Special Olympics Chairman Timothy P. Shriver, Ph.D., to Serve as 2017 Commencement Speaker

Jersey City, N.J. – April 24, 2017 – Saint Peter’s University today announced that Timothy P. Shriver, chairman of Special Olympics, will address the Class of 2017 at the 126th commencement exercises for the University on May 22. Dr. Shriver will also receive an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters, honoris causa. In addition, the University will bestow an honorary degree upon Rev. Robert Kennedy, S.J., professor emeritus at Saint Peter’s University and Zen Master.

Shriver is a social leader, educator, activist, film producer and business entrepreneur. As the chairman of Special Olympics he serves 4.4 million Special Olympics athletes and their families in 170 countries. He has helped transform Special Olympics into a movement that focuses on acceptance, inclusion and respect for individuals with intellectual disabilities in all corners of the globe. Since joining Special Olympics in 1996, Shriver has led the organization’s most ambitious growth agenda leading to the recruitment of millions of new athletes around the world.

Shriver has worked with world leaders such as Nelson Mandela, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Bertie Ahern, Rafiq Hariri, Thabo Mbeki, Julius Nyerere and Shimon Peres to advance the growth of the Special Olympics mission and vision while challenging nations to adopt more supportive and just policies. As part of his passion for promoting the gifts of the forgotten, Shriver has harnessed the power of Hollywood to share the stories of inspiration and change, co-producing DreamWorks Studios’ 1997 release, “Amistad,” and Disney Studios’ 2000 release, “The Loretta Claiborne Story.” He is executive producer of “The Ringer,” a Farrelly Brothers’ film, and “Front of the Class,” a Hallmark Hall of Fame television movie.

“Shriver’s ideals and vision completely align with the mission we follow as a Jesuit institution and we look forward to hearing his words of wisdom at this year’s commencement exercises,” said Eugene J. Cornacchia, Ph.D., president of Saint Peter’s University. “The receipt of Shriver’s honorary degree will also mark a legacy at Saint Peter’s as the University has bestowed honorary degrees upon two of his esteemed family members: his father, Hon. R. Sargent Shriver H ’67, and his uncle, Hon. Edward M. Kennedy H ’67.”

The second honorary degree recipient, Fr. Kennedy, is the only American Jesuit priest who is a Zen Master. As such he well embodies the priority given to interreligious work by every Pope since the Second Vatican Council. Fr. Kennedy directs a Zen practice center in Jersey City that he calls Morning Star, a name that has deep resonance in both Buddhist and Catholic traditions. He previously served as the chairperson of the theology department at Saint Peter’s, where he also taught theology and Japanese for 40 years. Fr. Kennedy is a practicing psychoanalyst, author, noted speaker and conducts Zen retreats both nationally and internationally.

The commencement ceremony for Saint Peter’s University will be held at the PNC Bank Arts Center at 11:00 a.m. on Monday, May 22.

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Saint Peter’s University, inspired by its Jesuit, Catholic identity, commitment to individual attention and grounding in the liberal arts, educates a diverse community of learners in undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and professional programs to excel intellectually, lead ethically, serve compassionately and promote justice in our ever-changing urban and global environment.


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Angeline Boyer
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