Speaker and Honorary Degree Information

Honorary Degree Recipient and Commencement Speaker

Jill Biden

Jill T. Biden, EdD, '91 MA
Doctor of Humanities

Jill T. Biden, EdD, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, is a mother and grandmother, a lifelong educator, a proud Blue Star mom and an active member of her community. As second lady, Dr. Biden works to bring attention to the sacrifices made by military families, to highlight the importance of community colleges to America’s future, and to raise awareness around areas of particular importance to women, including breast cancer prevention, all while continuing to teach English full time at a community college in Virginia.

Dr. Biden has always said that community colleges are “one of America’s best-kept secrets.” As a teacher, she sees how community colleges have changed the lives of so many of her students for the better. As second lady, she works to underscore the critical role of community colleges in creating the best, most educated workforce in the world. In 2012 she traveled across the country as part of the “Community College to Career” tour to highlight successful industry partnerships between community colleges and employers. In the fall of 2010, she hosted the first-ever White House Summit on Community Colleges with President Obama. She continues to work on this outreach on behalf of the administration, frequently meeting around the country with students, teachers and industry representatives.

As a military mom, Dr. Biden understands firsthand how difficult it can be to have a loved one deployed overseas. In Delaware, she was active with a nonprofit organization called Delaware Boots on the Ground, which helps families during times of military deployment by organizing community events to raise awareness and support. As second lady, Dr. Biden has dedicated herself to shining a light on military families’ strength and courage, as well as the challenges that they face. She travels regularly to military bases in both the United States and abroad to visit with service members and their families.

Dr. Biden’s children’s book, Don’t Forget, God Bless Our Troops, was released in June 2012. Inspired by real-life events, the book tells the story of a military family’s experience with deployment through the eyes of Dr. Biden’s granddaughter Natalie during the year her father is deployed to Iraq. The book also includes resources about what readers can do to support military service members and their families.

Through their Joining Forces initiative, first lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Biden have issued a national challenge to all Americans to take action and find ways to support and engage military families in their own communities. Joining Forces aims to educate, challenge and spark action from all sectors of societycitizens, communities, businesses, nonprofits, faith-based institutions, philanthropic organizations and governmentto ensure military families have the support they deserve. At JoiningForces.gov, Americans can find many ways to take action.

In 1993, after four of her friends were diagnosed with breast cancer, Dr. Biden started the Biden Breast Health Initiative in Delaware, which in the past 18 years has educated more than 10,000 high school girls about the importance of early detection of breast cancer. Dr. Biden and the vice president also have served as the honorary co-chairs for the Global Race for the Cure in Washington, D.C. Dr. Biden continues to stress the importance of breast cancer research and early detection.

Dr. Biden has been an educator for more than three decades. Prior to moving to Washington, D.C., she taught English at a community college in Delaware, at a public high school and at a psychiatric hospital for adolescents. While working and raising a family, she earned two master’s degrees, including one in English from Villanova. In January 2007, Dr. Biden received a doctorate in Education from the University of Delaware. Her dissertation focused on maximizing student retention in community colleges. 

Jill and Joe have three children: Ashley, a social worker; Beau, the attorney general of the state of Delaware and a major in the Delaware Army National Guard; and Hunter, a lawyer. They have a son-in-law, Howard, and two daughters-in-law, Hallie and Kathleen. They also are the proud grandparents of Naomi, Finnegan, Maisy, Natalie and Hunter. The oldest of five sisters, Dr. Biden was raised in Willow Grove, Pa., by Bonny and Donald Jacobs, both of whom are deceased.

Honorary Degree Recipients

Harry Dietzler

Harry A. Dietzler
Doctor of Humanities

A native of Upper Darby Township, Pa., Harry A. Dietzler graduated from Temple University in 1979 with a bachelor’s degree in Music Education. He earned 20 credits in the Master of Arts Administration program at Drexel University.

It was while he was a Temple student that Dietzler realized his dream of founding a summer theatre program for young people. With the cooperation of Upper Darby School District and the township, he launched Upper Darby Summer Stage in 1976. Today it is one of the most successful youth theatre programs in the country. This summer more than 700 young people will create six children’s theatre musicals and a Broadway show in nine weeks.

Summer Stage alumni have gone on to rewarding careers in theatre and the arts. Among them: Emmy Award-winning actress and writer Tina Fey; Terrence J. Nolen and Amy Murphy, two of the co-founders of Arden Theatre Co.; actress Monica Horan (Everybody Loves Raymond); and Mark Cronin, the creator or VH1’s Flavor of Love.

