U.S. Senator Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.) will give this year’s commencement address and receive an honorary degree from the University. Senator Toomey will address the Class of 2013 and their families in the University’s 170th commencement held at 10 a.m in Villanova Stadium on Sunday, May 19.
The process of selecting a commencement speaker begins in the summer. A message is sent out to current University faculty, staff, students and alumni asking for suggestions for both commencement speaker and for recipients of honorary degrees.
Once requests are submitted, a committee of about 15 people meets to consider the recommendations.
“[The committee] gives me a list of honorary degree recipients and commencement speakers in rank order, and it is my job to get one of them to say yes,” said University President Rev. Peter M. Donohue.
A member of the Board of Trustees has a personal friendship with Toomey, which facilitated a connection to the senator. Political figures can be particularly difficult to pin down for commencement speeches.
“Anyone in Washington won’t commit until several weeks before because they don’t know what’s going to happen,” Donohue said.
Nevertheless, Toomey promptly agreed, and commencement events and Senior Week are set to begin in about two weeks.
Toomey was elected to the United States Senate in 2011 and is known as a proponent of limited government and fiscal responsibility.
His stance on gun control has earned him a great deal of national press in recent weeks. He has also gained attention for his opinions on economic, financial services, budget and job growth issues.
“I don’t really know what he’s going to talk about,” Donohue said, “but his speech might have been very different if this policy went through about gun control.”
Toomey earned his bachelors degree from Harvard University. Before he was elected to the Senate, Toomey served three terms as the U.S. Representative for Pennsylvania’s 15th congressional district from 1994 to 2004.
From 2005-2009, he was president of the Club for Growth, a nonprofit organization that, according to its website, belives “that prosperity and opportunity come through economic freedom. We work to promote public policies that promote economic growth primarily through legislative involvement, issue advocacy, research, training and educational activity.”
“[Toomey] had a real desire and great respect for Villanova,” Donohue said. “He likes the place and was very interested in doing something here.”
Senator Toomey is characterized as friendly and down to earth.
“He’s an individual who will address the importance of people working together and their commitment to each other,” Donohue said. “I am very grateful that he said yes, and I’m looking forward to showing him the best that Villanova has to offer, and that is our students.”
In addition to Toomey, four other people will receive honorary degrees from the University. The four additional recipients of honorary degrees are John L. Carr, Ronald M. Delany and Elizabeth and Jay Scott.
John L. Carr will receive the honorary degree of doctor of social science.
He is currently the director of the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life at Georgetown University as well as vice chairman of Bread for the World.
Additionally, he is the Washington correspondent for “America,” a national Catholic weekly magazine.
Ronald M. Delany was a graduate from the VSB in 1958. His athletic talents made him not just one of the University’s most accomplished athletes but one of Ireland’s as well. Delany will receive the honorary degree of doctor of humane letters. During his time at the University, Delany earned numerous NCAA and IC4A titles for his running.
Today, he is the president of Ireland’s chapter of the Villanova University Alumni Association. The chapter supports the University’s Irish Studies program as well as track & field.
The final two recipients of honorary degrees are Elizabeth and Jay Scott. They will both receive the honorary degree of doctor of humanities.
The Scotts are co-executive directors of Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, which was founded in 2000 by their then four-year-old daughter Alexandra Scott. While she suffered from cancer, Alex ran a lemonade stand to raise money to help doctors find new treatments. Unfortunately, Alex lost her battle to cancer in 2004, but the Scotts continue her mission. The foundation has raised over $60 million and has funded over 275 research projects.
All honorary degree recipients will be honored at this year’s commencement ceremonies along with Senator Toomey. In addition to the University’s general commencement, the School of Law will have its own commencement ceremony.
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett will be delivering the School of Law’s commencement address on May 17.
Tom Corbett became Pennsylvania’s 46th governor in January of 2011. He has also served as assistant U.S. Attorney, U.S. Attorney, chair of the Pennsylvania Commission of Crime and Delinquency and Pennsylvania Attorney General.
Honorary degree recipients from the School of Law are Martin G. McGuinn and Patrick J. O’Connor. Both McGuinn and O’Connor both graduated from the School of Law in 1967.
Commencement weekend follows the traditional Senior Week.
Activities begin with the Army/Navy commissioning followed by a cocktail party on Friday. Each school within the University has individual recognition ceremonies and all undergraduate members of the graduating class will receive their degrees on Sunday after Toomey’s address.