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Merrimack College Commencement Celebration

Commencement Speakers and Honorary Degree Information

  • May 17 Commencement speaker:

    Chris Matthews


    Chris Matthews has been following American politics since the first Eisenhower campaign. As a very young teenager, he became enthralled with the historic rivalry of John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon. It was a time of big downtown rallies and ticker tape parades on Wall Street, when supporters wore boater hats and bright campaign buttons.

    Hardly a decade later he was engaged in American politics professionally. Back home from the Peace Corps in Africa, he was working in the US senate. Then came his tour in the White House as a presidential speechwriter, followed by his front-row seat as top aide to legendary Speaker of the House Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill Jr.

    In the late 1980s, Matthews switched to full-time journalism, serving as Washington bureau chief for the San Francisco Examiner. In this capacity he covered some of the great historic events of the late 20th century, including the fall of the Berlin Wall and the first all-races election in South Africa.

    He began his career on television in 1994 as host of a two-hour nightly program on the NBC-owned America’s Talking network. Three years later, he launched Hardball, now on MSNBC, which was the title of his best-selling handbook on real-life politics published in 1988.  He has been on the air every weekday night since.

    In all the years Matthews has been involved in the country’s public life he’s kept an abiding faith in electoral politics, his quadrennial hope that the American people will make the best judgment on who should lead. He has kept that faith through war and peace, good times and bad, through great leaders and not-so-great. He has never lost his vigorous love of democracy and how it can serve to make this country, through all its challenges, a more perfect union.

    He is the author of six best-selling books. They are, “Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero”; “Hardball: How Politics is Played, Told by One Who Knows the Game”; “Kennedy & Nixon: The Rivalry that Shaped Postwar America”; “Now, Let Me Tell You What I Really Think”; “American: Beyond our Grandest Notions”; and “Life’s a Campaign.”

    His most recent best-selling book, “Tip and The Gipper: When Politics Worked,”is a magnificent personal history of a time when two great political opponents served together for the benefit of the country.

    He is married to Kathleen Matthews, executive vice president of Marriott International.

  • May 15 Commencement speaker:

    Geoffrey Canada


    Geoffrey Canada has a radical new idea: if you really want to change the lives of inner-city kids, change everything all at once —their schools, families, and neighborhoods.

    As the former president and CEO of the revolutionary Harlem Children’s Zone in New York City, Canada has dedicated the past 20 years of his life to helping the most impoverished, at-risk youth beat the odds. Radically ambitious and startlingly simple, Canada’s programs are on the cutting edge of preventing youth violence and fostering community development.

    Canada’s groundbreaking work for a 24-block neighborhood in Harlem has been replicated in communities across the country. Through programs such as the Beacon School, Community Pride Initiative, Harlem Gems, Harlem Peacemakers, and the Promise Academy, a new generation of charter school, he has developed a network of services that reach most of the 6,500 children and their families living in the Harlem Children’s Zone.

    The acclaimed author of “Fist Stick Knife Gun: A Personal History of Violence in America” and “Reaching Up for Manhood,” a moving vision of hope for young boys, Canada is also east coast coordinator for the Black Community Crusade for Children. Most recently, he can be seen in the groundbreaking documentary “Waiting for Superman,” which challenges the current American education system.

    Canada knows inner-city life firsthand. Having grown up in the South Bronx, he went on to earn a master’s degree in education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He has been honored with the prestigious McGraw Prize for education, and his life work is chronicled in New York Times reporter Paul Tough’s book, “Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada’s Quest to Change Harlem and America.”


  • Honorary Degree Recipient:

    Dr. Arthur Fournier ’69


    Dr. Arthur M. Fournier is professor and vice chairman of the Family Medicine & Community Health Department and the associate dean for community health affairs at the University of Miami School of Medicine. He has also served as adjunct professor of family medicine and community health at Dartmouth Medical School since 1997.

    In 1994, Fournier co-founded Project Medishare, a group of physicians and health care professionals committed to rebuilding the medical infrastructure of Haiti.

    Over the past 20 years, Fournier has raised over $40 million for services to South Florida’s underserved communities through Florida’s Area Health Education Center Network. Fournier’s tireless efforts in community health care have been recognized on numerous occasions, particularly for his work involving the Haitian-American community. He has coordinated and led students and faculty teams providing humanitarian health care services in Haiti since 1994. He founded a medical exchange program with the teaching hospital and medical school of Haiti with several schools in the United States.

    In 1997, he was awarded the Lifetime Achievement in Transcultural Medicine Award by the International Institute of Human Understanding.

    Fournier earned a B.A. degree from Merrimack College in 1969 and a medical degree from Tufts University School of Medicine in 1973. After completing his residency, he practiced with the National Health Service Corps in Virginia for two years before joining the University of Miami School of Medicine.

    His professional memberships include the Society of General Internal Medicine, American College of Physicians, Society of Teachers of Family Medicine and the American College of Preventive Medicine.


