Michael Bloomberg announced as Commencement Speaker

COURTESY OF FORBES.COM AP/PHOTO SETH WENIG

On May 19, the Class of 2017 and their loved ones will celebrate the culmination of their undergraduate experience at the University’s 174 commencement. While life after college is a daunting thought, founder of Bloomberg LP and three-term mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, will offer his words of wisdom in a commencement address to this year’s graduating class.

Bloomberg, an entrepreneur and philanthropist, has been officially confirmed as the commencement speaker by University President Rev. Peter M. Donohue, OSA, PhD after a thorough selection process. “[During the] selection process, we sent out a notification back in the summer to everyone on campus and as well as the alumni base to nominate people for honorary degrees or honorary degree plus commencement speaker,” Donohue said. “There is a committee that meets in September, and they go through all the nominations, and they discuss and rank them and from that process they give me the list and I start contacting [the possible recipients and speaker].” 

The University prioritizes how the accomplishments of the speaker can resonate with the graduates as they seek advice on how to optimally translate their undergraduate experience to the real world. “Mr. Bloomberg’s staff has actually requested the names of a cross-section of seniors to speak with beforehand to just get a perspective about who they are,” Donohue said. 

Before serving as the Mayor of New York City, Bloomberg graduated from Johns Hopkins University and Harvard Business School. He then launched a technology startup in 1981 centered on providing real-time data and analysis to the financial services industry that has since matured into an international company with over 19,000 employees in 73 countries. For 20 years, he successfully grew his company into a reliable and crucial resource to the finance world until taking a hiatus to pursue a career in politics full-time. Bloomberg was elected mayor of New York City in 2001 two months after the tragedy that occurred on September 11. The city was still in a state of immense mourning and unsettled apprehension. Nevertheless, Bloomberg’s leadership responded swiftly and confidently as the city looked towards his administration for guidance in its darkest time. 

Some of the accomplishments that highlight Bloomberg’s time in office include raising the high school graduation rates by 40 percent, reducing crime by a third, curtailing the carbon footprint of the city by almost 20 percent and increasing life expectancy by three years. The economic policies that his administration enabled a record number of jobs as a result of an emphasis on entrepreneurs, small businesses as well as emerging industries like technology and bioscience. Bloomberg is also devoted to championing bipartisan coalitions that are tackling climate change, illegal firearms, immigration reform and infrastructure investment as well as other urgent national and international issues. Additionally, he has served as the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change, and this past year, he was named the World Health Organization’s Global Ambassador for Noncommunicable Diseases.

Bloomberg has maintained an incredible commitment to philanthropy throughout his life. Bloomberg Philanthropies, a foundation started by Bloomberg himself, “works to ensure better, longer lives for the greatest number of people,” according to the official website. The foundation focuses on five main areas: public health, education, the environment, the arts and government education; the primary focal points are derived from what Bloomberg and his team are most passionate about and where they can accomplish the greatest good. Along with speaking about his tremendous career and experiences, Bloomberg will receive the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa and will also be informally inducted into the ‘Nova Nation.

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Honorary degrees will also be presented to Anne Welsh McNulty ‘75, Fr. Wally Kasuboski, OFM and Irwin Medway.

 McNulty comes from a family of Villanova alumni, as her father, uncle and all five siblings attended. She was Valedictorian in her graduating class and served an editor of The Villanovan. After graduating, she obtained her MBA at The Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. McNulty worked as a Managing Director of Goldman Sachs and also was a senior executive of the Goldman Sachs Hedge Fund Strategies Group. Currently, McNulty is the co-founder and managing partner of JBK partners, with businesses including management and a private philanthropic foundation centered on social change and leadership development. 

