Villanova University Announces Ken Hackett as Commencement Speaker

Honorary degrees will also be awarded to Jane Golden, Greg Mortenson, Dr. Eric Reeves, Harrison Ridley, Jr., and His Beatitude and Eminence Patriarch Nasrallah Peter Cardinal Sfeir

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 24, 2008

VILLANOVA, Pa. – Villanova University President, the Rev. Peter M. Donohue, O.S.A., announced that Ken Hackett, president of Catholic Relief Services (CRS), will address the class of 2008 as the commencement speaker. Hackett will receive the degree of Doctor of Humanities, honoris causa, in a ceremony to take place at 10 a.m. on May 18 in Villanova Stadium. In the event of inclement weather, the ceremony will be held in the Pavilion.

In addition, honorary degrees will be awarded to Jane Golden, Executive Director of the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program; Greg Mortenson, author of the #1 New York Times bestseller “Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace… One School At a Time”; Dr. Eric Reeves, professor of English language and literature at Smith College; Harrison A. Ridley, Jr., professor of music history at Temple University; and His Beatitude and Eminence Patriarch Nasrallah Peter Cardinal Sfeir, the Maronite Patriarch of Antioch and all the East.

Commencement Speaker and Honorary Degree Recipient

Ken Hackett, President of Catholic Relief Services (CRS), has focused his entire career on aiding the poor and disenfranchised in the poorest nations throughout the world. As president of CRS, Hackett oversees operations in more than 100 countries, and commands a global staff of nearly 5,000. Committed to human rights and social justice, he is the driving force behind one of the most effective and efficient relief and development agencies in the world.

Under Hackett's leadership, CRS has gone through significant institutional transformations. In 1993, as executive director of the organization, he launched a strategic planning exercise to help clarify the mission and identity of CRS. Shortly thereafter, the world learned of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. The killing of more than 800,000 people over a three-month span led CRS officials to reevaluate how they implemented their relief and development programs, particularly in places with heightened ethnic conflict and socioeconomic inequities that often lead to violence. Using Catholic social teaching as a guide, CRS immediately began to incorporate a justice-centered focus in all of its programming.

During Hackett's tenure, CRS also embarked on a robust effort to help engage the United States Catholic community in the work of the organization. Part of this effort included outreach to Catholic colleges and universities throughout the country. In May 2005, Villanova University and Catholic Relief Services signed a formal memorandum of understanding to collaborate in education, research, advocacy, and service to deepen the respective and shared missions of their institutions to further global justice and peace and build solidarity. Villanova is one of five Catholic higher educational institutions to enter into such an agreement.

Hackett’s interest in the developing world began in 1968 when he served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Ghana. In 1972, he joined CRS as a program officer in Sierra Leone and then held a variety of positions overseas, including Regional Director for Africa, where he guided CRS' response to the Ethiopian famine of 1984-1985, and as Country Representative for the Philippines. Hackett has also held various positions at CRS’ world headquarters, including Director of External Affairs and Executive Director. He was appointed CRS president in 2003.

He has served as North America President of Caritas Internationalis, the confederation of humanitarian agencies of the global Catholic Church. He is currently a member of the boards of the Pontifical Commission Cor Unum, the Vatican body that coordinates the Church’s charitable work; the U.S. Bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services, and International Policy Committee; and the Africa Society. He has also been a member of Legatus, an organization of Catholic business leaders.

In 2004, the U.S. Senate unanimously confirmed Hackett’s nomination to the board of directors of the Millennium Challenge Corporation, a federal effort to increase aid to countries committed to ruling justly, investing in people and encouraging economic freedom.

A native of West Roxbury, Mass., Hackett is a 1968 graduate of Boston College. He lives in Baltimore with his wife and two children.

Honorary Degree Recipients:

Renowned mural artist and Executive Director of Philadelphia’s Mural Arts Program

Jane Golden, a renowned mural artist and Executive Director of the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, will receive the degree of Doctor of Fine Arts, honoris causa. She is a national and international expert on urban transformation through public art. Golden worked for 11 years with the City of Philadelphia Anti-Graffiti Network, redirecting the destructive forces of graffiti writers and rechanneling them to the positive power of art through mural painting. Her mantra, “Art Saves Lives,” and her efforts have brought hope to marginalized communities such as the homeless, incarcerated individuals and adjudicated youth. Golden has directed the creation of more than 2,800 murals in Philadelphia, forging alliances between artists, communities and ex-graffiti writers to enhance the city. She is also an adjunct professor at the University of Pennsylvania.