  • Honorary Degree Recipient:

    Richard Gallant


    Richard Gallant is chairman of Global Technology Finance, a financial surety company he cofounded while employed as a managing director at Credit Suisse First Boston, and is also president of Fibertech Medical, a mid-sized endoscopic repair company. He serves as program director/owner of the Islander Hockey Club, sits on the board of visitors at Fenn School and raises funds for Autism Speaks.  

    Gallant’s career began at Ernst & Young providing financial consulting services to small and medium sized companies and provided strategic divestiture advice to banks undergoing restructuring as a result of the financial crisis of 1988 – 1991.

    Post Ernst & Young, he worked in leveraged finance at JPMorgan Chase and Credit Suisse First Boston working with private equity firms and private and public companies in structuring and financing LBOs, providing M&A advice and executing IPOs and sell side M&A processes to help monetize client investments.

    Gallant earned his B.A. from Colgate University (economics) and a M.S. in accounting and M.B.A. in finance from New York University’s Stern School of Business. 


  • Honorary Degree Recipient:

    Dr. Lane Glenn


    Dr. Lane Glenn became president of Northern Essex Community College (Haverhill and Lawrence, Mass.) on July 1, 2011. Prior to his appointment, Glenn served as Northern Essex’s vice president of academic affairs for five years.

    While president, Glenn’s priorities have included developing a comprehensive urban campus for Northern Essex in downtown Lawrence. Working in partnership with college faculty and staff and community and business leaders, he has expanded the higher educational opportunities available in the city and significantly upgraded the facilities available for teaching and learning. 

    Successes in Lawrence include the opening of the Dr. Ibrahim El-Hefni Allied Health & Technology Center, a state-of-the-art facility in downtown Lawrence preparing local residents for high demand careers in health care; the opening of 420 Common Street, a multi-use facility featuring classrooms— including high level computer labs, a bank, a bookstore, and a café; and partnerships with four-year colleges including Cambridge College and Suffolk University, designed to encourage local residents to continue their education.

    In November 2014, Glenn and other community leaders launched the Lawrence Partnership, a public/private collaboration created to enhance economic development and the quality of life in Lawrence. Glenn serves as chair of the board of the Lawrence Partnership, which has hired an executive director and is actively supporting three economic development projects in the city.

    Glenn is focused on student success and is passionate about finding ways to help students achieve their educational goals, especially students who are underprepared for college. 

    At Northern Essex, he has provided leadership for the college’s involvement in Achieving the Dream, a national effort to help more community college students succeed, with a special focus on students of color and low income students.  Recently, the college has adopted many new initiatives, including enhanced academic advising, new tutoring resources, a college success skills course, and more, designed to increase retention and graduation rates. 

    In addition, he expanded the college’s relationships with local high schools and partnered with local employers, such as Raytheon, to develop programs that deliver the skills most needed in the job market.

    Examples of successes under his leadership include the college’s associate of science degree in lab science which was developed in partnership with ten local employers and an innovative Early College Program at Amesbury High School which has been called a statewide model.  He also spearheaded NECC Riverwalk, which opened in Lawrence in the fall of 2010, bringing together credit programs, adult literacy programs, and noncredit personal enrichment and career programs in one location for the first time, and iHealth@NECC, a new health care opportunity at the college.

    Before he joined the Northern Essex staff he served as dean of academic and student services at Oakland Community College in Auburn Hills, Michigan; and on the faculty at Lansing Community College in Lansing, Michigan. He has a diverse background in education and the performing arts that includes nearly 20 years of teaching and administration, alongside work as an actor and director for the stage, television, and films.

    In addition to his role as chair of the Lawrence Partnership, Glenn is a commissioner with the Essex Heritage Foundation, a member of the board of corporators for the Haverhill-based Pentucket Bank, incoming chair of the Massachusetts Community Colleges President Council, chairman of the Massachusetts’s Board of Higher Education’s Task Force on Statewide Assessment, and the economic development committee chair of the board of the Merrimack Valley Chamber of Commerce.

    Glenn earned a Ph.D. from Michigan State University, an M.A. from Oklahoma State University, and a B.A. from Northeastern State University. He is proud to say he got his start at a community college: Rose State College in Midwest City, Oklahoma.


  • Honorary Degree Recipient:

    Dr. Nancy Sullivan


    Dr. Nancy J. Sullivan ’80 is a chief of the Biodefense Research Section, National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Vaccine Research Center (VCR), in Bethesda, Md.

    Sullivan has been a leading researcher for a cure to the deadly Ebola virus. A vaccine she created began clinical trials in December 2014.

    After graduating Merrimack College, Sullivan attended Harvard University School of Public Health where she earned a Master’s degree in environmental health and her Doctorate studying HIV.  She focused her post-doctoral research at the University of Michigan Medical Center’s Internal Medicines Department on the Ebola virus.

    The Wilmington, Mass., native went to work for the National Institutes of Health in 1999. She was named a tenure-track investigator in 2005 and earned a promotion to Senior Investigator in 2012.