Northeastern’s 2022 Commencement to award trailblazers with honorary degrees

Courtesy photos.

This is part of our coverage of Northeastern’s 2022 Commencement exercises. For more information, including a livestream, photos, and live coverage throughout the day, visit our dedicated Commencement page.

Northeastern University will recognize transformative leaders with honorary degrees at Northeastern’s 2022 Commencement exercises at Fenway Park on May 13.

President Joseph E. Aoun will confer honorary doctorates upon the group of trailblazing individuals, who dedicated their careers to making a difference as entrepreneurs, business, higher education and civic leaders.

The honorees are Sandra L. Fenwick, former CEO of Boston Children’s Hospital; Donna Shalala, a former Congresswoman and U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services as well as the president of three universities; the Rev. Willie Bodrick, senior pastor of the Twelfth Baptist Church in Roxbury, Massachusetts; and Freeman A. Hrabowski, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

Sandra L. Fenwick
Doctor of Global Health

For more than 20 years in leadership roles at Boston Children’s Hospital, the nation’s foremost pediatric hospital and research organization, Fenwick worked tirelessly to advance the health and well-being of children in local communities, raising the standard of care worldwide. As chief executive officer in the final eight years of her tenure, she helped to transform clinical care, medical education, and biomedical research, enabling innovation by a team of 20,000 people. Fenwick retired in March 2021.

Fenwick deftly navigated the changing U.S. health-care landscape in ways that delivered high quality, innovative care while securing the hospital’s financial stability. Joining Boston Children’s in 1999 as senior vice president for business development strategy, she was promoted to chief operating officer that same year, then was named president in 2008 and chief executive officer in 2013. As CEO, she laid a track record of delivering care for children and their families of the highest value, consistently earning Boston Children’s the number one ranking among pediatric hospitals in U.S. News and World Report.

As CEO, Fenwick led the hospital’s work in developing breakthrough therapies and new approaches to the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of both childhood and adult diseases. The hospital’s regional network expanded to bring routine care closer to where patients live, while also partnering with more than 60 community-based organizations to promote racial and health equity.

Earlier senior roles from 1976 to 1998 at another Harvard Medical School affiliate, Beth Israel Hospital, honed Fenwick’s skills in operations, strategy, and business development. Ultimately, she became senior vice president of system development for Beth Israel’s parent, CareGroup.

Today, Fenwick continues to vigorously champion investment in children’s health and futures. She is a member of the board of directors of the Children’s Hospital Association and chairs its Public Policy Committee. She serves on the boards of directors of CRICO, Livongo Health, Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, Jobs for Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Digital Health Council, and Boston Children’s Hospital. She is also a member of the Massachusetts Women’s Forum and Women Corporate Directors/Boston. In 2019, she was honored by the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce as a Distinguished Bostonian.

Donna Shalala
Doctor of Humane Letters and Public Service

Shalala has dedicated her life to ensuring that all people in the United States have an equal shot at pursuing the American Dream. As the leader of three distinguished universities, and as Secretary of Health and Human Services under President Bill Clinton, she has advocated tirelessly for better schools, Civil Rights, women’s rights, expanded access to health care, and a sustainable environment, working at the intersection of education, research, and social policy innovation.

The longest-serving Health and Human Services secretary in U.S. history—and the first Lebanese-American woman to serve in the role—Shalala spent eight years strengthening the nation’s health and research initiatives. She launched the Children’s Healthcare Insurance Program, which now covers more than 7.6 million children. She doubled the budget of the National Institutes of Health, expanded AIDS research, and secured the highest immunization rates in American history.

To the realm of higher education, Shalala brought dynamic, decisive leadership. Appointed as president of Hunter College in 1980, she oversaw a dramatic increase in the percentage of female and minority faculty and administrators. Named chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1988, she stepped up recruitment of underrepresented minority students and faculty. As president of the University of Miami from 2001 to 2015, she raised billions of dollars for programs and scholarships while solidifying that institution’s position among top U.S. research universities.