Golden holds degrees in fine arts and political science from Stanford University, and earned a master’s of fine arts degree from Mason Gross School of Arts at Rutgers University. She began painting murals in 1978 after graduating from Stanford. Her first work was in Santa Monica, a 20-by-100 foot depiction of the once-popular Ocean Pier which was named a historic landmark in 1984. She painted murals for the next six years in West Los Angeles and Santa Monica. In 1982, Golden co-founded the Public Art Foundation in Los Angeles, to train youth on probation to create public art as constructive work.

Later, Golden moved home to Philadelphia and was hired by the city as artistic director of the start-up Anti-Graffiti Network. In 1997, the city recognized the Mural Arts Program as a separate program and Golden founded a non-profit, the Philadelphia Mural Arts Advocates, to raise additional private funds for the organization.

Today, the Mural Arts Program has evolved into an internationally recognized public/private organization, which engages over 100 communities each year in the transformation of neighborhoods through the mural-making process. The murals are now part of Philadelphia’s civic landscape and a source of inspiration to the thousands of residents and visitors who encounter them, earning Philadelphia international recognition as the “City of Murals.”

The Mural Arts Program serves over 3,000 children each year through award-winning, free art education programs at 60 sites across the city. The Mural Arts Program also serves adult offenders in local prisons and rehabilitation centers, using the restorative power of art to break the cycle of crime and violence in our communities.

Golden has received numerous awards for her work, including the Philadelphia Award, an Eisenhower Exchange Fellowship, recognition as a Distinguished Daughter of Pennsylvania by Pa. Governor Edward G. Rendell, and was named one of the 75 Greatest Living Philadelphians by the Philadelphia Daily News.

Humanitarian, Mountaineer and Author

Greg Mortenson, a humanitarian, mountaineer and author of the #1 New York Times bestseller “Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace… One School At a Time,” will receive the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa.

Since a 1993 climb of Pakistan’s treacherous K2, the world’s second highest mountain, Mortenson has dedicated his life to promote education and literacy, especially for girls, in remote, volatile regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan, where he has established over 70 schools. The schools have educated over 64,000 children, including 16,000 girls, in regions where few educational opportunities existed before.

Mortenson is the co-founder and executive director of the non-profit Central Asia Institute (CAI), which promotes education and literacy, especially for girls, in remote regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

He advocates educating girls as one of the major solutions for creating economic development, peace and prosperity in these impoverished societies. “…you can build roads, put in electricity but until the girls are educated, a society won’t change,” he has said. Mortenson is also the founder of Pennies for Peace (P4P). P4P is a program of CAI, which educates American children about the world beyond their experience, emphasizing that it is possible to make a positive impact on a global scale--one penny at a time.

His tireless efforts to champion education for girls in the region, now considered the front lines of the war on terror, are bringing positive change. Mortenson is considered a living hero in these rural communities, where he has gained the trust of Islamic leaders, military commanders and tribal chiefs. But his work often has imperiled his life. In 1996, Mortenson survived an eight-day armed kidnapping by the Taliban in the Northwest Frontier Province tribal area of Pakistan, after 9/11 was detained and questioned by the CIA, and received threats from Americans for his work to help Muslim children. He has further escaped numerous other dangerous plights.

Mortenson grew up on the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, from 1958 to 1973 and scaled this, Africa’s highest mountain, in 1969 at age 11. His father was a founder of Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Center (KCMC) and his mother started the International School Moshi.

He is a 1983 graduate of the University of South Dakota and has pursued graduate studies in neurophysiology at Indiana University. His numerous honors include the 2007 Kiriyama Award for a nonfiction book contributing to Pacific Rim peace and awareness. When he is not overseas, Mortenson lives in Montana, with his wife, Dr. Tara Bishop, and their two children.

Professor of English language and literature, Humanitarian and Activist for peace in Sudan

Dr. Eric Reeves, a professor of English language and literature at Smith College, and a humanitarian who is an expert and activist for the Sudan and the victims of persecution there, will receive the degree of Doctor of Literature, honoris causa. As a concerned citizen, Reeves is dedicated to the cause of peace in Sudan and has educated himself about the unfolding situation and human rights violations there. Armed with the facts, he began publishing extensive information about the victims targeted by the Khartoum regime, people that have been dislocated and murdered by the hundreds of thousands in the past decade. Reporting the complex situation in Sudan in the print and broadcast media, and keeping a chronicle of developments there in the public eye has become Reeves’ consuming passion. His articles have appeared in The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The International Herald Tribune, and many other major American and international newspapers and journals.

In addition to teaching Renaissance literature and literary theory at Smith College for the past 28 years, Reeves has worked as a Sudan researcher and analyst/consultant for the last nine years. His published, detailed accounts on the situation in Darfur have reached worldwide audiences in print as well as on the Internet. He has served as a commentator on Sudan for numerous major radio and news services. Reeves also has testified formally on Sudan in a variety of governmental venues, including Congressional hearings. He further has served as a policy and advocacy advisor to nongovernmental organizations working for humanitarian rights in Sudan. Eventually, his expertise, opinions and advice on Darfur began to shape the policies and thinking of humanitarian aid groups on a global level.