Building on the success of Summer Stage, Dietzler petitioned the Upper Darby School Board and Township Council to create the Upper Darby Performing Arts Center, for which he serves as artistic executive director. The Performing Arts Center supports school and community performances, and has featured professional ensembles such as the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Irish Tenors and the Golden Dragon Acrobats. It also presents professional children’s theatre, music and dance to students in the school district and throughout Delaware County.

From 1998 to 2009, Dietzler served as the founding executive director of the Upper Darby Arts and Education Foundation Inc. He grew the foundation into a reliable source of funding for the educational programs of the Upper Darby School District, the Performing Arts Center, Summer Stage and other student programs. In 2009 it passed the $1,000,000 mark in funds awarded.

In 2005, with support from the Cappies International and The Philadelphia Inquirer, Dietzler founded the Greater Philadelphia Cappies. The program involves more than 250 high school critics who submit reviews of local high school shows to newspapers and vote for annual awards for performers and technicians.

An accomplished pianist and composer, Dietzler also has directed and produced more than 250 school musicals, plays and concerts. He and his wife, Dottie, who met at Summer Stage, have been married for 33 years. They have five children and four grandchildren. Dietzler has received numerous awards and distinctions, including the Barrymore Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in Theatre from the Philadelphia Theatre Alliance, and induction into the Monsignor Bonner Hall of Fame, which recognizes distinguished alumni of the high school. 

Fr. Prevost

The Rev. Robert F. Prevost, OSA, JCD, '77 CLAS, '85 MA
Doctor of Humanities

Born Sept. 14, 1955, The Rev. Robert F. Prevost, OSA, JCD grew up in Chicago. What would become his lifelong association with the Augustinians began when he attended St. Augustine High School Seminary, in Holland, Mich.In 1973, he entered the pre-novitiate formation program at Villanova University and, four years later, the Augustinian novitiate. He professed solemn vows in the Order of St. Augustine in 1981 and was ordained a priest the following year.

Having earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics at Villanova in 1977 and a Master of Divinity at Catholic Theological Union, in Chicago, in 1981, Father Prevost went to Rome to study Canon Law at St. Thomas University. He received a Doctor of Canon Law in 1985.

From Italy Father Prevost headed to South America to be chancellor of the diocese of Chulucanas, Peru, a country in which the Midwest Augustinians have been serving since 1963. He returned to the United States in 1986 and became director of Adult Vocations for the Midwest Province (the Province of Our Mother of Good Counsel), as well as temporary director of the Province Mission Office.

In 1988 Father Prevost returned to Peru, this time staying for more than a decade. Stationed in the Archdiocese of Trujillo, he filled various posts simultaneously. He served as director of Formation at Convento Sto. Tomás de Villanueva, and as director of Studies at the archdiocesan Seminary of San Carlos and San Marcelo, where he also taught; was acting pastor of two parishes; and carried out the duties of judicial vicar for the archdiocese.

Father Prevost began a new phase of his journey in 1999, when he was elected prior provincial of the Province of Our Mother of Good Counsel. Returning to Illinois, he oversaw the ministries of Augustinians in the Midwest, Canada and Peru. Only two years later, however, Father Prevost again was called to a new assignment. He was elected to a six-year term as prior general, the worldwide leader of the Augustinian Order. He was elected to a second term (the maximum allowed) in 2007.

During his twelve years as prior general, Father Prevost was headquartered in Rome. He also traveled the globe, visiting Augustinian missions and apostolates. At the opening of the order’s 2013 General Chapter in Rome Aug. 28—the meeting at which the next prior general would be elected—Father Prevost had the honor of concelebrating Mass with Pope Francis.

Now back in Chicago, Father Prevost is director of Formation at St. Augustine Friary, the location of the theologate for the Augustinian provinces in the United States and Canada. He dedicates himself to assisting men who are pursuing their studies and discerning vocations to the Augustinian Order. 

University Commencement Ceremony Video

Visit this link to view an archived webcast of the 2014 University Commencement Ceremony. Having trouble playing the video stream? Please confirm that your computer/mobile device meets the viewing requirements.

In addition, the video of the University Commencement Ceremony and each College Recognition Ceremony are available for viewing on the University's YouTube channel and available for download via ITunesU.

Future Commencement Weekend Dates

Year 2015: May 15—16
Year 2016: May 13—14
Year 2017: May 19—20