Past Honorary Degree Recipients & Commencement Speakers

The University confers honorary degrees during each spring commencement. Below is a list of the most recent recipients.

2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 |  2009 | 2008 | 2007  

*Commencement speakers are indicated with an asterisk

2015

Garry Kasparov

A true prodigy, Garry Kasparov was only 22 when he became the youngest person ever to earn the title of undisputed World Chess Champion, a premier post that he would hold for nearly a decade. His impressive career also includes a record 15 consecutive professional tournament victories and being named Russia's Chess Grand Master. While Kasparov's accomplishments in chess are legendary, his commitment to social justice and democracy compelled him to move into politics. In 2005, he retired from competitive chess to join the vanguard of the Russian pro-democracy movement to protest the policies of President Vladimir Putin and continues to seek free elections in his country. He is also chairman of the New York-based Human Rights Foundation.

Anita Lyons Bond

Anita Lyons Bond is one of the first African-Americans to graduate from Saint Louis University following SLU's official integration in 1944. After earning a bachelor's degree with honors in 1950, she pursued a career in teaching. Bond also became a nationally known proponent for equal rights, serving on the President's Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity in the early 1960s. In 1981, a federal judge appointed her to the committee that wrote the desegregation plan for the St. Louis Public Schools. Bond also has been named one of the "100 Most Inspiring St. Louisans" by the local chapter of the NAACP.

Gene Kranz

A 1954 graduate of SLU's Parks College of Engineering, Aviation and Technology, Gene Kranz was NASA's mission control commander when Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon. He also led the team that saved the Apollo 13 astronauts after an explosion crippled their ship in space. His motto, "Failure is not an option," carried him from the earliest days of NASA's space program through the 1993 shuttle mission to repair the Hubble Space Telescope. Kranz also is a veteran, having served in the U.S. Air Force as a fighter pilot during the Korean War. Since his retirement from NASA in 1994, Kranz has been involved with consulting, motivational speaking to youth groups and lecturing on manned spaceflight.

 

2014

Jimmie Edwards, J.D.*

On the bench for more than two decades, Jimmie Edwards is the founder of the Innovative Concept Academy, a school of last resort for young people who have been expelled from the public school system or are under the supervision of the city's juvenile court. Edwards' efforts have earned him significant national acclaim. Among his many honors, he was named one of People magazine's "Heroes of the Year" in 2011. Last year, he became the first Missouri judge to earn the William H. Rehnquist Award for Judicial Excellence, which is one of the most prestigious honors bestowed upon a judge in the United States.

Peggy Ritter

A 1961 graduate of SLU's Doisy College of Health Sciences, Peggy Ritter is one of the St. Louis region's most involved civic leaders. For more than a quarter century, Ritter has co-chaired the Bob Costas Benefit for SSM Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center, an annual event that has raised more than $12 million in the name of health care for children of all backgrounds. Many of the area's other top nonprofits have turned to Ritter for her leadership to make their major fundraising events successful, including the St. Louis Symphony and the Missouri Botanical Garden.

David and Thelma Steward

One of the nation's most successful African-American entrepreneurs, David Steward is the co-founder of World Wide Technology Inc., which is among the largest minority-owned businesses in the United States. Ebony magazine has named him one of the "100 Most Influential Black Americans," while the Small Business Administration has tapped him as a "Top Minority Entrepreneur." Together, the Stewards founded a Bible study program called "Doing Business by the Book," which has drawn governors, senators and other important dignitaries.

Joseph Allen Tetlow, S.J.

An educator, author and spiritual director, Joseph Allen Tetlow, S.J., is considered among the world's leading authorities on Ignatian Spirituality and is the author of several noteworthy books about the subject. He is known for his efforts to make relevant for the modern world the 500-year-old concept of spirituality based on the teachings of Jesuit founder St. Ignatius of Loyola. A respected leader in Catholic higher education, Tetlow also has served as the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Loyola University New Orleans and the president of the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, Calif.

 

2013

John Foppe*

Born with no arms and substantial birth defects - and a supportive family that helped him develop a strong sense of independence - author and motivational speaker John Foppe (A&S '92, Grad '01) is the founder of Visionary Velocity Worldwide, an international corporate motivational company. Foppe is also the author of What's Your Excuse? Making the Most of What You Have. Foppe is currently the executive director of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in St. Louis, which provides assistance to those in need through a variety of programs that includes food service, shelter, counseling and many others.  

Metee Auapinyakul

John Cook School of Business alumnus Metee Auapinyakul is co-founder of Banpu Public Company Limited, one of the most successful energy companies in Asia as well as its director and executive officer. In addition to his leadership at Banpu, he has shared his expertise with companies and government bodies in his native Thailand. He is a board member of the National Accreditation Council for the Ministry of India and has served as a honorary advisor to the Energy Committee of the House of Representatives in Thailand. His commitment to SLU also continues, as he serves as president of the University's Thailand Alumni Club, one of SLU's most active alumni groups in the world.

