Commencement Speakers and Honorary Degree Recipients

Salem State University today announced the selection of a nationally recognized activist, advocate and reformer, a global reformer and communication strategist and the host of a nationally syndicated radio program on the law as its 2016 commencement speakers. 

Honorary degrees will be conferred on each speaker as well as on three additional recipients.

School of Graduate Studies

4 pm Thursday, May, 19 at the Rockett Arena, Richard B. O’Keefe Complex, 225 Canal Street, Salem

414 anticipated graduates

Commencement speaker: Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Children’s Defense Fund

Marian Wright Edelman has spent her entire professional career as an advocate for children and disadvantaged Americans, in the process earning a reputation as an activist and reformer.

Born in Bennettsville, South Carolina, one of five children of a Baptist minister, she learned from her father early on that Christianity requires service, and took his teachings to heart. As a student at Mississippi’s Spelman College she studied abroad on a Merrill scholarship, and traveled to the Soviet Union under the auspices of a Lisle fellowship. Following her graduation from Yale Law School—and her admission to the Mississippi Bar as its first black woman—her life of service to others began.

After directing the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund office in Jackson, Mississippi, for several years, she moved to Washington, DC in 1968, where she served as counsel to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Poor People’s Campaign. Edelman would go on to found the Washington Research Project, a public interest law firm, serve as director of the Center for Law
and Education at Harvard University and—in 1973—found the Children’s Defense Fund, which she still serves as president.

The Children’s Defense Fund’s Leave No Child Behind ® mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start, and a Moral Start in life, and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities. The fund pays particular attention to the needs of poor children, children of color and those with disabilities.

Edelman’s public service includes past chairmanship of the Spelman College Board of Trustees and election by the alumni as the first female member of the Yale University Corporation. She is additionally a board member of the Robin Hood Foundation and the Association to Benefit Children, among many others.

The author of numerous books, including The Sea is So Wide and My Boat is So Small, Marian Wright Edelman has received over 100 honorary degrees and other awards, including the Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Prize and the Robert F. Kennedy Lifetime Achievement Award for her writings. In 2000, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award.

Honorary degree recipient: Edelman and Michael Evans, Democratic chief counsel, United States Senate Committee on Finance; partner, K&L Gates

Michael W. Evans ’76 has devoted his career in law to issues that affect all Americans. As a practitioner in both private practice and governmental service, he has specialized in the areas of tax and environmental policy, and legislation. His counsel on these and other issues has been instrumental in the passage of a number of bills and legislation that has had a profound effect on our lives as Americans.

Evans grew up on the North Shore and graduated from Salem State College summa cum laude in 1976. A political science major with minors in history and economics, he was the recipient of numerous awards for both academic excellence and his contributions to the college. He received his law degree from Harvard University, graduating magna cum laude in 1979. While
there, he served as a law clerk to the Honorable Samuel E. Zoll, of Salem, Chief Justice of the Massachusetts District Courts, and helped establish a congressional internship program in Washington, DC for Salem State students.

Following several years as a law clerk and, later, an associate at a Washington, DC law firm, Evans joined the staff of Senator Max Baucus (D-MT). He worked in the Senate for 18 years in various roles and was involved in the enactment of the 1986 Tax Reform Act, the 1990 Clean Air Act, a series of major budget bills, and other tax, trade and environmental laws.

In 2003, he returned to private practice as a partner in the Washington, DC, law firm of KL Gates, specializing in tax policy, environmental policy and legislation. He returned to the Senate in 2014, assuming his former position as chief counsel to the finance committee. When Republicans took control of the Senate in 2015, he remained with the committee as Democratic chief
counsel. In this capacity, he advises the committee’s ranking member, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), and its other Democratic members on legal, procedural, strategic, and policy matters within its jurisdiction. This includes tax policy, international trade policy, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Federal social welfare programs, and major portions of the Affordable Care Act.


College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Education

10 am Saturday, May 21 at the Rockett Arena, Richard B. O’Keefe Complex, 225 Canal Street, Salem

783 anticipated graduates

Commencement speaker: Micho Spring, president of Weber Shandwick-New England region and chair of its global corporate practice 

Micho Spring is more a part of Boston than many natives. Throughout her long and storied career in the commonwealth, she has had a profound effect on nearly every sector, from government, business and public policy to communications, media and community service.

She spent her early career in New York, moving to Boston for graduate school in 1973. Once here, she never looked back. She quickly immersed herself in the life of the city, helping to develop policy, shaping the city’s business and civic landscape—and making a name
for herself as an agent of change.

Following four years as chief of staff and deputy mayor during Kevin White’s mayoral tenure, she assumed the reins at Boston Telecommunications Company, serving for six years as its CEO. Her ability to help corporate clients use communications in a way that supported their business strategies, enhanced and protected their reputations, and responded to public policy challenges eventually brought her to public relations firm Weber Shandwick, where she currently chairs its global corporate practice and is president of its
New England region.

As a government, civic and business leader, Micho Spring has helped shape public debate on numerous issues in Boston and beyond. She has managed political and advocacy campaigns and is a frequent independent media commentator. On multiple occasions Boston Magazine has named her one of the “20 Most Powerful Women in Boston,” and in 2013 she was inducted into the Ad Club’s Hall of Fame.

She sits on the executive committee of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, is a founding member of the WBUR Group Executive Council, and holds numerous board memberships.