Throughout her career, McNulty has maintained an active role within the Villanova community; she served as a member of the Board of Trustees from 2006-2015 and recently, she donated $5 million to the University to help launch the creation of an Institute for Women’s Leadership here at The University. Launching in October 2017, the Institute will support women through innovative research, education programs, advocacy and community building. McNulty is an active advocate for implementing programs and promoting initiatives that provide conducive and inclusive environments for women to thrive. Along with her late husband, John, McNulty began the McNulty Foundation that has contributed over $10 million to support leadership development in US higher education. Helping young people to make a difference in the world is central to the McNulty Foundation and is highlighted in the McNulty Prize. The prize was created in honor of John P. McNulty and strives to continue his legacy as those who are awarded the prize receive $100,000 to further advance their pursuit of tackling the world’s toughest issues. Anne Welsh McNulty will be awarded the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa.

Father Wally “Padre Pablo” Kasuboski, OFM, is a Capuchin missionary priest who has followed his vocation to serve the poor and impoverished people incessantly. He earned a degree in in Theology from the St. Francis School of Pastoral Ministry and later graduated from the Antioch School of Law. The connection between Fr. Kasuboski and Villanova University, however, dates back to 1991 when Chris McCartin, a new civil engineering graduate, moved to the Bayano region of Panama for 18 month to help build a water-supply system for a Catholic missionary priest he had never met. This International Service Project by Villanova Engineering established an incredible relationship with Fr. Kasuboski and his Cheypo Bayano Mission; as a result of the efforts of more than 100 Villanova engineering students and faculty,15,000 local residents have access to fresh, potable water year round.  Today, the service work of Villanova in Panama still maintains an active role; some projects include: the development of a sustainable water resources master plan, including dams and reservoirs, Vado culvert bridge design and Primary school design. Other significant contributions include building chapels, schools and roads in the area.

Fr. Kasuboski has not only devoted his life to many service projects, such as in Nicaragua and the Montana’s Crow as well as Cheyenne Indian reservations, but also, he lives in solidarity with the communities in which he works alongside the people who he fights for daily. For the past 28 years, he has worked as a missionary priest in Panama as he spearheads initiatives to drastically improve the quality of life in the rural Alto Bayano region specifically. One of his many remarkable accomplishments includes the Canasas Water Project, which has brought potable water to approximately 5,000 people in 14 different villages. This project is the largest rural water system in Panama with approximately 65 miles of PVC pipe buried by hand. Fr. Wally has been recognized, praised and awarded for his humanitarian efforts and will receive the degree of Doctor of Humanities, honoris causa.

Irwin Medway, who will turn 94 this September, has been a student at The University since 1993. Every semester for the past 24 years, Medway has taken at least one or two courses as part of the Senior Citizen Personal Enrichment program. The program allows adults aged 65 or older to take courses not for credit, rather, personal enrichment; so although he has been a student for 24 years, he has never earned a degree. His original collegiate experience was interrupted by World War II. As a student at St. Bonaventure University and later Rutgers University, he was enrolled in the Army Specialized Training Program that allowed him to take classes, but he was reassigned to combat as a result of wartime demands. For his service, Medway was awarded the Purple Heart, a Bronze Star as well as five other distinctions for his valor in combat and infantry. 

Ultimately, Medway decided to go to work instead of pursue a degree that he was entitled through the G.I. Bill. Irwin attempted to resume his studies but never attained a degree, nonetheless, he had a successful career working for the marketing department in Columbia Records. He later began taking classes at Villanova and since that decision, Medway has never ceased being a student at Villanova. He estimates that he has been taught by more than 40 different professors over the course of his time as a student, including a class in the theatre department taught by Rev. Peter M. Donohue, OSA, PhD. The classes Medway takes are strategically selected as he tries to take classes that allow him to take his wife, Corrine, to and from work. In honor of Villanova’s 175h anniversary, the University will bestow the degree of Doctor of Humanities, honoris cause, to one of the University’s longest students. 

Use the hashtag “#NovaGrad17” to follow the new developments regarding commencement and to share memories with the Nova Nation. 

Additional reporting by Chris Deucher