US Ambassador to NATO R. Nicholas Burns '78, shown during an appearance at Boston College in the spring of 2000. (File photo)
BC also will award honorary degrees to: Rev. Robert Bowers '82, pastor of St. Catherine of Siena parish in Charlestown and president of the Chernobyl Children's Project USA; Harvard University professor Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot, who this year was named chair of the board for the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation; Sister Marie Santry, SND, head of the nation's oldest African-American parochial school; prominent theologian and author Rev. John O'Malley, SJ, of the Weston Jesuit School of Theology; and Elisabeth Zweig MSW /MSP '77, executive director of Catholic Charities of Boston.
Appointed by President George W. Bush, Burns was sworn in as the US ambassador to NATO by Secretary of State Colin Powell in August of last year. As ambassador, he heads the combined State-Defense Department US Mission to NATO, which promotes American interests on a range of issues including counter-terrorism, the Balkans, missile defense, relations with Russia and the European Union, NATO enlargement and military capabilities.
Since the American response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks began last fall, Burns has affirmed the importance of NATO, answering charges that the US minimized the alliance in conducting military operations in Afghanistan.
In a November op-ed piece for the Boston Globe, Burns wrote, "With the battle against terrorist groups now engaged, it is difficult to imagine a future without NATO at the core of our European and North American efforts to defend our civilization. Just as we vanquished fascism and communism in the last century, Europe and America alike can now face this new threat of terrorism, confident that with NATO's help, we will prevail."
Prior to his current assignment, Burns was American ambassador to Greece for almost four years, overseeing all US government programs at the American embassy in Athens, the consulate general in Thessaloniki and at other locations in Greece.
During his assignment, Burns joined other American officials in pressing Greece to take action against the terrorist group November 17, which has committed intermittent acts of murder and violence against diplomats or others with ties to Western nations, and which was revealed to have included Burns' name on a "hit list" of Americans.
From 1995 to 1997, Burns served as spokesman of the Department of State and acting assistant secretary for public affairs under Secretary of State Warren Christopher and his successor, Madeleine Albright. He gave daily press conferences on US foreign policy issues, accompanied both secretaries of state on all their foreign trips and coordinated the department's public outreach programs.
A native of Wellesley, Burns earned his bachelor's degree in political science from Boston College. Last fall, he received the Boston College Alumni Achievement Award for Public Service.
Rev. Robert Bowers '82 was voted "most likely to become a priest" by his classmates at Boston College, and has more than upheld his friends' expectations.
The pastor of St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Charlestown specializes in ministering to children, serving as president of the Chernobyl Children's Project USA [www.ccpusa.org], a non-profit group that brings sick children to Massachusetts each summer from areas of Ukraine and Belarus contaminated by radioactive fallout in a 1986 nuclear-reactor accident.
In 1994, when Fr. Bowers was a priest at St. Agatha's in Milton, his parishioners joined with others from several South Shore Catholic parishes to bring over 10 Chernobyl children; five years later, 150 youngsters were being sponsored by various faith groups across Massachusetts.
Fr. Bowers also serves on the board of Por Cristo, a non-profit organization affiliated with the Archdiocese of Boston that provides medical services in Latin America. He celebrates what one former parishioner called "the best children's Mass ever" at St. Agatha's.
He was educated at his parish school in Needham and Xaverian Brothers High School in Westwood, and has served previously in parishes in Malden and Norwood.
Fr. Bowers will receive an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters.
Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot, the Emily Hargroves Fisher Professor of Education at Harvard, will become the sixth person to chair the board of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation when she assumes the position in June. She has served as a board member of the 24-year-old scientific foundation since 1991.
Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot (Harvard University Graduate School of Education photo by Joshua Lavine)
Lawrence-Lightfoot has written seven books, including Respect, I've Known Rivers: Lives of Loss and Liberation and The Art and Science of Portraiture, which documents her pioneering approach to social science methodology, one that bridges the realms of art and science.
Lawrence-Lightfoot will receive an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters.
Rev. John W. O'Malley, SJ, professor of church history at the Weston Jesuit School of Theology in Cambridge, is a well-known author whose 1993 book The First Jesuits has won several literary awards.
Rev. John O'Malley, SJ
Fr. O'Malley also served as a co-editor of the 1999 book, The Jesuits: Cultures, Sciences and the Arts, 1540-1773, that grew out of a major international conference on Jesuit cultural history hosted by BC in 1996.
Fr. O'Malley held the Gasson Chair in the Boston College History Department during the 1992-1993 academic year. Fr. O'Malley has also held visiting professorships at the University of Michigan, Harvard Divinity School, Harvard University and Oxford University.
He is an elected fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, an elected member of the American Philosophical Society and is past president of the Renaissance Society of America.
Fr. O'Malley will receive an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters.
Sister Marie Santry, SND, known as Sister Marie St. Joseph by her companion religious in the Ipswich-based Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, is principal of the nation's oldest African-American parochial school, the Holy Family School in Natchez, Miss.
Sister Marie Santry, SND
Sister Marie spent the past academic year pursuing a master's degree in the Catholic School Leadership Program at the Lynch School, and expects to return in June to the principal's job she has held the past four years.
Before her assignment to Natchez, she taught in Japan and in parochial schools across eastern Massachusetts.
Sister Marie will receive an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters.
Elisabeth S. Zweig MSW/MSP '77, agency director of Greater Boston Catholic Charities since 1996, has spent her professional career contributing to organizations that address pressing social and economic problems affecting communities in the Greater Boston area.
Elisabeth Zweig (Photo by Gary Gilbert)
Prior to her appointment as head of Catholic Charities, Zweig served eight years as executive director of El Centro de Cardenal, a community-based social services organization within Catholic Charities. She was associate director of El Centro de Cardenal from 1977 through 1988.
In recent years, she has been honored by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the City of Boston, Agencuas Latinas Unidas, Oficina Hispana and the Massachusetts Housing and Shelter Alliance for her work on behalf of Boston-area neighborhoods.
A native of Switzerland who grew up in Colombia, Zweig attended Miami-Dade Community College before receiving her bachelor's degree in psychology from Boston University.
Zweig will receive an honorary Doctorate of Public Administration.
-Reid Oslin and Mark Sullivan contributed to this story.
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