Reeves’ command of the facts and efforts to focus world attention on this humanitarian crisis have made him a powerful voice in raising awareness everywhere. His students and colleagues confirm that while his commitment to reporting the crisis in Sudan have inspired countless students and professionals, his dedication to teaching has remained intense.

Five years ago, Reeves was diagnosed with leukemia, which he has battled privately and prefers not to dwell upon. Despite his health problems, Reeves’ determination to make a difference communicating about Sudan only accelerated. Reeves embarked on a series of speaking engagements at colleges in the northeastern United States as a way of voicing outrage for the rising death toll in Sudan as the conflict escalated. He is presently working on a book-length study of world policy responses to Sudan.

Reeves earned his bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Williams College and received his Ph.D. in Renaissance literature from the University of Pennsylvania.

Musicologist, Historian and Professor

Harrison A. Ridley, Jr., a professor of music history at Temple University for 26 years, will receive the degree of Doctor of Music, honoris causa. A well known musicologist, historian, collector, and communicator in the field, he is one of Philadelphia’s best known jazz specialists, and is often referred to as “a walking encyclopedia of jazz.” Ridley prefers the term, “positive music,” resisting using jazz as a descriptive label.

Ridley has taught the Villanova University Honors Program course, “African-American Music,” for several semesters. He serves as a consultant for the Library of Congress and as an archivist for the Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz and Performing Arts, a key institution in the Philadelphia jazz scene.

Ridley is also the veteran host of the Temple University-sponsored popular radio program, “The Historical Approach to the Positive Music,” which airs Sunday evenings on WRTI (90.1 FM) from 8 p.m. to midnight. Ridley’s show regularly spotlights one period of an artist’s career to give listeners a sense of the musician’s place within the tradition.

As a record collector and archivist, Ridley has amassed a 50-year compilation of more than 8,500 LPs, 3,000 78s, 200 45s, 300 CDs, and 6,000 books on African-American history and music. He specializes in Duke Ellington albums, owning more than 600.

Ridley is the recipient of more than 80 awards, including recognition from Philadelphia’s City Hall and the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, and has been noted in Who’s Who in America. Prior to joining the faculty of Temple University, he worked for 39 years as a teacher and custodian in the Philadelphia School District.

Maronite Patriarch of Antioch and all the East

His Beatitude and Eminence Patriarch Nasrallah Peter Cardinal Sfeir, the Maronite Patriarch of Antioch and all the East, will receive the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa. As Patriarch, he heads Lebanon’s largest Christian community, the Maronite Church, an Eastern Catholic Rite that is in communion with the Holy See.

Cardinal Sfeir was ordained a priest on May 7, 1950, and was appointed curate of the parish of Reyfoun and secretary of the Diocese of Damascus from 1950 to 1956. On June 19, 1961, Cardinal Sfeir was named Patriarchal Vicar General; later that year, he was ordained Bishop. Cardinal Sfeir was subsequently named Councilor of the Commission for the Revision of Canon Law in 1980.

In 1977, he was named representative of the President of the Assembly of Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops in Lebanon for Caritas-Lebanon. He was elected Patriarch on April 19, 1986, and assumed responsibility on April 27 that year. Since then, Cardinal Sfeir has participated in three General Assemblies of the Synod of Bishops between 1986 and 1994. He is also President of the Assembly of Patriarchs and Catholic Bishops in Lebanon and the Middle East.

He was created Cardinal by Pope John Paul II in the Consistory of November 26, 1994. He is a member of the Congregation for Oriental Churches and also the Special Synod for Lebanon.

His many achievements include numerous published works as well as Arabic translations of several documents of Pope John Paul II. He has promulgated the new Maronite Liturgy, and established funds to support retired bishops. He has overseen the construction of several key building projects that have enhanced the Patriarchal See as well as Maronite institutions outside of Lebanon. In addition, Cardinal Sfeir has gone on pastoral visits to 18 countries since 1986 and travels to the Vatican each year.

Cardinal Sfeir was a tireless supporter of freedom and pluralism in Lebanon during that country’s tragic civil war and occupation by foreign powers. By virtue of his religious leadership, he continues to be a symbol of unity in Lebanon and a source of hope for Muslims and Christians alike. His role of peacemaker in this conflict-ridden area has made him a significant figure in the Church and Lebanon’s great bridge builder, insisting on dialogue and peaceful conflict resolution for all of Lebanon’s difficulties.