Fairfield University's honorary degree recipients to be recognized at 61st commencement ceremony



Fairfield University announced today that President Jeffrey P. von Arx, S.J., will present honorary degrees to the following distinguished individuals: Russell L. Goings, successful entrepreneur and poet; Rev. John W. O'Malley, S.J., renowned historian and professor; and Joseph D. Sargent '59, former President and CEO of Guardian Life at the university's 61st commencement on Sunday, May 22, 2011 at 9:30 a.m.

The university expects to award 920 undergraduate degrees and 320 graduate degrees during the commencement exercises at Bellarmine Hall lawn.

It was also announced that the Honorable Maryanne Trump Barry will be the undergraduate speaker and Rear Admiral Brian P. Monahan will deliver the commencement speech for the graduate student ceremony.

Image: Russell GoingsRussell L. Goings is the co-founder of Essence Magazine and chairman of the Studio Museum in Harlem. He will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree. A former pro-linebacker for the Buffalo Bills, Goings left the world of professional sports for a career on Wall Street. Once there, Goings started First Harlem Securities, the first full-service African American brokerage firm to own a seat on the New York Stock Exchange.

Suffering from dyslexia as a child, Goings faced several challenges as a young man. That challenge, combined with the obstacles he faced on the football field and the struggle of being a black man on Wall Street, served as a spark for his creative ideas about people who persevere.

In 1959, Goings received his bachelor's degree from Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio. Nearly 35 years later, he decided to go back to school and enrolled at Fairfield University, where he studied writing and found his poetic passion. Kim Bridgford, a Fairfield University English professor was asked to critique Goings' work, and said, "I knew almost immediately that this was a fabulous piece. You could see the grandeur and get a sense of the story that he was telling." Goings is also the critically acclaimed author of "The Children of Children Keep Coming," an epic poem chronicling the black experience in America.

Image: John O'MalleyRev. John W. O'Malley, S.J., is a university professor in the Department of Theology at Georgetown University. A native of Ohio, he specializes in the religious culture of early modern Europe and the early Roman Catholic Church. The author of more than ninety articles and four books, and editor of six additional volumes, O'Malley will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree.

When recently asked why it is important for Jesuits to engage in research, writing, and scholarship, O'Malley said, "Books influence people, and if they are important books, they can influence a whole culture. I believe in the power of ideas, which is what scholars deal with. Through the results of their scholarship, scholars help us to see things differently, help us break out of our narrowness, help us ask questions that break the logjam of our predicaments. Even aside from the universities, I maintain, it's essential that some priests be capable of holding their own with the intelligentsia if the Church's message is to maintain credibility. I think that's what the Society of Jesus is particularly called to do."

O'Malley received his doctorate from Harvard University and over the years held visiting professorships at Harvard University, the University of Michigan, Boston College, Fordham University, and Oxford University; and was given many other honors, including a fellowship in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a Guggenheim Fellowship, membership in the American Philosophical Society, and the past presidencies of both the Catholic Historical Society and the Renaissance Society of America.

Image: Joseph SargentJoseph D. Sargent '59 is the former President, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board of The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America. Sargent joined Guardian Life in 1959 immediately following his graduation from Fairfield University. He will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the school.

Sargent retired after a 43-year career with the company serving as President and CEO since 1996. Prior to his appointment as President and CEO, he held the offices of senior vice president, health insurance; senior vice president, individual life insurance; and executive vice president. In addition, Sargent is an active member and past chairman and director of many national and state insurance industry councils, including the Life Insurance Council of New York, and is a much sought-after guest lecturer and well-regarded writer in the field.

Sargent, a Fairfield resident, is a member of the Dolan School of Business Advisory Council, and former board of trustees member at Fairfield University. He also serves as treasurer and a member of the board of directors for United Way of New York City.

In 1998, Sargent received the Ellis Island Medal of Honor as authorized by the U.S. Congress. He is also the recipient of Fairfield University's Alumni Professional Achievement Award.

For more information on commencement weekend contact the Office of Academic Affairs at (203) 254-4288 ext. 2778.

Learn more about Fairfield University's commencement speakers

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Media Contact: Mark Gregorio, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, mgregorio1@fairfield.edu

Posted on April 13, 2011

Vol. 43, No. 276