U.S. Senate Chaplain Barry Black to present commencement address, receive honorary degree
Dr. Barry Black, the first African American to serve as chaplain of the United States Senate, will return to his alma mater to address the graduating class and be awarded an honorary doctorate when Salve Regina University celebrates its 66th commencement on Sunday, May 15.
Also receiving an honorary degree during the commencement ceremony will be Her Excellency Claudia Fritsche, ambassador of Liechtenstein to the U.S.; and a posthumous degree will be awarded to philanthropist, businessman and longtime university trustee, Thomas A. Rodgers III.
Elected in 2003 as the first African American Senate chaplain, Black had previously served for 27 years in the U.S. Navy, retiring as a rear admiral and as chief of Navy chaplains. He received a master’s degree in human development from Salve Regina in 1989.
In addition to opening the Senate each day in prayer, Black provides counseling and spiritual care for senators, their families and staff – a combined constituency of more than 7,000 people. He also meets with senators about spiritual and moral issues, assists with research on theological and biblical questions, and facilitates discussion and reflection. The office of the chaplain is nonpartisan, nonpolitical, and nonsectarian.
“I see my role as the chaplain to be a confidential counselor, spiritual advisor, scripture teacher, intercessor and friend to the senators, their spouses and the Senate staff as they seek to discover and live God’s wonderful plan,” he says.
Black, who is the 62nd chaplain of the U.S. Senate, also conducts marriage enrichment counseling and officiates at weddings, funerals and memorial services. He initiates and participates in special and seasonal observances, leads interdenominational prayer gatherings, and cultivates relationships with local clergy and leaders of humanitarian agencies.
The Baltimore native was commissioned as a Navy chaplain in 1976, serving at duty stations across the country, including Newport, where he taught the Naval Chaplains School Advanced Course. Other stations included Norfolk, Va.; Philadelphia; Annapolis, Md.; Okinawa, Japan; San Diego; Long Beach, Calif.; Beaufort, S.C.; and Pensacola, Fla.
As rear admiral, Black’s personal decorations included the Defense Meritorious Service Medal (twice), Legion of Merit Medal, Meritorious Service Medals (twice), the Navy Distinguished Service Medal, the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals (twice) and numerous unit awards, campaign and service medals.
Black is an alumnus of Oakwood College, Andrews University, North Carolina Central University, Palmer Theological Seminary and Alliant International University. He holds master’s degrees in divinity, counseling and management, a doctoral degree in ministry and a Ph.D. in psychology.
Black has been selected for many outstanding achievements. Of particular note, he was chosen from 127 nominees for the 1995 NAACP Renowned Service Award for his contributions to equal opportunity and civil rights. He also received the 2002 Benjamin Elijah Mays Distinguished Leadership Award from The Morehouse School of Religion. In 2004, the Old Dominion University chapter of the NAACP conferred on him the Image Award – Reaffirming the Dream, Realizing the Vision – for military excellence.
Black is married to the former Brenda Pearsall of St. Petersburg, Fla. They have three sons: Barry II, Brendan and Bradford.
Ambassador Claudia Fritsche
Fritsche assumed her duties as the Ambassador of Liechtenstein to the U.S. in 2002, following 12 years of service representing the principality as Ambassador to the United Nations. She has served as vice president and member of the General Committee of the U.N. General Assembly, and as President of the International Association of Permanent Representatives to the U.N.
Fritsche joined Liechtenstein’s Office for Foreign Affairs in 1978 and served in a variety of diplomatic functions, among those representing parliamentary delegations to the Council of Europe and to the European Free Trade Association, as well as within the Liechtenstein Embassies in Berne and Vienna and the Permanent Representation to the Council of Europe in Strasbourg.
She served on the European Committee on Equality between Women and Men (CEEG) from April 1987 until August 1990, while also chairing the Liechtenstein National Committee on Equality between Women and Men.
Last fall, she was instrumental in organizing the three-day Washington, D.C. travel agenda for 11 Salve Regina sophomore fellows of the university’s Nuala Pell Leadership Program, who met with United States and international government officials, participated in meetings and engaged in team-building exercises as part of their leadership training. Fritsche met with the students and hosted a reception for them at the Embassy of Liechtenstein.
Thomas Rodgers III
As trustee of the Rodgers Family Foundation, Thomas A. Rodgers III (1945-2015) made significant gifts to university projects, including the Antone Academic Center, Our Lady of Mercy Chapel’s La Farge windows and the Doctor of Nursing Practice program. He was a generous supporter of the Governor’s Ball scholarship fundraiser and the university’s annual golf tournament.
His relationship with Salve Regina was built through his late father, Thomas A. Rodgers, Jr., a longtime board member, honorary degree recipient and generous supporter. The Rodgers Recreation Center is named in honor of Thomas A. Rodgers, Jr. and in recognition of his extraordinary support for the project. Thomas A. Rodgers III joined the university’s board of trustees after the death of his father in 2006, and he served on the academic/student affairs, audit and properties committees.
Rodgers III retired as president of Globe Manufacturing Company in Fall River, Mass., which was founded by his father. Under his direction, Globe became the third largest supplier worldwide of Spandex and elastic fibers.
He believed strongly in education and donated generously to organizations in Fall River, such as Bristol Community College, the YMCA, and the Boys and Girls Club. He also also helped establish the Tashirat Foundation in Tepoztln, Mexico, which provides a home for abused children.
He served on the boards of The United Way, Bristol Community College Foundation, Presidents Council of Charlton Memorial Hospital and the Tiverton Industrial Commission. He was a member of the Acoaxet Club, Carnegie Abbey Club, Spindle Rock Club and Wannamoisett Country Club.