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SMC alumna Maryanne Wolf to speak at 2020 College commencement

| Thursday, February 27, 2020

Maryanne Wolf, class of ‘69, will deliver the 2020 Commencement address at Saint Mary’s, the College announced in a Wednesday press release. Wolf will be one of two honorary degree recipients at commencement on May 16. 

According to the release, Wolf is the director of the Center for Dyslexia, Diverse Learners and Social Justice at the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies. 

She has been awarded honors from the International Dyslexia Association and the Dyslexia Foundation. The release also stated that she has earned the Distinguished Researcher of the Year for Learning Disabilities in Australia and the Distinguished Teacher of the Year from the American Psychological Association. 

Photo courtesy of Saint Mary
Maryanne Wolf, class of ’69, will serve at the College’s 2020 Commencement speaker. She currently heads Center for Dyslexia, Diverse Learners and Social Justice at UCLA.

Wolf is a Fulbright Fellowship recipient and has won the Christopher Columbus Award for Intellectual Innovation for co-founding Curious Learning: A Global Literacy Initiative with deployments in Africa, India, Australia and rural United States.

Interim President Nancy Nekvasil said in the release that Wolf is a “gifted presenter” and “renowned scholar on literacy and the brain.” Nekvasil said Wolf has dedicated her career to helping children with learning challenges.

“She is a prime example for the Class of 2020 of an alumna using her knowledge and skills to better our world, in this case, her pioneering work on the complex issue of  global literacy and dyslexia,” Nekvasil sail. “Her confidence and depth of character are inspirational, and I’m delighted our graduates will hear her message.”

The College will also honor Keith J. Egan and William Cushwa at this year’s Commencement.

Egan, the Joyce McMahon Hank Aquinas Chair in Catholic Theology Emeritus at Saint Mary’s and a guest professor in theology at Notre Dame, will receive an honorary degree. An international scholar specializing in historical theology, medieval theology, Christian spirituality and other areas, Egan founded the Center for Spirituality at Saint Mary’s in 1984. According to the release, he joined the faculty in 1983 and held the endowed chair position from 1997 to 2006.

“It’s with tremendous respect and admiration that we recognize Dr. Egan and honor his legacy of service to Saint Mary’s,” Nekvasil said in the release. “As a professor, he continually explored ways to position the College nationally as a place to promote the engagement between faith and reason and to highlight women’s contributions to the field of theology.”

Egan also developed the Madeleva Lecture Series, named for Sister Madeleva Wolff, which amplifies the voices of women scholars studying theology.

“The Center for Spirituality and the Madeleva Lecture Series were both established during a time when the work of female theologians was not widely recognized,” Nekvasil said. “[Egan] not only provided opportunities for our students to engage with these prestigious scholars, but also make their work more well-known in the academic world.”

Nekvasil will also honor William Cushwa, a member of the Saint Mary’s Board of Trustees since 2011, at Commencement, by presenting him with the President’s Medal.

According to the release, this award is “presented rarely” and recognizes those who have made “exceptional contributions to the life of the College and society.” Cushwa is deeply involved in the community, serving on several local boards and planning committees. These groups include Real Services, the St. Joseph County Public Library and the South Bend Symphony.

Cushwa graduated from Notre Dame in 1959, and is related to several Saint Mary’s alumnae, including his mother Margaret Hall Cushwa (’30), daughter Margaret Cushwa Haller (’90) and granddaughter Kathleen Hall Dunn (’17), as well as his sister Mary Ellen Cushwa Wolsonovich (’70) and six of his cousins.

He is currently serving his third term on the College’s Board of Trustees, and is actively engaged with several committees.

“Bill is deeply connected to the College, as a son, brother, father and grandfather of Saint Mary’s graduates,” Nekvasil said in the release. “Unbeknownst to others, he quietly supports the College on a regular basis, while also attending lectures and other campus events as much as he can. It gives me great pleasure to honor him with the President’s Medal.”

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