Commencement Speaker

Commencement Speaker

Susan Eisenhower

Susan Eisenhower

Eisenhower is a prolific author and well-known for her work as a policy analyst focusing on national security and strategic issues. Her most recent book, "How Ike Led: The Principles Behind Eisenhower's Biggest Decisions," has received critical acclaim nationally and internationally, highlighting the qualities of successful leadership demonstrated by her grandfather, President Dwight D. Eisenhower. "How Ike Led" examines the visionary strategy and principled decision-making of a leader who faced momentous decisions. Dedicating the book to the "rising generations across the country," the author emphasizes the importance of leadership in today's global landscape, a theme that resonates with Salve's mercy-educated future leaders.

Eisenhower's work has appeared in newspapers such as The Washington Post, The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, as well as in the National Academy of Sciences' Issues in Science and Technology and the Naval Institute's Proceedings. She has provided analysis for a range of media outlets and programs, including CNN, MSNBC, FOX News and the BBC. She has also appeared on programs such as "PBS Newshour" with Jim Lehrer, "Hardball" with Chris Mathews, "Nightline" with Ted Koppel and more. In addition, Eisenhower has been interviewed for several documentaries, with D-Day being the focus of her most recent projects.

In 1986, Eisenhower founded The Eisenhower Group, Inc., a Washington, D.C., based consulting company that provides strategic counsel on business development, public affairs, and communications projects. She is chairman emeritus at the Eisenhower Institute and currently holds a year-long seminar on strategy for competitively selected students through the Eisenhower Institute at Gettysburg College. She has been a fellow at Harvard University's Institute of Politics as well as a distinguished fellow at the Nixon Center, now called the Center for the National Interest.

Eisenhower serves on a number of charitable and corporate advisory boards. She has served as a member of three blue ribbon commissions for the Department of Energy and is currently a member of MIT's Energy Initiative Advisory Board and former co-chairman of NEAC, the Secretary of Energy's Nuclear Energy Advisory Board. In 1998, she was appointed to the National Academy of Sciences Standing Committee on International Security and Arms Control, where she served for eight years. After serving on the NASA Advisory Council, she became a member of the International Space Station Management and Cost Evaluation Task Force.

Honorary Degree Recipients

James Brett

James T. Brett

Brett was appointed president and CEO of The New England Council, the nation's oldest regional business association, in 1996. Under his leadership, The New England Council has become the region's premier business advocacy and networking association; revenues have grown significantly, membership has increased significantly and the organization has expanded its programming to offer an extraordinary number of events annually throughout New England and in Washington, D.C. The council is widely respected by business leaders and policymakers alike for its non-partisan, consensus-based approach to policy advocacy. In recent years, Brett has led the council's federal advocacy on a wide range of critical economic issues, including energy, financial services, health care, education and workforce development, technology, transportation, trade and more.

Prior to joining the council, Brett served for 15 years as a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives. As a state representative, his legislative priorities included providing tax relief for key Massachusetts industries, creating high-wage jobs, developing and retaining a skilled workforce and fostering an overall business climate that supports economic growth and prosperity for all residents.

Brett has also been a lifelong champion for people with disabilities. He has served as the chair of the President's Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities (PCPID) since May 2022 and previously served on PCPID under President George W. Bush and as chair under President Barack Obama. In 2016, Congress appointed him to the National Council on Disability, where he served as vice chair. He is chair of the Governor's Commission on Intellectual Disability and the Massachusetts Disabled Persons Protection Commission. In 2013, the University of Massachusetts Boston established the James T. Brett Chair in Disability and Workforce Development, the nation's only endowed chair in disability and workforce development.

Christine Kavanagh

Christine Kavanagh, RSM

Sister Christine Kavanagh currently serves as president of the corporation for ReFocus, Inc., a Providence, Rhode Island, nonprofit human service agency comprised of 12 group homes, 50 supportive living sites, 46 shared living sites and three community centers. Kavanagh joined ReFocus in 1972 and for more than five decades has tirelessly worked as an advocate for individuals with differing abilities. As a longstanding executive director, she has been referred to as "the backbone, heart and soul" of the organization.

Under her tenure, the ReFocus community has grown considerably but remains committed to the core principles set by the agency's founders.

"Families and caregivers of adults with developmental disabilities know the power of love," Kavanagh said in a message shared on the ReFocus website, "It creates an environment where loved ones with disabilities feel safe and freer to be who they are: unique individuals who, like all of us, thrive on love.

"When ReFocus opened its first group home in 1972 during the 'era of de-institutionalization,' our founders believed that this family-like environment best served the needs of folks who were suddenly being integrated into the broader community. Love them. Build a trusting environment. Challenge them to do their best. Those were the three simple 'house rules.' I started working as a student volunteer at the agency that year, and I'm proud to say that as a multimillion-dollar agency with 230 employees and a wide array of programs and services, love, trust and challenge is still the core philosophy that guides ReFocus today."

Kavanagh also represents the Sisters of Mercy as a member of Salve Regina's board of trustees. Joining the board in 2006, she has served as chair of the mission committee as well as on the student affairs and finance committees, ensuring that the enduring vision of the University's founders is carried forward through the institution's mercy-inspired educational experience.

Gloria Purvis

Gloria Purvis

Purvis is an author, Catholic commentator, host and activist who has spoken and written extensively on social justice issues. She is the executive producer of the Gloria Purvis Podcast, which centers on the opinions, stories and experiences of individuals who have been marginalized in the Catholic Church and in society. Providing space for conversations that focus on faith, race and creating inclusive communities, her podcast is described as "fostering a culture of charitable dialogue around the most complex and contentious issues in the Catholic Church today."

Earlier in her career, Purvis worked in the mortgage industry for more than a decade before moving to risk management at a major financial services company. She ultimately left her successful career in finance and since then has become a prominent voice in the Catholic community, serving as a consultant for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Religious Liberty.

In 2022, Purvis was one of five representatives from America media who had the opportunity to interview Pope Francis at his residence at Santa Marta at the Vatican. They discussed a range of topics including polarization in the U.S. church and racism. She has also appeared in various media outlets including The New York Times, The Washington Post, "PBS Newshour," NPR, FOX News, Newsweek and Catholic Answers Live.

Purvis is the inaugural pastoral fellow at the McGrath Institute for Church Life at the University of Notre Dame and holds honorary doctorates in humane letters from the University of Portland in Oregon and Saint Martin's University in Washington State.