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Leaders to receive ND, SMC honorary degrees

Jenn Metz | Friday, May 18, 2007

Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s will award 12 honorary degrees during the commencement exercises this weekend.

General Electric CEO Jeffery Immelt, the undergraduate commencement speaker for Notre Dame, will be receiving on one of Notre Dame’s honorary degrees, along with nine other figures.

Valdas Adamkus, the president of Lithuania, will receive an honorary doctorate of laws. He served in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from 1970 until 1997 and was elected president of Lithuania in 1998. Known as “a force for democratization in the nation,” Adamkus served as president until 2003 when his opponent, Rolandus Paksus, won the election. Paksus was impeached 14 months later, and Adamkus won a second term in a run-off election.

Notre Dame graduate Robert Kiely will be awarded a doctorate of laws for his 50 years of public service. He served as chair and CEO of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in New York City from 1983 until 1990. Later, he served as a commissioner of transport in London from 2001 until 2006.

Mary Sue Coleman, the president of the University of Michigan and commencement speaker for doctoral and master’s degree graduates, will be honored with a doctor of science degree. The award is for her work in “student residential life, interdisciplinary studies, ethics in society and health care,” a University news release said.

A doctor of humanities degree will be awarded to Immaculée Ilibagiza, a member of the United Nations Development Program. Ilibagiza is also the author of “Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust.”

Kenneth Hackett, the president of Catholic Relief Services, will also receive a doctorate of humanities. He has led Catholic Relief Services since 2003, during which time the organization aided recovery efforts in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Robert Hunt, a Chicago-based sculptor, will receive a doctorate of fine arts. His works include “I Have Been to the Mountaintop” at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Memphis, Tenn., and “Jacob’s Ladder” at the Carter G. Woodson Library in Chicago.

Dr. Paul Farmer, an attending physician at two hospitals and a professor of medical anthropology at Harvard Medical School, will receive an honorary doctorate of science. Farmer participated in this year’s Notre Dame Forum, entitled “The Global Health Crisis: Forging Solutions, Effecting Change.”

Father P. Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap, will receive a doctor of laws degree. He has served as the Vatican’s preacher for the papal house since 1980.

Archbishop Elias Chacour, a Melkite priest in the Holy Lands, will also receive a doctor of laws degree for his work with peace efforts in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He is the founder of the Mar Elias Educational Institutions, which has been in existence for over 20 years. It currently educates 4,500 students of all three major monotheistic faiths. He is the author of “Blood Brothers” and “We Belong to the Land.”

Saint Mary’s honorary degrees

At Saint Mary’s, Sister Mary Scullion, RSM, and Dr. Bernard McGinn of the University of Chicago Divinity School will be honored at the commencement exercises Saturday.

Scullion has worked for nearly 30 years to improve the lives of the homeless and mentally ill in Philadelphia. She is currently the executive director of Project H.O.M.E. (Housing, Opportunities for employment, Medical care, Education) – a nationally recognized organization that works to break the cycle of homelessness and poverty. Scullion has been honored with the Ford Foundation’s Leadership for a Changing World Award by the city of Philadelphia.

McGinn is the Naomi Shenstone Donnelly Professor Emeritus at the University of Chicago Divinity School, where he taught from 1969 until 2003. He is recognized as the preeminent scholar of mysticism in the Western Christian tradition. McGinn is a fellow of the Medieval Academy, where he also serves as president. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and has previously served as president of the American Society of Church History and of the American Catholic Historical Association.