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Woodruff to Speak at 2012 BC Graduation

BC to present five with honorary degrees at May 21 graduation

Robert Woodruff

By Office of News & Public Affairs |

Published: Apr. 12, 2012

Robert Woodruff, an award-winning journalist whose recovery from a traumatic brain injury became a compelling survival story, will address the Class of 2012 at the 136th annual Boston College Commencement Exercises on May 21.

University President William P. Leahy, SJ, will present Woodruff with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree at the ceremony, which will begin at 10 a.m. in Alumni Stadium, rain or shine.

In addition, Boston College will present honorary degrees to: Joseph A. Appleyard, SJ ’53, former vice president for University Mission and Ministry at BC and now socius (executive assistant) for the New England Province of the Society of Jesus; William V. “Bill” Campbell, chairman of Intuit Inc. and a former BC football assistant coach; Navyn A. Salem ’94; founder of a nonprofit that treats and prevents malnutrition; and Liz Walker, an award-winning TV news anchor now working in international education and women’s issues.

Following the main Commencement event, some 4,413 BC students will receive their undergraduate and graduate diplomas at separate ceremonies held around campus.  

Robert W. Woodruff
joined ABC News in 1996 and covered major stories such as the 9/11 attacks, US military actions in Afghanistan and Iraq, the 2004 South Asia tsunami and Hurricane Katrina. In December 2005, he was named co-anchor of ABC’s “World News Tonight.” The following month, while reporting on US and Iraqi security forces, Woodruff was nearly killed by a roadside bomb.

Just 13 months later, 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.

Woodruff continues to cover TBIs for all ABC News broadcasts and platforms and was honored with a Peabody Award in 2008 for his reporting on the subject. Since returning to the air, Woodruff has reported from around the globe, with assignments in North Korea, Syria, Jordan and Sudan and is a mainstay of the network’s domestic coverage. In addition, Woodruff hosted Focus Earth, a weekly ABC News production for Planet Green, part of the Discovery Communications network.

Bob and Lee Woodruff have four children, including Cathryn, a member of the BC Class of 2015.

Joseph Appleyard, SJ (Photo by Gary Gilbert)

Before assuming his post at the New England Province for the Society of Jesus in 2010, Joseph A. Appleyard, SJ ’53, gave 43 years of service to Boston College’s academic, formational and faith mission, working as a faculty member, Honors Program director, Jesuit Community rector and senior administrator.

In 1998, he became BC’s first vice president for University Mission and Ministry. In that role, Fr. Appleyard directed resources and support for programs promoting the University’s Catholic and Jesuit nature in areas such as academic affairs, student affairs, human resources and university relations.

As rector of BC’s Jesuit Community for six years, Fr. Appleyard was responsible for the physical and spiritual well-being of one of the world’s largest communities of Jesuits. For 10 years, he directed the College of Arts and Sciences Honors Program, one of the oldest such programs in the country. He also took part in some of the most critical University initiatives, as a member of the University Council on Teaching, the National Committee of the Campaign for Boston College, the Core Curriculum Task Force and the University Academic Planning Council, among others.

Prior to his departure to the New England Province, a colleague of Fr. Appleyard praised him for “educating the hearts of Boston College students” and changing “the spiritual culture of the campus.”

Fr. Appleyard will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree at Commencement.

William Campbell

After serving six seasons as an assistant football coach at Boston College and another six as head coach at his alma mater, Columbia University, William V. “Bill” Campbell launched a meteoric business career that has landed him at the top of the technology world. He is chairman of the board of Intuit Inc., a company that over the past 18 years he has made a leader in tax, personal business and small business accounting software.  

Prior to joining Intuit, Campbell was president and CEO of GO Corp., a pen-based computing software company, and founder, president and CEO of Claris Corp., which was purchased by Apple Computer Inc. in 1990.

Campbell had previously worked for Apple as the firm’s executive vice president, vice president for marketing and vice president of sales. He has served on Apple’s board since 1997. He also had successful associations with Eastman Kodak Co. as general manager for consumer products and as vice president of J. Walter Thompson, a New York-based advertising agency.

A generous benefactor to Boston College, Campbell has supported two scholarships at the University, one named for former Athletic Director William J. Flynn and one for University President William P. Leahy, SJ.

Campbell will be presented with an honorary Doctor of Business Administration degree.

Navyn Salem

Navyn A. Salem ’94 is the founder and executive director of Edesia, a nonprofit manufacturer of revolutionary food products that are saving the lives of starving children across the globe. Her Rhode Island-based factory’s main product is Plumpy’nut, a peanut-based paste that efficiently delivers nutrients and calories to severely malnourished children, physically transforming them in as little as four to six weeks. Since the factory opened in 2010, Edesia has produced enough ready-to-use food to nourish nearly a million children in 26 countries, from Haiti to the Horn of Africa.

A trip to Tanzania, her father’s homeland, brought Salem face to face with the global hunger crisis. The stay-at-home mother of four used her business background to embark on a crusade to bring lifesaving food products like Plumpy’nut into the hands of more aid organizations, hospitals and refugee camps in developing nations.  

Her efforts to bring an end to malnutrition have caught the attention of national media such as NBC News and Newsweek and have earned Edesia praise from former President Bill Clinton. Salem was named the 2012 New England Businesswoman of the Year by Bryant University.

She will receive an honorary Doctor of Social Science degree.

Liz Walker (Photo by Gary Gilbert)

An award-winning TV news anchor and ordained minister now working in international education and women’s issues., Liz Walker has worked for the last 11 years for a nonprofit that aims to rebuild the lives of women and children in southern Sudan. As co-founder of My Sister’s Keeper, Walker is credited with helping to fund the construction of a school for 500 girls in that war-torn region.

The first African-American to anchor a major television newscast in Boston, Walker worked for WBZ-TV for more than two decades. Her honors include two Emmys, an Edward R. Murrow Award and garnered special recognition from the prestigious Gabriel Awards for her on-air and documentary work.

In addition to her work on international education and women’s issues, Walker produces television programming that advocates for young people from marginalized communities who are striving to overcome barriers and challenges to contribute their best to the world. She sits on numerous community boards and is a spokesperson for people living with HIV-AIDS, breast cancer survivors and at-risk youth.

An ordained minister who works with young people in the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, Walker is currently the transitional minister at Roxbury Presbyterian Church. She is the founder and principal of The Walker Group LLC, Communications Specialists, focused on corporate public engagement, non-profit capacity building and video production.
Walker will be presented with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree.

For more information on Commencement Exercises, see