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Villanova Alumnus and Basketball Hall of Famer George Raveling to Deliver University’s 2016 Commencement Address, May 13

Honorary degrees to be awarded to George Raveling ’60 VSB; Sister Tesa Fitzgerald, CSJ, Founder of “Hour Children;” and Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace 

Villanova Alumnus and Basketball Hall of Famer George Raveling to Deliver University’s 2016 Commencement Address, May 13

VILLANOVA, Pa. – The Rev. Peter M. Donohue, OSA, PhD, Villanova University President, announced that George Raveling, Director of International Basketball for Nike, a Villanova alumnus and a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, will address the Class of 2016 as the University’s commencement speaker. Raveling, a 1960 graduate of Villanova University with a Bachelor of Science in Economics, will also receive the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa. The University’s 173rd commencement will be held Friday, May 13, at 4 p.m., in The Pavilion.

Honorary degrees will also be awarded to Sister Tesa Fitzgerald, CSJ, an educator and humanitarian; and Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Coast, Ghana.


George Raveling ’60 VSB, Director of International Basketball for Nike, and a native of Washington, D.C., had an illustrious college basketball coaching career, starting as an assistant coach at Villanova. After serving as an assistant coach at the University of Maryland, Raveling went on to head coaching positions at Washington State, University of Iowa and the University of Southern California (USC).

Raveling received an athletic scholarship to attend Villanova University, where he led the Wildcats in rebounding from 1958-60. He went on to become the first African-American coach in the ACC and PAC-8 (now the PAC-12), and served as an assistant coach for the U.S. Olympic teams in 1984 and 1988. As a head coach at Washington State, Raveling led his teams to two NCAA Tournaments and placed six players on NBA rosters, with many others playing professionally overseas. During his tenure as head coach at the University of Iowa, Raveling had back-to-back 20 win seasons and a pair of NCAA Tournament berths. He took USC to two NCAA appearances during his tenure as head coach.

Raveling is not only known for making history by breaking down racial barriers as a coach, but also became part of history when in 1963 he received the original copy of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, during the March on Washington while serving in a security role for Dr. King.

Following his tenure at USC, Raveling served briefly as a color commentator for FOX Sports and CBS. He then joined Nike as its Director of Grass Roots Basketball. Raveling was promoted to Director of Global Basketball before taking on his current role as Director of International Basketball for Nike. At Nike, Raveling oversees and manages global basketball relationships, events and strategies, including encouraging more participation at the youth level in countries unfamiliar with the sport.

Raveling has received numerous honors throughout his career. During his coaching career in college basketball, he was named Kodak National Coach of the Year, Basketball Weekly Coach of the Year, Black Coaches Association Coach of the Year, and the CBS/Chevrolet National Coach of the Year. He has been inducted into numerous halls of fame, including the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2015, and the College Basketball Hall of Fame in 2013—when he was honored with the John W. Bunn Lifetime Achievement Award. Raveling has also been inducted into the halls of fame at Washington State, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Villanova University and the Black Coaches Association. He has published two books, War on the Boards and A Rebounder’s Workshop and is a renowned speaker and a former member of the National Speakers Association.


Sister Tesa Fitzgerald, CSJ, an educator and humanitarian, will receive the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa. An advocate for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women and their children, the Long Island, New York native founded Hour Children, a non-profit organization based in Queens, N.Y. that helps these women and children successfully rejoin their communities, reunite with their families and build healthy, independent lives. Hour Children’s goal is to end the cycle of intergenerational incarceration by providing compassionate and comprehensive support services in prison and in the community. These services include prison visitation, supportive housing, job training and placement, mentoring, mental health support and child care.  

Sr. Fitzgerald’s service to incarcerated mothers and their children began in 1985 when she became a foster parent to eight children of women in prison. She converted St. Rita’s Convent in Long Island City into a home for children whose mothers were in prison, and 10 years later founded Hour Children. Today, the organization oversees three apartment buildings, three thrift stores, a day care center, an after-school program, a job training program, a group home, a food pantry, a mentoring program and four communal homes. The effectiveness of Sr. Fitzgerald and Hour Children’s efforts are reflected in the program’s three percent recidivism rate, far lower than New York State’s overall recidivism rate of 39 percent.

Prior to founding Hour Children, Sr. Fitzgerald was responsible for New York State curriculum oversight for Catholic elementary schools for the Diocese of Brooklyn, and was both a school principal and teacher at various Catholic elementary schools. She also worked for the Providence House, visiting prisons and interviewing women in need of housing upon release.

Sr. Fitzgerald received a Bachelor’s degree in Education from Brentwood College and a Master’s in Education from Queens College. She has been named a CNN Hero (2012), a White House Champion of Change (2013), the 2014 winner of the Opus Prize, and in 2015 was awarded the Cross Pro-Ecclesia et Pontifice, or “Cross of Honor,” a medal awarded for distinguished service to the Catholic Church.

Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Coast, Ghana, received the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, at a February event at the University. Born in Nsuta-Wassaw, Ghana, Cardinal Turkson, is known for his faithful service to the Catholic Church, his extraordinary commitment to and work for interfaith dialogue and his consistent work for the poor and the preservation of all creation. A champion of environmentalism and sustainability, Cardinal Turkson provided the draft of Laudato Si, On Care for Our Common Home, to Pope Francis prior to the eagerly anticipated declaration of the Pontiff’s encyclical on the environment and human ecology in May 2015.  

Cardinal Turkson was ordained to the priesthood in 1975. He has held a variety of roles since his ordination, including acting chaplain and lecturer at the University of Cape Coast; visiting lecturer at the Catholic Major Seminary, and chancellor of the Catholic University College of Ghana. In 1992, Cardinal Turkson was appointed Archbishop of Cape Coast and received episcopal ordination in March 1993. Ten years later, Pope John Paul II named him to the Sacred Council of Cardinals. In September 2013, he was confirmed by Pope Francis as President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

Cardinal Turkson held the position of president of the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference, was a member of the Governing Council of the University of Ghana in Legon and sits on the Board of Directors of Central Region Development Commission. He was treasurer of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar. Cardinal Turkson also served as president of the Association of Episcopal Conferences of Anglophone West Africa, an office he currently holds as vice president, and is the former chairman of the Ghana Chapter of the Conference of Religions for Peace and Ghana National Peace Council.

During his time as an Archbishop and Cardinal, Cardinal Turkson has received numerous awards, including honorary degrees from the University of Ghana in Legon, the University of Education in Winneba, Holy Cross College at Notre Dame and Duquesne University. He is also the recipient of the Order of the Star, a national honor of the Republic of Ghana.

In addition to earning a license in Sacred Scripture from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome, Cardinal Turkson holds Master’s degrees in Theology and Divinity from St. Anthony-on-Hudson, Conv. Franciscan Seminary in New York. Cardinal Turkson speaks six languages – Fante, English, French, Italian, German and Hebrew.

*For photos of the Commencement honorees, please contact the Villanova University Media Relations Office.