In 2008, President George W. Bush awarded Shalala the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honor, for her “leadership and determination to ensure that all Americans can enjoy lives of hope, promise, and dignity.” That same year, the Council on Excellence in Government named her one of the greatest public servants of the past 25 years.

Rev. Willie Bodrick II
Doctor of Community Service

The Rev. Bodrick is the senior pastor of Boston’s historic Twelfth Baptist Church, a practicing attorney, and an outspoken advocate for social and economic justice who leads with dynamic preaching, insightful teaching, and gospel-driven engagement in the community and throughout the country.

Appointed senior pastor in 2021, Bodrick has successfully led the 182-year-old church through the profound challenges of the pandemic. He spearheaded a campaign that enabled the church to raise $250,000 for community aid while expanding his influence on issues such as affordable housing, improving public education and policing, and expanding health-care access.

Growing up in Atlanta, Bodrick was immersed in the history of the Civil Rights Movement and the achievements of its leaders; principally Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose life and work continue to inspire him.

Bodrick first came to Boston in 2011 as a Harvard Divinity School student. While still a student, he began working on city and state election campaigns. The intellect, energy, and commitment he displayed during those experiences as well as in his courses at Harvard earned Bodrick the support and mentorship of key leaders in the community.

Bodrick would go on to serve the church in a broad range of roles, including youth and young adult minister, young adult and college minister, and eventually as associate pastor. He also attended and graduated from Northeastern University School of Law, earning his JD in 2020, and served as a senior advisor to U.S. Sen. Edward Markey’s 2020 re-election campaign.

Among his many current community engagement positions, Bodrick serves on the Boston Bar Association’s Task Force on Police Accountability, the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Racial Justice and Equity Council, and the Board of Advisors of the Roxbury YMCA. He is also a member of the Boston Branch of the NAACP and the Massachusetts Black Lawyers Association.

Freeman Hrabowski III
Doctor of Humane Letters

Hrabowski, who is retiring as the president of the University of Maryland Baltimore County after three decades of high-achieving service, is among the nation’s foremost leaders in higher education, and a champion for expanding opportunities in STEM fields to Black and brown students across the country.

In recognition of his leadership acumen, Hrabowski has garnered numerous accolades. TIME named him one of America’s 10 Best College Presidents in 2009, and one of the “100 Most Influential People in the World” in 2012. In 2011, he received both the TIAA-CREF Theodore M. Hesburgh Award for Leadership Excellence and the Carnegie Corporation of New York’s Academic Leadership Award, two of the nation’s premiere awards for higher education leadership. More recently, the American Council on Education presented Hrabowski its Lifetime Achievement Award.

Hrabowski’s academic research and publications have focused on science and math education, with special emphasis on minority participation and performance. He was selected to chair the National Academies’ committee that produced the acclaimed 2011 report, “Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America’s Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads,” and was subsequently appointed by President Barack Obama to chair the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for African Americans.

Amin J. Khoury, founder of the multi-billion-dollar company BE Aerospace, with the Presidential Medallion, the university’s highest honor. Courtesy photo.

His commitment to these initiatives was grounded in personal experience. In his formative years growing up in Alabama, Hrabowski was attracted to the Civil Rights movement. At age 12, he joined in the 1963 Children’s Crusade march for civil rights and was swept up in a mass arrest directed by the infamous Birmingham public safety commissioner Theophilus “Bull” Connor.

Hrabowski joined UMBC in 1987, serving as vice provost and executive vice president before being named president of the university in 1992. Early in his tenure with the university, he teamed up with philanthropist Robert Meyerhoff to create the Meyerhoff Scholars Program to advance minority achievement in STEM fields.

Northeastern announced recently that Hamdi Ulukaya, CEO of Chobani, will deliver the university’s undergraduate Commencement speech. Leila Fadel, a journalist and program host at NPR will deliver the graduate Commencement address. As part of the ceremony, President Aoun will bestow Amin J. Khoury, founder of the multi-billion-dollar company BE Aerospace, with the Presidential Medallion, the university’s highest honor. Khoury is the name behind the Khoury College of Computer Sciences at Northeastern, and a university trustee.

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