Blind Climber Weihenmayer Will Address Graduates

Blind Climber Weihenmayer Will Address Graduates

BC also to cite Mahoney, Vanderslice, archdiocesan educator and local teacher

By Chronicle Staff

Erik Weihenmayer '91, the first sightless mountain climber to scale Mt. Everest and the other "Seven Summits" of the world, will address the Boston College Class of 2003 at the 127th Commencement Exercises on May 19 at Alumni Stadium.

Erik Weihenmayer
Weihenmayer will receive a Doctor of Humane Letters degree at the ceremonies, which begin at 10 a.m. Approximately 3,000 undergraduate and graduate students are expected to receive degrees at Commencement this year.

Boston College also will award honorary degrees to four other distinguished alumni who, through their words and deeds, exemplify the University's Jesuit, Catholic mission and tradition of service to the human family. They are:

Sister Kathleen Carr, CSJ MEd'84, superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese of Boston; Prof. Emeritus John L. Mahoney Sr. '50, MA'52, holder of the Rattigan Chair in English at Boston College; Dawn McNair '82, MEd'83, a first-grade teacher at the Bowen Elementary School in Newton and recipient of the Massachusetts Teacher of the Year Award for 2001-2002; and Thomas A. Vanderslice '53, a private investor and a Boston College trustee associate.

Weihenmayer, who lost his sight at age 13, has been climbing mountains since he was 16. In 1995, he began a quest to conquer the Seven Summits, the tallest mountains in the world. After climbing Mt. Everest in May of 2001, an achievement highlighted in a Time magazine cover story, Weihenmayer was honored by President Bush at the White House.

Last September, Weihenmayer completed his objective when he scaled Mt. Kosciusko, the highest peak in Australia.

Weihenmayer is the author of the best-selling book Touch the Top of the World: A Blind Man's Journey to Climb Farther than the Eye Can See. His story also is the subject of the television documentary "Farther Than the Eye Can See," scheduled to air this spring.

Besides Time, Weihenmayer has been featured in publications such as Life, People and Sports Illustrated, and on the TV shows "Inside Edition," "Hard Copy," "20/20," "Good Morning America" and NBC's "Nightly News," among others. He is the recipient of numerous honors, among them the prestigious Free Spirit Award and the 2002 ESPN/ESPY award.

In addition to his mountain climbing exploits, Weihenmayer is an acrobatic skydiver, long distance biker, marathon runner, motivational speaker and teacher.

As school superintendent for the Boston Archdiocese, Sister Kathleen Carr, CSJ MEd'84, oversees more than 175 parochial schools across eastern Massachusetts while upholding the motto of the Catholic Schools Office, "A Catholic education is an advantage for life."

Sister Carr previously served as the Catholic Schools Office's director of marketing and public relations, coordinating a successful radio and television campaign that boosted applications to archdiocesan grammar and high schools. She began her tenure at the office 17 years ago as an assistant superintendent for elementary schools, after 14 years as a teacher and principal at St. Ann's School in Somerville.

The eldest of six daughters in a devout Catholic family, Sister Carr was educated in Lowell at Sacred Heart School and Keith Academy, and took her undergraduate degree in history from Regis College in 1972. Along with her master's degree from BC, she also earned a doctorate in educational administration from Catholic University in 1995.

Her order, the Congregation of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, has provided teachers to the Catholic schools of Boston for more than a century.

"Education, in its many forms, has always been near and dear to the Sisters of Saint Joseph," she told The Pilot on becoming superintendent three years ago.

"The goal of the congregation is to further the Church's educational commitment. We are a diocesan congregation. We have been here for 126 years. We have great admiration for the sisters who have gone before us and we proudly served the Church in the Archdiocese of Boston."

Rattigan Professor of English Emeritus John L. Mahoney Sr. '50, MA'52 has been a cornerstone of academic life at Boston College for nearly the past half century.

