Salem State University announces 2012 commencement speakers and honorary degree recipients

Margo W. R. Steiner

March 2, 2012, Salem, Mass.—
Salem State University today announced the selection of an advocate, mentor and community activist for high risk youth; the speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives; and the country’s foremost compensation czar as its 2012 commencement speakers.

Molly Baldwin, founder and executive director of Roca Inc., will address students, their families, faculty, and guests at the university’s School of Graduate Studies commencement ceremonies on Thursday, May 17, 2012, at 4 pm.  Ms. Baldwin founded Roca in 1988 with the help of a passionate group of young people and adults— and a grant from the Teen Challenge Fund of Massachusetts—to address teen pregnancy prevention and violence in Chelsea. Since then, the organization has helped over 25,000 young people make positive, profound changes in their lives, created a nationally acclaimed model of transformational relationships as a vehicle for youth development and pioneered effective local, regional and national relationships with government, state, religious, health, and community partners in Chelsea, Revere, East Boston and Springfield.

Under Baldwin’s leadership, Roca Inc. has been touted as a national best practice model in youth transitional employment by governments, advocates and services providers. In 2010, she was named a ‘Woman of Excellence’ by Germaine Lawrence, a Boston-area treatment facility for girls ages 12-18 with complex behavioral, psychological and learning challenges. Ms. Baldwin is also a recipient of the Boston Ten Point Coalition Award, the Fraternidad Guatemalteca de Massachusetts Recognition Award, the Instituto de Salud Latina Award, and the American Medical Association National Congress on Adolescent Health Award for Excellence in Intervention.

Salem State alumnus and business entrepreneur Dennis Drinkwater ’67, founder and president of Giant Glass, will receive an honorary degree at the ceremony. Drinkwater was named a distinguished alumnus of the university in 2002, and has been chosen “man of the year” by two charities in which he is actively involved, the Eastern Massachusetts Association for Retarded Children and the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

The Honorable Robert DeLeo, currently serving his second term as Massachusetts House speaker, will address bachelor’s degree recipients from the College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Education at ceremonies to be held Saturday, May 19, at 10 am. A graduate of Northeastern University and Suffolk University Law School, DeLeo served his hometown of Winthrop for many years as a town meeting member and chair of its board of selectman while also representing the larger Nineteenth Suffolk District as state representative. Prior to his election as Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives in January 2009, Robert DeLeo chaired that body’s Ways and Means Committee.

Known as a consensus builder, Speaker DeLeo has won accolades for his success with municipal health reform and other initiatives. In accepting the speakership, he vowed to target House rules, ethics, transportation, and pension reform—and passed sweeping reforms in each of those areas within the first 100 days of his tenure. A friend of all levels of education, he was instrumental in the House’s passing of the most comprehensive education reform since 1993, reform that has been accompanied by strict anti-bullying legislation.

Salem resident Patricia Zaido, executive director of the Salem Partnership and former director of the Center for Creative and Performing Arts at Salem State University, will be presented an honorary degree at the morning undergraduate commencement.

Graduates of the College of Health and Human Services and the Bertolon School of Business will receive their degrees at 3 pm exercises on Saturday, May 19. Addressing those at the afternoon ceremonies will be Kenneth Feinberg, who currently serves the U.S. Treasury Department as special master for the Executive Compensation Troubled Asset Relief (TARP ) program, where he is charged with overseeing the compensation of top executives at companies that have received federal bailout assistance.

A Brockton native, Feinberg earned a history degree from the University of Massachusetts, followed by a law degree from NYU. He served as Massachusetts senator Edward M. Kennedy’s chief of staff in the latter half of the ’70s, and went on to become a skilled practitioner in the areas of mediation and alternative dispute resolution. It was those skills that brought him national prominence as the special master of the federal September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, which distributed nearly $7 billion to over 5,000 victims and their families following the tragic events of September 11, 2001, and as administrator of the Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund, set up for the benefit of victims' families in the wake of the 2007 Virginia Tech mass shooting.

Reverend Arthur T. Gerald Jr, pastor of Boston’s 12th Street Baptist Church and retired associate dean, student life at Salem State University, will be presented an honorary degree at the Saturday afternoon undergraduate commencement.

Salem State University’s three commencement ceremonies are ticketed events and are not open to the general public.

Salem State University, established in 1854, is a comprehensive, public institution of higher learning located approximately 15 miles north of Boston, Massachusetts. The university enrolls over 10,000 undergraduate and graduate students representing 44 states and 61 nations, and is one of the largest state universities in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.