News

May 21, 2011

Four Distinguished Leaders Receive Honorary Degrees and Ed Alkire ’58 Awarded Lafayette Medal at 176th Commencement

Four distinguished leaders received honorary degrees and former trustee Elbern H. Alkire Jr. ’58 was awarded the Lafayette Medal for Distinguished Service at the 176th Commencement.

President Daniel H. Weiss conferred the honorary degrees upon Commencement speaker Gwendolyn L. Ifill, managing editor and moderator for Washington Week and senior correspondent for The NewsHour at PBS; Rev. Michael C. McFarland, S.J., president of College of the Holy Cross; Wilbur W. Oaks ’51, retired professor of medicine at Drexel University College of Medicine and founder of Saint John’s Hospice Homeless Soccer Team Program, Body and Soul; and Salvatore J. Panto Jr., mayor of the City of Easton. Edward W. Ahart ’69, chair of the Board of Trustees, presented Alkire with the Lafayette Medal.

The citations are below.

Elbern H. Alkire Jr. ’58

ELBERN H. ALKIRE, JR. On April 16, 1957, your picture appeared on the front page of The Lafayette under a headline announcing your election as president of the Lafayette College Choir, a position of considerable prestige and responsibility.  This afternoon, we sing your praises for assuming responsibilities of a different sort:  the duties you have so superbly fulfilled during your more than five decades as a volunteer.

If an opportunity to serve has the word Lafayette in it, Ed, you never say no.  You have been a member of the Lafayette Board of Trustees and president of the Lafayette Alumni Association.  The Lafayette Leadership Council, the Lafayette Annual Fund, the Lafayette Maroon Club, your Lafayette class, the recruitment of Lafayette students, the development of a long-range plan for the College – these and countless other initiatives have benefited immeasurably from your efforts.  The depth of your devotion is equally evident through your financial support, a record of generosity that has qualified you and Gratia for recognition as sustaining members of the Marquis Society for more than 25 years.

The impact of your service is perhaps best conveyed through the words of those who have worked with you most closely.  At your 50th reunion, your appreciative classmates proudly named you “Mr. Lafayette.”  “Ed, you will always stand out as somebody who was there to make the difference,” noted former president David Ellis.  Over the years you have earned the special gratitude of Lafayette’s Annual Fund staff, for whom “you have been and continue to be a caring and thoughtful mentor,” someone whose diligence, professionalism, and commitment they strive to emulate.

When you celebrated your 50th Reunion, you expressed your gratitude for the ten five-year reunions you had been privileged to celebrate.  Today, in presenting you with the Lafayette Medal for Distinguished Service, it is our turn to thank you for giving your alma mater the very best of yourself day after day and year after year.  Your example inspires us all.

Gwendolyn Ifill

GWENDOLYN L. IFILL, throughout your career you have exemplified the highest standards of thoughtful journalistic practice.

You have a rare and remarkable gift for distilling what is “news” from the bewildering torrent of information that overwhelms our daily lives.  You are equally adept at communicating that news in a balanced and insightful way – and doing so under the pressure of extremely tight deadlines.  Whether you are seated at Washington Week’s round table on a Friday evening moderating an in-depth discussion of health-care legislation or reporting on a Supreme Court ruling from behind your desk at the PBS NewsHour, your goal is always, in your words, “to get to the bottom of things.”

“The best lessons,” you have said, “are not necessarily learned from the people with the most power or the loftiest titles, but sometimes just by keeping your eyes open.”  They are lessons you have mastered well. The keenness and breadth of your vision have secured your reputation among the nation’s most highly regarded journalists.  And the quality of your work serves as a reminder to us all of why serious journalism still matters.

THEREFORE, by the authority granted by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to the Trustees of Lafayette College and by them delegated to me, I award you the degree of DOCTOR OF JOURNALISM, honoris causa, with all the rights, honors, and privileges thereto appertaining, in token whereof I present you with this diploma and direct that you be vested in the hood emblematic of the degree.