Born in Cuba, Spring moved to the United States at the age of 10. She attended Georgetown University and holds an undergraduate degree in urban policy from Columbia University. She subsequently earned a master’s degree in public policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

In August 2015, Micho Spring accompanied Secretary of State John Kerry on his historic visit to Cuba, the first by an American statesman in 70 years.

Honorary degree recipient: Spring and James Rudolph Esq., managing partner, Rudolph Friedmann LLP

James L. Rudolph has devoted himself to the practice of law since his admission to the Massachusetts Bar in 1975, and has utilized his legal acumen and expertise not only in his professional life, but in long and active service to the community through membership on numerous boards and his work on behalf of non-profit organizations.

Rudolph is the managing partner of Boston-based Rudolph Friedmann LLP, a full-service legal firm with a wide range of business and individual clients throughout New England. A seasoned business, employment and construction law attorney, he has a particular expertise in real estate, construction law, and business and stockholder disputes. His service as a corporator, trustee and director of several Boston-area banks has given him additional expertise in bank workouts, lender liability claims and matters involving creditor and debtor rights.

Rudolph writes frequently about issues related to the law, and speaks often on a variety of topics to professional organizations. Boston
Magazine has recognized him as a “Massachusetts Super Lawyer” every year since 2004; in 1998, the magazine named him “Best Lawyer in Massachusetts.” Martindale-Hubbell, the national directory of lawyers, has given Rudolph its AV rating, the highest it awards, for over
30 years.

His work in the community and on behalf of nonprofit organizations is extensive, and includes service as chair of the board of overseers
for New England’s Anti-Defamation League, a trustee of Eastern Bank and a board member of the Massachusetts Restaurant Association, the Marblehead Zoning Board of Appeals, and the North Shore Chamber of Commerce. He was recently elected chairman of the board for the Associated Builders and Contractors of Massachusetts for the second time. He is the first attorney in the country to hold the position. A former Swampscott selectman, he currently serves as board vice president at The Governor’s Academy.

A graduate of the University of Denver with a degree in political science, James Rudolph received his juris doctor degree from Boston College Law School. In 1984, he was admitted to the Bar of the United States Supreme Court.


College of Health and Human Services and the Bertolon School of Business 

3 pm Saturday, May 21 at the Rockett Arena, Richard B. O’Keefe Complex, 225 Canal Street

633 anticipated graduates

Commencement speaker: Neil Chayet Esq., host of “Looking at the Law” 

Neil L. Chayet, whose long-running radio program, “Looking at the Law,” is heard across the globe, has spent a long and distinguished career both in the practice of law and as an educator on and interpreter of contemporary legal issues.

The nationally syndicated “Looking at the Law,” which celebrated its 40th anniversary in April, airs twice daily on local station WBZ and NewsRadio 1030, is distributed nationally via the CBS network, and can be heard internationally through Armed Forces Radio. Since the show’s premiere in 1976, Chayet has written over 10,000 one-minute features on issues ranging from the quirky to the controversial; each with the liberal puns and humor that listeners have come to expect.

Chayet’s radio career began when—as a member of the psychiatric task force working the Boston Strangler investigation—he was asked for commentary. The nation’s first community mental health law was a direct outgrowth of those efforts. Today, in addition to his public commentary, he is president of Chayet Communications Group, Inc., where he specializes in building coalitions to address concerns that include mental health, health care reform and energy.

As a faculty member at Tufts University, he teaches an undergraduate course that explores the intersection of law, spirituality and psychology, through which he seeks to help his students understand the causes of—and solutions to—anger and conflict. He is on the faculty of Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, and consults at McLean Hospital as a member of
Harvard Medical School’s psychiatry faculty.

Chayet is a sought-after speaker and the author of four books and numerous articles on various aspects of law, medicine and politics. His community engagement includes service on a number of boards and visiting committees, including Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service and the Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum, respectively. He currently serves on the Massport Security Advisory Council. Neil Chayet is a graduate of Tufts University and Harvard Law School; he serves on the board of the latter’s alumni association and co-chairs its senior advisory network.

Honorary degree recipient: Chayet and Leonard Campanello, chief of police in Gloucester and innovator of substance abuse help programs

Leonard Campanello has spent his career in law enforcement, all of it in service to community police departments. He has worked in nearly every department, from patrol officer and narcotics detective through command positions that include lieutenant, supervisor of detectives and divisional commanding officer. He assumed his current job as police chief for the city of Gloucester in 2012. Prior to taking the reins in Gloucester, he served the Saugus Police Department in various capacities, including assistant chief, for 23 years.

Campanello believes in the continued schooling of fellow officers and in educating the public. For the former, he conducts frequent training seminars on collaborative policing, narcotics investigations and the search for missing and exploited children. As a public educator he lectures on those and other topics at regional colleges and universities, to clinicians and social workers, and to parent groups.

The burgeoning opioid crisis currently sweeping the country—and Campanello’s novel approach to the problem—have gained him national attention and a forum through which to explore new ideas to combat the growing emergency. His Angel Initiative, begun in Gloucester in 2015 and now replicated across the country, promises recovery assistance instead of arrest for addicts who turn in their drug equipment and ask for help. His Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative, founded last year with the help of local philanthropists, provides police departments in search of solutions to the drug epidemic with small grants and consultations.

Campanello has served on numerous professional and community boards, this year as president of the Essex County Chiefs of Police Association. In 2015, he received an honorable mention in Boston Magazine’s annual “Bostonian of the Year” accolades. In April of this year, President Barack Obama commended him as one of 10 national “Champions of Change” in White House ceremonies.

Leonard Campanello earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Northeastern University, and a master’s degree in criminal justice administration from Boston University.