Chanin Vongkusolkit

John Cook School of Business alumnus Chanin Vongkusolkit is co-founder of Banpu Public Company Limited, one of the most successful energy companies in Asia as well as its chief executive officer, president and director.In addition to his leadership role at Banpu, Vongkusolkit is also director of the Erawan Group Public Company Limited and Mitr Phol Sugar Corp., Ltd. In 2006, he received an honorary doctoral degree in economics from Thailand's Chiang Mai University in recognition of his success in applying economics to a career that brings growth and prosperity to both his company and society.

Joe and Loretta Scott

Through their Scott Family Foundation, Joe and Loretta Scott have supported a number of philanthropic endeavors and nonprofit organizations, including the cardiology center at St. Luke's Hospital. They also have established a wildlife sanctuary in St. Genevieve and donated a building in downtown St. Louis to the United Way, which has become the organization's local headquarters.

One of the latest examples of their generosity is the donation of the former AT&T building in downtown St. Louis to Saint Louis University, home to SLU's School of Law. In 2011, real estate development company Scott Properties ranked 92nd on the St. Louis Business Journal's Top 150 Privately Held Companies list. 

 

2012

James Martin, S.J.*

The official chaplain of Comedy Central's The Colbert Report, and author of two bestselling books, James Martin, S.J., has sought to make to make 500-year-old Ignatian spirituality relevant for modern audiences. Many leading news organizations have sought Martin's perspective, including the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, NPR and PBS. A former corporate executive who joined the priesthood later in life, Martin also serves as the culture editor of America Magazine, writing regular columns about Catholic issues.

His Beatitude Bechara Peter Rai

As the leader of nearly 15 million Maronite Catholics worldwide, His Beatitude Bechara Peter Rai is one of the most significant religious figures in the world. Enthroned the 77th Maronite Patriarch to lead the Eastern Church, Rai has worked tirelessly for peace in the Middle East, reaching out to Muslim, Jewish, Christian and other religious communities in the region. Rai also has a longstanding commitment to Catholic education. He taught at three different Catholic universities before establishing Notre Dame University - Louaize, an independent Catholic university in Zouk Mosbeh, Lebanon.

Paul A. Young, Ph.D.

The chairman emeritus of SLU's Center for Anatomical Science and Education, Paul A. Young, Ph.D., taught at SLU for more than 50 years. A two-time graduate of SLU, Young joined the faculty of the Department of Anatomy in 1957. During his long career, he educated 80 to 90 percent of all living alumni from the School of Medicine. He earned numerous honors from his students. He also was the first recipient of the Excellence in Teaching Award from the Academy of Science of St. Louis, which inducted him as a fellow in 2011.

Doug and Ann Brown

Noted philanthropists, Doug and Ann Brown have devoted themselves to using their successes to help others. A SLU alumnus, Doug Brown was an executive at Enterprise Rent-A-Car. When he retired in 1993, he began a second career as a business consultant, donating the resulting income to charity. Ann Brown is an accomplished artist, whose work has been shown at the Saint Louis University Museum of Art and is held in numerous corporate and private collections. She established the Ann Brown Children's Fund to provide art scholarships for at-risk youth.

 

2011

Anthony R. Tersigni*

As president and CEO of Ascension Health Inc., Anthony R. Tersigni oversees the nation's largest Catholic health care system, and the third largest system overall. The St. Louis-based organization includes more than 113,000 associates, serving in more than 500 locations in 20 states and the District of Columbia. The system Tersigni leads is driven by a mission to provide the highest quality care to all, regardless of income. In 2010, Ascension Health provided $1.08 billion in care to those who are poor.

Brother Mel Meyer, S.M.

Brother Mel Meyer, S.M., is a celebrated and prolific artist who has created more than 10,000 works of art, including a large memorial to Korean War veterans near the Jewel Box in St. Louis' Forest Park. Although not every piece is commissioned for religious institutions, Meyer has said all of his work is religious in nature and credits his religious life as the source of his creative inspiration. Meyer's works sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars or more, and proceeds go to the Marianist order to further its religious mission.

Harlene E. and Marvin S. Wool

Marvin and Harlene Wool are noted philanthropists, whose generosity has enhanced educational, religious and arts institutions in St. Louis and beyond. The Wools also are generous benefactors of Saint Louis University. On May 13, 2011, SLU dedicated the Marvin and Harlene Wool Center, which is home to a number of administrative and support units, to recognize the couple's generosity and longstanding loyalty to the University. Marvin Wool is a trustee emeritus of Saint Louis University.

 

2010

Most. Rev. Pietro Sambi, J.C.D., S.T.D.*

A Vatican diplomat for more than 40 years, the Most. Rev. Pietro Sambi fought for the right of Christians to have access to the Holy Land. In 2002, Sambi helped secure a peaceful end to an armed siege of the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Both Israelis and Palestinians regarded Sambi as a courageous and uncompromising voice for peace. He also fought for the right of Christians to have access to the Holy Land. In 2002, Sambi helped secure a peaceful end to an armed siege of the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem. He is now deceased.

Fr. Valentine Peter

Father Valentine "Val" Peter has been an advocate, educator and friend of young people for more than 40 years. As executive director of Boys Town from 1985-2005, Peter expanded and modernized the 93-year-old organization. Under his leadership, Boys Town opened sites in more than a dozen American cities and launched nationwide programs that continue to help hundreds of thousands of children and families every year. Boys Town's national hotline, launched during Peter's tenure, has assisted more than 8 million teens.