John Mahoney
A faculty member from 1955 until his retirement from full-time teaching last year, Mahoney has infused more than 10,000 students with his joyous love for poetry and literature. Highly respected and well liked by colleagues and students alike, Mahoney was named Massachusetts Teacher of the Year in 1989 and was appointed inaugural holder of the Rattigan Chair in 1994. Now retired from full-time classroom duties, he continues to teach a poetry course for upperclassmen and a freshman class in literary forms.

In addition to his distinguished career as a scholar, Mahoney was a key part in the growth of Boston College from a relatively small commuter school into a nationally recognized academic institution. He served as chairman of the English department from 1962-1967 and again from 1969-70.

A Romantics scholar with a lifelong interest in the works of poet William Wordsworth, Mahoney will cap his academic career at the end of May when he presents the annual Wordsworth Memorial Lecture at Rydal Church, the Anglican chapel in the English Lake district at which the famous poet worshipped.

Mahoney, who holds a doctorate from Harvard University, has written extensively throughout his career. Among his most recent books are Wordsworth and the Critics: The Development of a Critical Reputation (2000); William Wordsworth: A Poetic Life (1997) and he was editor of the book Seeing Into the Life of Things: Essays on Literature and Religious Experience (1998).

Dawn McNair '82, M.Ed '83, has spent her 20-year career as an elementary school teacher, including 16 years serving the Newton Public Schools as a first grade teacher.

In 2002 she was chosen as Massachusetts Teacher of the Year, an honor that afforded her the opportunity to meet with administrators, teachers, parents, and students across the state. Announcing the award, the Massachusetts Department of Education said McNair "has fulfilled her dream of creating a classroom that encourages innovative ideas and teaches young minds to read and appreciate literature in a diverse, multicultural environment."

Known for her passion and enthusiasm, McNair has worked on a range of critical issues, including improving early literacy and diversity in literature. McNair has been credited for her unique abilities in creating lessons tailored to the skills of individual students.

A Natick resident, McNair is a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, an international community service organization. She has overseen aid programs for African school children, coordinated crafts programs for children at a local shelter and organized walks to raise funds for breast cancer and multiple sclerosis. She has also organized weekly tutorial services and a monthly book club for students in the Boston Public Schools system.

McNair is a past member of the Boston College Alumni Association Board of Directors.

Thomas A. Vanderslice '53 is a scholar, a leading electronics industry executive and a long-time benefactor of Boston College. He also served the University as a member of the Board of Trustees for 17 years, including a four-year term (1987-90) as chairman.

Thomas Vanderslice
In addition to his service at a University trustee, he has been a generous contributor to Boston College. He established the Margaret A. and Thomas A. Vanderslice Chair in Chemistry, the University's first endowed chair in the physical sciences, and the Patricia and Joseph T. Vanderslice Millennium Chair in Chemistry, named in honor of his late brother, a 1949 BC graduate, and his widow.

The Joseph and Mae Vanderslice Residence Hall on Lower Campus was named in honor of his parents as the result of another gift made to the University by Vanderslice in 1995. He also served as chairman of the fundraising campaign for the Merkert Chemistry Center.

Vanderslice majored in chemistry and philosophy as an undergraduate. He received a Fulbright Award in recognition of his outstanding academic achievements while earning doctoral degrees in both chemistry and physics from the Catholic University of America.

He spent 23 years as an executive with the General Electric Co., rising to the position of executive vice president and sector executive of power systems.

In 1979, Vanderslice was named president and chief operating officer of GTE Corp. Five years later, he became chairman and chief executive director of Apollo Computer, which was subsequently purchased by Hewlett Packard. In 1989, he was appointed chairman and CEO of M/A-COM Inc., where he worked until his retirement in 1995. M/A-COM is a leader in the design and manufacture of radio frequency and microwave components and is a key supplier to the wireless infrastructure market and manufacturers of cellular telephones.

Vanderslice is a member of the board of directors of Texaco and past chairman of the Massachusetts High Technology Council. He holds more than a dozen scientific patents and is the author of 25 technical articles.

Thomas and Margaret Vanderslice are the parents of four sons, all Boston College graduates.


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