'honoris causa'

Honorary Degree Citations
Back, L-R: Bishop Peter J. Uglietto, Archdiocese of Boston; John (Jack) Joyce '61, MBA '70; University President William P. Leahy, S.J.; Fr. Emmanuel Mwerekande MA '06; BC Trustees Chairman John Fish. Front, L-R: Maria Eugenia (Gena) McGowan; Ernest J. Moniz '66; Nannette Canniff. (Photo by Gary Gilbert)
BC Events / Commencement | May 24, 2016

Ernest J. Moniz    

Ernest Moniz left his native Fall River, Massachusetts, in September, 1962 to enroll in the College of Arts and Sciences at Boston College. He left four years later having earned a bachelor’s degree in physics and a Scholar of the College award.   

He received a doctoral degree in theoretical physics at Stanford University, and then joined the faculty of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He chaired the Department of Physics there and was founding director of the MIT Energy Initiative. He is currently the Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Physics and Engineering Systems Emeritus.   

The recipient of numerous honorary doctorates, he is also a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Physical Society, and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. In 1999, the Boston College Alumni Association presented him with the Award of Excellence in Science.   

Following his distinguished academic career, he entered public service as Under Secretary of the United States Department of Energy from 1997 to 2001. Since 2013, he has served as the U.S. Secretary of Energy. Combining his skills in science and diplomacy, he has worked to resolve formidable issues, from the United States-Iran nuclear agreement to climate change and clean energy. He has earned bipartisan respect among many lawmakers by demonstrating what the Washington Post described as “a natural ability to translate complex scientific concepts into digestible terms.”   

For his work in the advancement of science and dedicated service to our nation and the world, Boston College proudly awards Ernest J. Moniz the degree of Doctor of Science, honoris causa.

Nannette Marie Canniff

Modest beginnings in parish fundraising in a working-class neighborhood of her native Quincy, Massachusetts, inspired humanitarian Nannette Marie Canniff to improve the lives of Haiti’s poor.   

More than three decades ago, she accepted an invitation to hand-deliver proceeds from a local Walk for Hunger event to a Haitian orphanage. After witnessing the hope and resilience of the people, she pledged her continued support.    

Fulfilling her promise, this compassionate medical professional and mother of 10 opened her heart and her family home to the people of Haiti.  She founded the St. Boniface Haiti Foundation, which now serves 65,000 patients and thousands more community members each year through a school, a health clinic, and a hospital in the remote village of Fond-des-Blancs.   

A beacon of hope for individuals living in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, her foundation is a model for health care systems in resource-poor settings around the world, and each winter break it hosts student and faculty volunteers from Boston College Law School.    

Now retired from her role as president and CEO, she continues to serve as a devoted fundraiser and frequent visitor to Haiti. Fluent in Creole, she feels equally at home in its villages as she does on the South Shore.   

For her selflessness and unwavering dedication and service to the Haitian people, Boston College awards Nannette Marie Canniff the degree of Doctor of Social Science, honoris causa.

John “Jack” Joyce 

Jack Joyce has spent a lifetime fulfilling his promise to give back to society and the University that took a chance on him.   

For this son of Dorchester, higher education was simply not an option when he finished high school, so he joined the Navy, where a surgeon encouraged him to pursue college.   

He attended Boston College on the G.I. Bill, was elected class president, and won the Finnegan Award. After graduating in 1961 with an economics degree, he attended night school at BC and earned his MBA.

Working in the investment world, where he built a reputation for integrity, he became managing director of Deutsche Bank Securities. He also served his alma mater and Church in a variety of ways, including as president of the BC Alumni Association, chairman of Catholic Charities, and co-founder and chairman of the Boston College Club—which has funded 80 University scholarships for students from the City of Boston since its inception. He and his wife Nancy are also co-patrons of the McMullen Museum of Art.

In a 2003 interview, the proud father of two daughters said, “I have made a lifelong commitment to give back in any way I can. Whether it is time, talent or treasure, that’s what I really feel I have an obligation to do.”

For his service and commitment to the University, the Church, and those less fortunate, Boston College awards Jack Joyce the degree of Doctor of Business Administration, honoris causa.

María Eugenia Pares-Reyna de McGowan 

A native of Venezuela and childhood resident of France who came to the United States at the age of 12, María Eugenia “Gena” McGowan has dedicated her life to education and helping immigrants thrive in America.

After graduating from the University of San Francisco, she moved to Arizona with her husband and worked in youth counseling, social services and pastoral ministry in Phoenix’s Spanish-speaking community.

In 2006, she was appointed principal of St. Matthew Catholic School, which was struggling to remain open with fewer than 90 students. Today, St. Matthew enrolls more than 200 students in grades K-8, and has strengthened the education and services it provides to students and their families—all of whom live at or below the poverty level.

Under her innovative leadership, St. Matthew adopted a dual-language immersion curriculum to develop proficiency in both English and Spanish for all students in all subjects. Three years ago, St. Matthew became part of the Two-Way Immersion Network for Catholic Schools offered through the Roche Center for Catholic Education at Boston College. With a new curriculum and additional support, student achievement has increased in math and reading.

This mother of two grown children changed the way the school works with parents by offering counseling and classes in English and citizenship. In partnership with Phoenix Children’s Hospital, St. Matthew also offers free pediatric care to all students.

For her faith in the power of Catholic education to change lives and her commitment to ministering to immigrant families, Boston College awards María Eugenia McGowan the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa.

 Fr. Emmanuel Mwerekande 

The ministry of Father Emmanuel Mwerekande has been marked by his pastoral care and his efforts to improve the everyday lives of people wherever he has served.

As a boy in Uganda, he witnessed priests and missionaries helping others in his poor village, which inspired him to pursue a vocation to the priesthood. He was ordained in 1990 and began parish ministry in his homeland.

He came to the United States to earn a master’s degree in pastoral ministry from Boston College in 2006, while also serving at St. Mark’s Parish in Dorchester.

Since 2011, he has been pastor of Our Lady of Fatima Parish, which has more than 50,000 members, 41 sub-parishes and 20 Catholic schools serving 17,000 children of all faiths.

As a pastor, Father Emmanuel realized that his parishioners’ health problems were often linked to contaminated water. His advocacy and outreach has led to the installation of 32 water tanks and more than 12,000 rain barrels that have provided clean water for the community.

He has obtained books and supplies for parish schools and established a much-needed lunch program that serves thousands of meals daily. His visionary leadership led to the creation of an extensive water and irrigation system to support sustainable agriculture, and the construction of a magnificent new church seating more than 1,000 people.

For his faithful ministry, commitment to the Church, and service to others, Boston College presents Father Emmanuel Mwerekande the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa.