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Office of News & Public Affairs

Passion, Faith, Service, Love—Bob Woodruff
Offers BC Class of 2012 Words to Live By

Bob Woodruff
Award-winning journalist Bob Woodruff addressed the Class of 2012 at Boston College's 136th Commencement Exercises on May 21. (Photo by Gary Wayne Gilbert)

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. (5-21-12)Award-winning network journalist Bob Woodruff, who recovered from near-fatal injuries sustained while reporting on American forces in Iraq, told Boston College graduates to let passion, faith, service and love guide their lives.

Woodruff told the approximately 4,400 undergraduate and graduate students at the university’s 136th Commencement Exercises that the traumatic brain injuries he sustained from a roadside bomb had given him more than he lost to his wounds and a difficult recovery.

“The big awful thing that happened in my life really can’t define me,” said Woodruff, an ABC News correspondent. “It only strengthened my love for so many things. It recommitted me to what’s really important. What counts isn’t the title or the accomplishment. It’s not the medal or an award. It is the people, my friends and family – the ones who have been and will be there for the long haul. So give your family a big hug today and thank them for helping you get to this place.”

Full text of Woodruff's speech

Woodruff, who in the wake of his injuries formed the Bob Woodruff Family Foundation to support soldiers recovering from traumatic brain injury, received an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree at the Alumni Stadium ceremony, which was attended by nearly 15,000 people.

Drawing on the Jesuit principle of creating “men and women for others,” Boston College President William P. Leahy, S.J., told graduates that their generation—like those before it—faces many challenges.

“Our society has never had a greater need for ‘men and women for others’ who are committed to making the world more just and more at peace,” said Leahy.  “May you be forces for good in society and serve as powerful examples for those around you.”

In addition to Woodruff, Boston College also presented honorary degrees to: Joseph A. Appleyard, SJ, a 1953 BC alumnus and former vice president for University Mission and Ministry at BC; William V. “Bill” Campbell, chairman of Intuit Inc.; Navyn A. Salem, a 1994 BC alumna and founder of the non-profit Edesia Global Nutrition Solutions; and Liz Walker, an award-winning TV news anchor and ordained minister now working in international education and women’s issues.

Daniel J. Kennedy, a double major in theology and philosophy who plans to enter the Jesuit novitiate this summer, was awarded the Edward H. Finnegan, S.J., Award, BC’s most prestigious graduation honor, which is given to the student who best exemplifies the spirit of BC’s motto “Ever to Excel.”

More about 2012 Finnegan Award winner Dan Kennedy in the Boston Globe.

Woodruff joined ABC News in 1996 and covered major stories around the world. In December 2005, he was named co-anchor of ABC’s “World News Tonight.” The following month, he was nearly killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq.

Miraculously, Woodruff returned to ABC News with an hour-long, primetime documentary that chronicled his traumatic brain injury (TBI), his painstaking recovery, and the plight of thousands of service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with similar injuries.

Woodruff and his wife, Lee, later co-wrote a best-selling memoir In an Instant, and established the Bob Woodruff Family Foundation for Traumatic Brain Injury. The foundation raises money to assist members of the military with cognitive rehabilitation and care following a TBI suffered in service to their country. The Woodruffs have four children, including Cathryn, a member of the BC Class of 2015.

Woodruff, who hosts the weekly ABC News production Focus Earth, urged graduates to consider four pieces of advice: follow a passion in life and work; exercise spiritual faith; give back through service; and acknowledge love for family and friends.

Woodruff recalled being near death and how medics and doctors saved his life, making January 29, 2006 his “Alive Day,” as members of the armed forces call it. In the years since, he has enjoyed an even greater appreciation for friends, family, his career and his faith.

“From what I’ve witnessed and experienced, having faith in something bigger than you can ease you through many things,” he said. “There are a lot of questions we can’t answer. And faith never promises you that it has all the answers. It simply eases the journey… You will need to find faith in ways that may not seem important now, but at some point it will serve you well. Faith has the power to stop you from falling through the floor. Use it, explore it, tap into it from time to time and it will renew you in unexpected ways.”

—Ed Hayward is an associate director in the Office of News & Public Affairs; ed.hayward@bc.edu