>Six Honorary Degrees Given

Six Honorary Degrees Given

Six honorary degrees were given at Boston College's Commencement Exercises on May 20. The honorees are listed below, with their degrees and excerpts from the accompanying citations written by Senior Development Officer James McGahay:


Back row, left to right: Rev. John O'Malley, SJ, University President William P. Leahy, SJ, Rev. Robert Bowers, R. Nicholas Burns. Front row, left to right: Elisabeth Zweig Leoni, Sister Marie Santry, SND, and Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot. (Photo by Lee Pellegrini)
R. Nicholas Burns

He first stepped on the world stage in 1983 as Vice Consul and Staff Assistant to the Ambassador in Cairo, and later as Political Officer at the American Consulate General in Jerusalem. Following five years on the White House National Security Council Staff as lead advisor to two administrations on US relations with the 15 countries of the former Soviet Union, he served three years as Spokesman for the Department of State, the voice and face of American foreign policy and a fixture on CNN. His next post found him at the edge of the most volatile part of Europe and the gateway to the Middle East, the second youngest American ambassador ever assigned to Athens. As United States Permanent Representative to the Council of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, he now brings to "the greatest collective security organization that has ever existed" statesmanship and diplomatic skills honed over two decades and refined in the arena of public communication. Boston College honors a praiseworthy, loyal son, eminent Career Senior Foreign Service Officer, and founder of the Boston College Club of Greece, and proudly proclaims R. Nicholas Burns Doctor of Laws.

Rev. Robert J. Bowers

Educated at St. Joseph School in Needham and at Westwood's Xaverian Brothers High School, he went on to Boston College, where classmates voted him "most likely to become a priest." Like so many graduates of Boston College, he entered St. John's Seminary and was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Boston in 1987. He currently serves as pastor of Saint Catherine of Siena Parish in Charlestown. A specialist in youth ministry, he has been described as celebrant of "the best children's Mass ever." Founding president of Chernobyl Children's Project USA, a non-profit group that each summer brings to Massachusetts for recreation and medical treatment children from areas of Ukraine and Belarus contaminated by the 1986 nuclear-reactor disaster, he is also a member of the board of Por Cristo, an organization that provides medical care to the poor in Latin America. With familial pride and heartfelt esteem for a dedicated member of her priest-alumni, Boston College confers upon Father Robert J. Bowers of the 20th anniversary Class of 1982 the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.

Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot

She received a prestigious MacArthur Fellowship in 1984; today she is the newly appointed Chair of the Board of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. She was the second tenured African-American woman in the history of Harvard University. Now the Emily Hargroves Fisher Professor at Harvard's Graduate School of Education, she holds an endowed chair that will be renamed in her honor upon her retirement. Educator, sociologist, ethnologist, "human archeologist," and writer, she pioneered a methodology that brings the texture and wholeness of the person to social science scholarship. Her canon of published works - The Good High School, I've Known Rivers, Balm in Gilead, and Respect: An Exploration, rich with masterly prose portraits whose subjects illuminate our understanding of individuals, institutions, and ideas - transports to our culture and time Africa's ancient tradition of the wise storyteller-teacher. Voicing profound respect and gratitude for her lavish enrichment of the academy and her heritage as teacher and scholar, Boston College confers upon Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.

Rev. John W. O'Malley, SJ

His widely acclaimed publication, The First Jesuits, focused revealing new light upon the genesis of the vocation he lives so brilliantly. The American Historical Association's Awards for Best Book in Italian Studies and Best Book in Italian History and Culture, The American Philosophical Society Prize for Cultural History, The American Society of Church History Prize for Religious History, and the Society for Italian Historical Studies Lifetime Achievement Award avow his eminence as investigator and interpreter of the interaction between Christianity and culture. Visiting professorships and lectureships at the University of Michigan, Harvard University, Oxford University and other prominent institutions, leadership of several learned societies, and numerous elite Research Fellowships attest the esteem of academic peers for this Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Boston College rejoices in honoring the Distinguished Professor of Church History at the Weston Jesuit School of Theology, current Loyola Visiting Professor in the Humanities at Fordham University, and onetime Gasson Professor of this University, respectfully declaring John W. O'Malley, SJ, Doctor of Humane Letters.

Sister Marie Santry, SND

Her father fought with Michael Collins in the old Irish Republican Army, and her notable Celtic lineage also includes the legendary Fenian campaigner O'Donovan Rossa. Her other f[~ily line tracys back to Namur, Belgium, and the founding of the Sisters of Notre Dame in 1804. As principal of Natchez, Mississippi's Holy Family School, the nation's oldest African-American parochial school where she has been missioned since 1997, she endows ancestral passion for a just cause with the Notre Dame charism of a deep experience of God's goodness and provident care, bringing faith, hope, and love to some of the neediest families in one of the poorest regions of our country. Borrowing words of Padraig Pearse to praise a daughter of Saint Julie Billiart for "such unshakable purpose, such high and gallant courage, such unbreakable strength of soul as belonged to O'Donovan Rossa," Boston College joyfully confers upon Sister Marie Santry, SND de Namur, the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.

Elisabeth Zweig Leoni

Alumna of our Graduate School of Social Work and generous mentor to its students aspiring to follow in her footsteps, she has been multicultural from birth. Bilingual in English and Spanish with additional command of Italian, French, and Portuguese, she was born in Switzerland to an Italian mother and an Austrian father, raised in Cali, Colombia, educated in Colombia, Switzerland, and the United States, and first employed in Caracas, Venezuela. She credits the example of her parents' lifelong service to people in need for her inclination toward charitable work and has devoted a distinguished career in the philanthropic and human services sectors of the Church's mission to the people of the Archdiocese of Boston, first as Associate Director and later Executive Director of El Centro del Cardenal, the oldest social service center for Boston's Hispanic population, and now as the Executive Director of Greater Boston Catholic Charities. To signify familial affection and deep admiration for a "woman for others" who labors to make our city a greater Boston and holds the Beatitudes at the center of her life, Boston College gladly proclaims Elisabeth Zweig Leoni Doctor of Public Administration.  

Return to May 24 menu

Return to Chronicle home page