Rev. Michael C. McFarland

MICHAEL C. McFARLAND, the remarks you delivered at your inauguration as the 31st president of the College of the Holy Cross left no doubt about the values and goals that would define your presidency:  “Our purpose here, as it always has been,” you said, “is to produce people who believe in something, in something worthwhile, and who believe strongly enough that they will hold to it and live it out, even in the face of distraction, temptation, and opposition.”

Under your visionary leadership, the college developed an even stronger sense of purpose, adding faculty and facilities to create meaningful new opportunities for students to learn and grow and forging impressive new partnerships with the community. You have been equally influential in advancing higher learning in America, in particular through your advocacy of liberal education.  Lafayette and the other members of the Patriot League have benefited, as well, from the clarity and persuasiveness with which you articulate the values that make our league unique.

A person of deep faith and sterling character, you have been a model college president, fulfilling your responsibilities with an endearing blend of intelligence and humor.  A transformative leader yourself, you have watched proudly as Holy Cross graduates become – in the words you spoke near the end of your inaugural address – “a transforming presence in the world.”

THEREFORE, by the authority granted by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to the Trustees of Lafayette College and by them delegated to me, I award you the degree of DOCTOR OF HUMANE LETTERS, honoris causa, with all the rights, honors, and privileges thereto appertaining, in token whereof I present you with this diploma and direct that you be vested in the hood emblematic of the degree.

Wilbur W. Oaks ’51

WILBUR W. OAKS you have served your alma mater and its students faithfully and steadfastly ever since you graduated from Lafayette six decades ago.  Countless alumni – many of whom have followed your example in becoming leaders within the medical profession – revere you as their mentor, inspiration, teacher, and friend.

What sets you apart as an alumnus, as a physician, and as a person is the constancy, the conviction, and – above all – the compassion with which you work to improve the lives of others.  A medical clinic for Philadelphia’s homeless which you supervised and which was staffed primarily by medical-student volunteers was singled out by President George H. W. Bush as one of his 1,000 Daily Points of Light for the Nation; the members of the Saint John’s Hospice Homeless Soccer squad you started several years ago found it a challenge to keep pace with their indefatigable coach.

Whether you are building a sense of accomplishment and team spirit among men with little to cheer about or introducing young medical students to the satisfaction of aiding those in need, you are the ideal exemplar of service to others.  By dispensing encouragement and hope along with expert medical care, you have helped souls as well as bodies to heal.

THEREFORE, by the authority granted by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to the Trustees of Lafayette College and by them delegated to me, I award you the degree of DOCTOR OF PUBLIC SERVICE, honoris causa, with all the rights, honors, and privileges thereto appertaining, in token whereof I present you with this diploma and direct that you be vested in the hood emblematic of the degree.

Salvatore J. Panto Jr.

The local citizens who met on December 27, 1824, to discuss the establishment of a college in Easton were visionaries.  But even they could never have foreseen that the ties between their institution and its founding community would include, nearly two centuries later, a mayor who would make it a priority every August to greet new students even before they attended their first class (and who would give his home phone number to their parents just in case they might need his help).

SALVATORE J. PANTO, JR., your belief in the importance of Lafayette College and its longstanding value to your city truly sets you apart.  Inseparable from the leadership you provide as Easton’s mayor is your passionate and unwavering support of this college.  You have worked tirelessly with us to achieve the ideal balance between the City’s interests and our own, a process that has been enormously beneficial for us both.

Most remarkably, you have never failed to step forward when we have asked for your help.  Whether the request involves participating in a press conference, making a presentation to a class, developing a joint grant proposal, or supporting a new community-based-learning initiative, you always make time for Lafayette.  In these and countless other ways, you have made us a better college.

THEREFORE, by the authority granted by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to the Trustees of Lafayette College and by them delegated to me, I award you the degree of DOCTOR OF PUBLIC SERVICE, honoris causa, with all the rights, honors, and privileges thereto appertaining, in token whereof I present you with this diploma and direct that you be vested in the hood emblematic of the degree.

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