish politician John Hume (who addressed the graduates and received an honorary degree at the 1995 Commencement Exercises); former President Mary Robinson; former prime ministers Albert Reynolds and Garret FitzGerald; and representatives of Northern Ireland's unionist and Protestant communities, who made a historic appearance on campus in 1994 to discuss prospects for peace in their country. Ahern visited Boston College in December, 1997 to inaugurate the University's Irish Institute.

Ahern will be awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree. Four other honorary degree recipients will be recognized at the event: former Boston College Vice President and Assistant to the President Margaret A. Dwyer; Thermo Electron Corp. President and Chief Financial Officer John Hatsopoulos; Catalina Montes, principal of the Thomas Gardner Elementary School in Boston; and Prof. Emeritus James Skehan, SJ, founder of the Geology and Geophysics Department and long-time Weston Observatory director.

Bertie Ahern

Elected as prime minister, or taoiseach, in June, 1997, Ahern played a major role in helping the Northern Irish peace talks reach a successful conclusion earlier this month by persuading Irish republicans to accept the accord. On April 22, the Irish Parliament gave near-unanimous approval to the peace agreement; referendums on the accord are scheduled for May 22 in both the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland.

Ahern's political career began in 1977, when he was elected to the Assembly of Ireland, the Dail Eireann, as a member of the Fianna Fail Party. He has held such government posts as labour minister, finance minister, minister of state, assistant whip and president of the European Union Council of Ministers for Social Affairs.

The leader of Fianna Fail since 1994, Ahern also has served as the party's vice president, director of bye-elections, opposition chief whip and house leader, and negotiator in coalitions between Fianna Fail and the Progressive Democrat and Labour parties.

A native of Dublin, Ahern is a graduate of University College Dublin and Rathmines College of Commerce.

Margaret Dwyer

Dwyer served as vice president and assistant to the president for 22 years until her retirement last fall and is regarded as a central figure in Boston College's emergence as a leading national Catholic university.

Shortly after arriving in 1973 as the executive assistant to President J. Donald Monan, SJ, Dwyer was assigned to be the University's liaison in its consolidation with Newton College of the Sacred Heart. She was appointed vice president two years later and undertook a variety of ongoing and special assignments, such as working with the University's Board of Trustees and helping plan the 1985 dedication of O'Neill Library.

Dwyer, who earned a master's degree in counseling from Boston College in 1956, began her career in higher education in 1960, when she was appointed registrar at Le Moyne College in her hometown of Syracuse, NY. She went on to become dean of women, then assistant academic dean in 1971, and worked frequently with Fr. Monan, who was Le Moyne's academic dean and vice president at the time.

Dwyer will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree.

John Hatsopoulos

Hatsopoulos and his brother, George - the firm's founder, chairman and CEO - are renowned as the guiding force behind Thermo Electron and its six subsidiaries, a group of leading-edge technology companies in Waltham. Thermo Electron is a world leader in environmental monitoring and analysis instruments and a major producer of paper-recycling equipment, biomedical products (including heart-assist and mammography systems), alternative-energy systems, and other products and services related to environmental quality, health and safety.

A native of Athens, Greece, Hatsopoulos began as the company's purchasing manager in 1956; in the course of his career at Thermo Electron he has held the positions of vice president, vice president of corporate strategy, senior vice president, and executive vice president and CFO. In 1997, he was named president and was elected to the company's board of directors; currently, he serves as vice president and CFO for all of Thermo Electron's public subsidiaries. Thermo Electron made the prestigious 1998 Fortune "500" list and was ranked by the magazine as one of the top producers of scientific, photo and control equipment. The company also has drawn praise for fostering a supportive, ethical and humane corporate culture.

After graduating from Athens College in 1953, Hatsopoulos emigrated to the United States and earned a bachelor of arts degree from Northeastern University in 1959.

Hatsopoulos will be awarded an honorary Doctor of Business Administration degree.

Catalina Montes

Since assuming the principal's job at the Gardner School in 1989, Montes has developed a multitude of community, corporate and educational partnerships.

One of the most notable involves a groundbreaking collaboration with Boston College - in tandem with local health and social service agencies, and neighborhood parents - to offer a wide range of extracurricular services for pupils and their families. In addition, Montes has initiated tutoring, music, counseling and technology programs, created a parent center in the school which includes a clothing bank, and overseen the funding and construction of playgrounds at the school.

Montes' association with Boston Public Schools began in 1976 and includes a stint as assistant principal at Gardner from 1983-87, and principal of the Donald McKay Elementary School from 1987-89. She earned a bachelor's degree in education and a master's degree in educational administration from Boston State College, both in 1972. She also received a master's degree in special education from Regis College in 1982, and a doctorate in educational administration from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst in 1990.

Montes will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree.

James Skehan, SJ

Familiar to many Commencement audiences as the event's procession commentator, Fr. Skehan joined Boston College in 1956 as an assistant professor and assistant director of the Weston Observatory. Two years later, he founded the University's Geology Department, and in 1966 became a full professor. He was appointed Weston Observatory director in 1973, after a year as acting dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

Fr. Skehan, the observatory's director emeritus since 1993, has produced some 100 publications regarding his research on mountain-building processes and tectonic plate movements of the last billion years. During the 1960s, he initiated teaching programs in the earth sciences at the University.

Fr. Skehan has earned eight academic degrees, the last of which was a doctorate in geology from Harvard University in 1953. He was ordained in 1954.

For more than a decade, he has served as spiritual director of the 24-week Ignatian Spirituality Retreats for faculty, staff, students and alumni. His book, Place Me With Your Son: Ignatian Spirituality in Everyday Life, is widely used in retreats.

Fr. Skehan will be awarded an honorary Doctor of Science degree.

Commencement Exercises will begin at 10 a.m. In the event of rain, Commencement will take place in Conte Forum.

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