Woods College of Advancing Studies Dean James Burns, I.V.D., with Alumni Service Award winner Irene Brannelly; Newton Mayor Setti Warren '93, who addressed the graduating class; Distinguished Alumni Award winner Barbara Brilliant; and Jeffrey R. Kelley '17, winner of this year's Richard Lombard Award for Academic Excellence.

Photos by Linda Hexter

More than 150 students, family members, and friends gathered in the Murray Room of Yawkey Center on April 18 for a celebratory dinner and awards ceremony in honor of 2017 graduates of BC's Woods College of Advancing Studies.

Newton Mayor Setti Warren '93
Newton Mayor Setti Warren

Boston College alumnus Setti Warren '93, an Iraq War veteran and two-term mayor of the City of Newton, one of BC's host communities, addressed the graduating class, stressing the importance of public service and shared responsibility.

"It’s always special for me to come back home here to the campus of Boston College," he said. "It was here where my family’s commitment to public service and the college's commitment to serve others bonded together to give me the foundation for a career."

Noting his belief that income inequality is "the issue of our time," Warren, who is credited with spearheading a financial turnaround for a city that was facing a fiscal crisis when he took office, underscored the shared responsibility "to ensure the neighborhoods, cities, and regions we live in offer the chance for people of all backgrounds to be successful.

"My commitment to public service, grounded in my household and the halls of Boston College, brought me right back to campus as Mayor, where I initiated a historic partnership with BC to address income inequality here in Newton for the coming decades," he said, referring to the research partnership announced in 2016 in support of Warren's "Economic Growth for All" initiative.

In addition, he noted the Woods College's involvement in the Mayor's Summer High School Internship Program, which seeks to provide opportunities for disconnected youth. In addition to hosting an intern this summer, the Woods College is working with the Mayor's office to provide resume writing workshops and campus tours for the student participants.

He concluded with a call to the graduates to also use their talents and abilities in public service.

"No one should underestimate the time, hard work, and sacrifice that it took for many of you to be here," he said. "My ask of you is to get in government, run for office, use your degree to make a difference for your generation."

"It’s always special for me to come back home here to the campus of Boston College. It was here where my family’s commitment to public service and the college's commitment to serve others bonded together to give me the foundation for a career."—Newton Mayor Setti Warren '93


The event’s award ceremony recognized members of the Woods College graduating class as well as distinguished alumni of the school, which provides flexible, academically rigorous, ethics-focused undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs for non-traditional students.

From the undergraduate Class of 2017, Jeffrey R. Kelley, who earned a bachelor's degree in corporate systems, received the Richard Lombard Award for Academic Excellence.

Aleksandr Tomic and Arvind Sharma
Aleksandr Tomic, Woods College assistant dean for strategy, innovation, and technology and director of the M.S. in Applied Economics program, with program graduate Arvind Sharma.

Arvind Sharma, who completed his M.S. in Applied Economics degree in December 2016, and received the school’s Graduate Award at the ceremony, had high praise for his Woods College experience.

"I found the professors very cordial and helpful from day one," said Sharma. "They treated me like a colleague rather than a student, and took a personal interest in helping me achieve my professional goals.

"The mentoring was absolutely terrific," Sharma added, noting that the program's small class size meant students received more individual attention.

"Ultimately," he said, "they helped me create a career in a subject that I did not perceive to be possible before joining the program."    

This year's Distinguished Alumni Award went to Barbara Brilliant, president of Brilliant Communications and the creator and executive producer for the Peabody Award-winning historical film "Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy," which aired on PBS "Great Performances" as well as worldwide.

Irene Brannelly, who serves on the executive committee of the Woods College Alumni Council and has represented the school on the Boston College Alumni Association National Board of Directors, received the Alumni Service Award at the event.

Woods Colllege Recognition Dinner program

“The recipients of our awards serve as example and inspiration to both our current students and our alumni,” said Woods College Dean Rev. James Burns, I.V.D.

“The graduation dinner is a special night at the Woods College," said Fr. Burns. " Our students and graduates come from a variety of professional backgrounds with varying personal circumstances, often enduring many obstacles—for example, the multiple demands of the full-time employee who is also a parent (sometimes single) balancing work, family and studies; the young student who never dreamed he or she could attend Boston College due to other personal yet real commitments; those tending to ailing family members or supporting those who live at a distance; and of course, harkening to our roots, the student new to this country who knew that education was the best way to move their life forward.

"These backgrounds are illustrative of all of our award recipients throughout the years. They are representatives of the best of Woods College students, all of whom demonstrate Jesuit ideals of the commitment to justice, to be men and women for others in service to the greater good,” Fr. Burns said.

—Patricia Delaney | University Communications

The Woods College of Advancing Studies Alumni Council