VILLANOVA, Pa. – The Rev. Peter M. Donohue, OSA, PhD, Villanova University President, announced that Bert Jacobs, Co-Founder and CEO (Chief Executive Optimist) of Life is Good Company, will address the Class of 2019 as the University’s commencement speaker. Jacobs, a 1987 graduate of Villanova University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication, will also receive the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa. The University’s 176th commencement will be held Friday, May 17 at 4:30 p.m., in Villanova Stadium. In the event of severe weather, the ceremony will be held in the Finneran Pavilion.
An honorary degree will also be awarded to Sister Cora Marie Billings, RSM, a 1967 Villanova graduate and member of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, known as a passionate advocate for social justice, service and equality.
COMMENCEMENT SPEAKER AND HONORARY DEGREE RECIPIENT
Bert Jacobs,’87 CLAS, is the co-founder and CEO (Chief Executive Optimist) of Life Is Good, a lifestyle brand which spreads the power of optimism through inspiring art, a passionate community, and groundbreaking nonprofit work.
Bert and his brother John launched their business in 1994 with $78 in their pockets, selling t-shirts in the streets of Boston and at college dorms up and down the East Coast. Today, Life is Good is a $100 million positive lifestyle brand sold by more than 2,000 retailers across the US and Canada.
Early on, Bert and John were inspired by stories of people, mainly children, facing great adversity. These stories illustrated that optimism is most powerful in the darkest of times and inspired the creation of a fully integrated business model dedicated to helping kids in need. Life is Good donates at least 10 percent of its annual net profits to the Life is Good Kids Foundation to positively impact more than one million children every year facing poverty, violence, and illness.
Bert focuses his energy on guiding overall vision and creating the art and message for the brand across categories. To inspire others to choose optimism and grow the good in their lives, Bert and John wrote Life is Good: The Book/ How to Live with Purpose and Enjoy the Ride, published by National Geographic in September 2015.
Bert earned his Bachelor of Arts in Communication degree from the Villanova University College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and has been awarded honorary doctorates from several universities for entrepreneurship, business innovation and philanthropy. He and Life is Good have been featured on CNNMoney, CNBC’s Business Nation, ABC News’ Nightline, NBC’s The Today Show, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Inc. Magazine, and Men’s Health Magazine, among others.
This year marks Life is Good’s 25th Anniversary. To celebrate, Bert and his brother, John are igniting a movement that focuses on all that is good. For every #SomethingGood shared on any social media platform between now and September, Life is Good will donate $1 to help kids in need with a goal of inspiring 1 million people to focus on the good and donating $1 million.
HONORARY DEGREE RECIPIENT
Sister Cora Marie Billings, RSM, ’67 CLAS, a member of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, is a passionate advocate for social justice, service and equality. During her more than 60 years of religious service, Sister Cora Marie has served as a Church administrator and an educator at the elementary, high school and college level. In her ministry, she has worked tirelessly to facilitate conversations across racial and religious lines and break down perceived boundaries.
As an African-American Catholic and as a woman religious, she has often experienced being either “the first” or “the only” in many situations. Born and raised in Philadelphia, Sister Cora Marie became the first African-American woman to enter a religious community in Philadelphia when she joined the Sisters of Mercy in Philadelphia in 1956. She was also the first African-American sister to work as a campus minister at Virginia State University, before becoming the first African-American sister in the country to serve as a pastoral coordinator, leading the St. Elizabeth Catholic Church in Richmond, Va., for 14 years.
Sister Cora Marie went on to serve as the director of the Office for Black Catholics in the Diocese of Richmond for 25 years and later worked as the deputy director of Human Rights Council for the Commonwealth of Virginia. Since leaving her job with the state in 2010, Sister Cora Marie has continued holding workshops and leading discussions on racism for congregations and students throughout the region and across the country.
Sister Cora Marie earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Villanova University in 1967 and has been awarded honorary degrees from Gwynedd Mercy University and St. Joseph’s University.
About Villanova University: Since 1842, Villanova University’s Augustinian Catholic intellectual tradition has been the cornerstone of an academic community in which students learn to think critically, act compassionately and succeed while serving others. There are more than 10,000 undergraduate, graduate and law students in the University's six colleges—the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Villanova School of Business, the College of Engineering, the M. Louise Fitzpatrick College of Nursing, the College of Professional Studies and the Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law. Ranked among the nation’s top universities, Villanova supports its students’ intellectual growth and prepares them to become ethical leaders who create positive change everywhere life takes them. For more, visit www.villanova.edu.