Sister Mary Antona Ebo

Sister Mary Antona Ebo, F.S.M., has a seminal place in civil rights history. She was among the hundreds who traveled to Selma, Ala., to protest the brutal police attack on peaceful marchers on March 7, 1965. Her civil rights efforts continued as a founder and president of the National Black Sisters' Conference. Among her many honors, Ebo received the Living Legend Award from the Voting Rights Institute in Selma, Ala., in 2000. A retired health care administration professional, Ebo was first the African-American religious woman to head a hospital.

 

2009

Greg Mortenson*

Author and humanitarian Greg Mortenson is best known for his work building schools for girls in Afghanistan. He has established more than 80 schools in rural regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan. His efforts have helped educate more than 28,000 children, including 18,000 girls who had few educational opportunities before the facilities opened. 

William H.T. "Bucky" Bush

Through business, service and politics, William H.T. "Bucky" Bush has used his incredible influence to help the St. Louis region grow and prosper. His countless contributions to the community carry on the illustrious legacy of one of the country's leading families. And as chairman of SLU's Board of Trustees from 1985 to 1992, Bush helped bring stability during a period of change and offered guidance during a time of revitalization.

Nancy and Al Siwak

Dedicated and active leaders in the St. Louis community, Nancy and Al Siwak have served organizations including the Jewish Federation of St. Louis and the Missouri Botanical Garden. Nancy served from 1994 to 2006 as a member of the Saint Louis University Board of Trustees. During her term, she played a major role in establishing a continuing professional partnership between Saint Louis University's School of Nursing and Institute for Biosecurity, and the Hadassah Medical System in Israel. The partnership allows the two institutions to share emergency preparedness and disaster treatment techniques. 

 

2008

Joe Buck*

As the FOX Television Network's lead play-by-play announcer for the National Football League and Major League Baseball, Joe Buck has been the tour guide of some of the most unforgettable moments in sports. While Buck continues on the family tradition behind the microphone, he also embraces the Buck family tradition of community service to St. Louis. He is an advocate for education and awareness of lung cancer and the host of the annual Joe Buck Classic, a golf fundraiser that benefits St. Louis Children's Hospital.

Maxine Clark

During her 30-year career, Maxine Clark's ability to spot emerging retail and merchandising trends and her insight into the desires of the American consumer have generated growth for retail leaders. In 1997 in St. Louis, she founded Build-A-Bear Workshop. Clark believes firmly in the fact that "a hug is understood in any language." Clark is also strongly committed to the St. Louis community, with the education and health of young people her top priority. She has taught first graders at Jefferson Elementary School in Normandy, Mo., and has funded vital classroom projects in the St. Louis Public Schools.

Charles and Shirley Drury

As builders of more than 120 hotels across the country, Shirley and Charles Drury have eschewed some of the rewards that often come with business success in order to share their blessings. They regularly tithed, and today, they are board members of The Papal Foundation. They have helped to raise an endowment of more than $110 million that allows the Pope to assist the poor, sick and infirm across the world at his immediate discretion. Charles Drury served on the Saint Louis University Board of Trustees from 1995-2007.

 

2007

Lawrence "Yogi" Berra*

Known best for his one-of-a-kind life observations, Lawrence P. "Yogi" Berra has made the rare crossover from sports star to American cultural icon. Considered one of the greatest catchers in Major League Baseball history, the Hall of Famer was a career .285 hitter, leading the New York Yankees to a record five straight World Series Championships from 1949 to 1953. Berra also is renowned for his generosity and charity. He's been a champion of many youth organizations and has raised more than $1 million through an annual golf tournament in Montclair, N.J., which collects funds for scholarships, educational programming and special-needs scouts.

Benjamin Carson, M.D.

Benjamin Carson is a neurosurgeon and director of pediatric neurosurgery at John Hopkins Hospital. A gifted surgeon, Carson made medical history in 1987 when he separated a pair of conjoined twins who were connected at the back of the head. In 2008, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by then president George W. Bush. He became the youngest physician ever at Johns Hopkins to head a major division and has been named one of the nation's top 20 physicians and scientists by CNN and TIME magazine.

Chang-Soo Huh

As technology and globalization change the business world, Chang-Soo Huh stands at the forefront of the latest economic revolution. Huh, chairman and chief executive officer of GS Holdings Group, has the management philosophy of "creating new value in life and dreaming of better futures with customers." Under his leadership, GS Holdings has quickly grown into one of the biggest companies in Korea. 

Joseph and Rosemary Shaughnessy

Married for more than 50 years, Saint Louis University alumni Joseph and Rosemary Shaughnessy met while they were in school at SLU. Blessed with professional success, the Shaughnessys give back to the community and have served the St. Louis Art Museum, Missouri Historical Society, the Missouri Botanical Garden and other organizations. Guided by a strong Catholic faith, the Shaughnessys are devoted to a number of Catholic organizations and have helped the world's poor and sick as members of the Papal Foundation.

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