2017 Commencement Speakers & Honorary Degrees Announced
Fairfield University announces the 67th annual Commencement Ceremony speakers for Sunday, May 21, 2017. This year's speakers are Rev. Jeffrey P. von Arx, S.J., former President of Fairfield University and current Superior of the LaFarge House Jesuit Community in Cambridge, Mass; and Juanita James, president and CEO of Fairfield County’s Community Foundation.
Undergraduate Commencement Speaker — Rev. Jeffrey P. von Arx, S.J.
Fr. von Arx served for 12 years as the eighth president of Fairfield University, assuming the position in 2004. While at Fairfield, Fr. von Arx placed an emphasis on diversity and service. He established the Center for Faith and Public Life, which prepares students to be global citizens; generates research-based solutions; and creates a public forum for dialogue on issues where faith and public life intersect. Additionally, he created the President’s Institutional Diversity Counsel, charged with evaluating, reviewing and assessing the University’s progress as it strengthens its multicultural education and environment. Prior to his appointment as President, Fr. von Arx served as Dean of Fordham College at Rose Hill, from 1998 to 2004, and prior to that served as Chairman of the Department of History at Georgetown University and in other posts. Fr. von Arx graduated from Princeton University in 1969 and entered the Society of Jesus that summer. He subsequently earned an MA and M.Phil. in history at Yale University and completed his PhD there in 1980. A year later, Fr. von Arx received an M.Div. from the Weston School of Theology and was ordained a priest. Fr. von Arx is currently the Superior Of LaFarge House in Cambridge, Mass., a residence for Jesuits at Harvard University.
Graduate Commencement Speaker — Juanita James, President and CEO of Fairfield County’s Community Foundation.
As the president and CEO of Fairfield County’s Community Foundation, Ms. James exemplifies the character that is valued and encouraged at Fairfield University. Fairfield County’s Community Foundation is a collection of charitable funds established by individuals, families, public charities and businesses aimed to generate an ongoing and steady resource for community giving. James has received numerous awards as a result of her leadership and volunteer service, including the NAACP “100 Most Influential Blacks in Connecticut;” the 2012 Stamford Public Education Foundation’s “Excellence in Education,” award, which recognizes people who have made an impact on public education; the 2010 “Light a Fire Award” from Moffley Media, which salutes individuals who have gone above and beyond in giving back to their community; and Stamford’s “Citizen of the Year” in 2010. James is currently the director of the Asbury Automotive Group and Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors; a corporator for First County Bank; a trustee of the University of Connecticut and Lesley University in Cambridge; and a trustee emerita of Princeton University. Mrs. James will also be receiving an honorary Doctor of Laws degree during the graduate commencement ceremony.
Ms. James will also receive an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Fairfield University during the Commencement ceremony.
Other Honorary Degrees
Stephen Braga ’78 – Doctor of Laws
Stephen Braga was named one of the “Top Ten Criminal Defense Attorneys in the United States” by US Lawyer Rankings, an honor earned after he helped Marty Tankleff achieve exoneration after spending almost 20 years in prison for crimes he did not commit. Stephen earned his law degree from Georgetown University Law School, where he was editor of the Georgetown Law Journal. After practicing law in Washington, DC for over 30 years, he started a firm with his wife Kathy (Crahay) Braga ’78, where they are dedicated to serving, primarily, the underserved and underrepresented within the legal system. He is currently a full-time faculty member at the University of Virginia Law School.
Rev. Sean Carroll, S.J. – Doctor of Laws
Fr. Sean Carroll, S.J. is the founding Executive Director of the Kino Border Initiative, which started in 2009 to serve migrants that travel between Nogales, Arizona and Nogales, Sonora (Mexico). The KBI provides pastoral care, a soup kitchen, emergency medical aid, and a safe space for vulnerable women and girls who are deported from the United States. In 2015, the KBI provided nearly 43,000 meals, shelter for 482 migrants, and medical assistance for over 3,500 sick and injured persons.
Dianne Dwyer Modestini – Doctor of Humanities
Dianne Modestini is an internationally-renowned conservator of Old Master and 19th Century paintings, and is currently a research professor in the Kress Program in Paintings Conservation at New York University. She was appointed Assistant Conservator of Paintings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1974, where she was responsible for the conservation of the museum’s American Collection, in preparation of the reopening of the American Wing. Her work led to her engagement with the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, which has more than 3,000 works of European art in collections around the country, some of which are part of the Fairfield University Art Museum’s collection. Working with the Kress Foundation, in conjunction with her role as educator at NYU, she launched the Samuel H. Kress Program in Paintings Conservation in 1989, where she guides students through the restoration of paintings, incorporating such technological advances as the microscopic examination of pigment samples, elemental identification using X-ray fluorescence, and imaging via digital X-radiography and infrared reflectography.
Sr. Patricia Eck, C.B.S. – Doctor of Science
Sr. Patricia Eck C.B.S. was elected Congregation Leader of the Sisters of Bon Secours in 2009. As Congregation Leader, she is responsible for ministries in France, Great Britain, Ireland, Peru, Africa, and the United States. From 1997 until her appointment as Leader in 2009, Sr. Pat served as the chair of the Bon Secours Health System, which has more than 25,000 employees and operates multiple hospitals, nursing care facilities, assisted living facilities, and other services across six states. In 2011, she received the Cross Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice (the Cross for the Church and Pontiff), the highest honor given to a member of a religious community by the Vatican.
Pictured: Rev. Jeffrey P. von Arx, S.J. Credit: Fairfield University