Salem State University Announces 2017 Commencement Speakers

SALEM, MA – Salem State University today announced the lineup of speakers for its three 2017 Commencement ceremonies. Speakers include Governor Charlie Baker, Former U.S. Ambassador Nicholas Burns, and Dr. Antonia Novello, the first female and first Hispanic Surgeon General of the United States.

Governor Charlie Baker, the 72nd and current Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, will address graduates of Salem State’s College of Health and Human Services and Bertolon School of Business on Saturday, May 20 at 10 am. Governor Baker has been ranked as one of the most popular governors in the country based on approval ratings. He has taken a bipartisan approach to governing, having appointed Cabinet members from both major parties as he works across the aisle on issues facing the state. Among many areas of focus, Governor Baker has been an advocate for economic development, health care and education, and he has been dedicated to addressing the opioid crisis, which has been felt heavily on the North Shore and beyond. Governor Baker received an honorary degree from Salem State in 2008.

On Thursday, May 18, at 4 pm, Ambassador Nicholas Burns will address at Salem State’s School of Graduate Studies Commencement. Ambassador Burns is an accomplished statesman having spent 27 years serving the U.S. Government. He is currently the Roy and Barbara Goodman Family Professor of the Practice of Diplomacy and International Relations at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, as well as director at the Aspen Strategy Group and senior counselor at the Cohen Group.  Ambassador Burns has served as Ambassador to Greece, Ambassador to NATO, and State Department Spokesman, and he was a member of former Secretary of State John Kerry’s Foreign Affairs Policy Board at the U.S. Department of State. He worked for five years on the National Security Council at the White House where he was Senior Director for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia Affairs and Special Assistant to President Clinton and Director for Soviet Affairs in the Administration of President George H.W. Bush. He will also be awarded an honorary degree at the May 18 ceremony.

On Saturday, May 20 at 3 pm, Antonia Novello, MD, MPH, DrPH will address Salem State University’s College of Arts and Sciences and School of Education. As the first woman and first Hispanic U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Novello focused on the health of young people, women, and minorities, speaking out on issues such as under-age drinking, smoking, drug abuse, AIDS (especially among women and adolescents), childhood immunization and injury prevention, and improved health care for Hispanics and other minorities, and leading a campaign against tobacco industry advertising aimed at children. Dr. Novello was appointed New York State Health Commissioner in 1999 and was responsible for disaster management following the September 11, 2001 attacks. Prior to becoming Surgeon General, Dr. Novello served for 20 years at the National Institutes of Health. She will also be awarded an honorary degree at this ceremony.

“It’s an honor to have these exemplary leaders addressing our 2017 graduates,” said Patricia Maguire Meservey, president of Salem State University. “I’m certain that their contributions to these ceremonies will be exceptionally meaningful and inspiring. These speakers are current and former public servants whose accomplishments, character and commitment we hope our students will aspire to emulate.”

In addition to featuring graduation speakers, Salem State University will also award honorary degrees at each of its commencement ceremonies.

At the Saturday, May 20 10 am College of Health and Human Services and Bertolon School of Business Commencement, an honorary degree will be awarded to Francis Delmonico, MD, FACS. Dr. Delmonico is an international leader on the ethics of organ donation, working to combat the sale and forced donation of organs, and helping exploited patients. He is professor of surgery for Harvard Medical School at Massachusetts General Hospital, where he is emeritus director of renal transplantation. Dr. Delmonico is medical director of the New England Organ Bank and an advisor to the World Health Organization on matters of organ donation and transplantation. He has served terms as president of both the United Network for Organ Sharing and The Transplantation Society. In 2016, Dr. Delmonico was appointed by Pope Francis to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.

At the Thursday, May 18 School of Graduate Studies Commencement, an honorary degree will be awarded to community activist Frieda Garcia and to Massachusetts State Representative and Assistant Majority Leader Byron Rushing.

Ms. Garcia is known for her 50 years as a community leader and activist. She is a founding member of La Alianza Hispana, a non-profit that provides educational, health, and workforce training services to Latinos in the Boston community and was among the first of its kind in Boston when it launched in 1971. 

For 20 years, she served as executive director of Boston’s United South End Settlements, an agency popularly known as the Harriet Tubman House. Among many organizations in which Ms. Garcia has been a leader, she was a board member, chair and is now emerita of The Boston Foundation; founder, the first Chairperson and a Board member of the Committee for Boston Public Housing; and long-time chairperson of the Friends of the Harriet Tubman Park on Columbus Avenue in the South End. Ms. Garcia is the namesake of the Frieda Garcia Park at the corner of Clarendon and Stanhope Streets in Boston. 

State Representative and Assistant Majority Leader Rushing is a community activist first elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1982, representing the Ninth Suffolk district. He was an original sponsor of the gay rights bill and the chief sponsor of the law to end discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in public schools; he was one of the leaders in the constitutional convention to maintain same sex marriage in Massachusetts; and he successfully co-sponsored Massachusetts’ transgender civil rights bills. Representative Rushing’s priorities are human and civil rights, the development of democracy, local human, economic and housing development, and housing and health care for all. He has been a leader in efforts to end homelessness and provide substance abuse treatment on demand, and he is a spokesman against the restoration of the death penalty in Massachusetts. From 1972 to 1985, Representative Rushing was President of the Museum of Afro-American History.

At the Saturday, May 20, 3 pm College of Arts and Sciences and School of Education Commencement, an honorary degree will be awarded to Jacob Segal. Mr. Segal is a partner with the Salem law firm Ronan, Segal, & Harrington. He is completing a 10-year term as a member of Salem State University’s Board of Trustees. Mr. Segal was one of the initial members of the Salem State University Foundation, on which he has served for over 25 years, including serving as its president, providing key leadership throughout the creation and growth of this critical organization. Segal has been an unwavering student advocate in his service to Salem State. Prior to joining the Salem law firm, he worked with the IRS in Washington DC, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Bureau of Corporations and Taxation, and in the tax department of Coven & Suttenberg, a large regional accounting firm.

“This year’s honorary degree recipients have helped to shape our communities in many ways – in the medical field, in the public and nonprofit sectors, and right here on campus,” said President Meservey. “We look forward to welcoming these leaders to campus, honoring their many successes, and sharing their inspiring work with the Salem State community.”

Salem State University’s graduations are ticketed events and will all be held at the university’s O’Keefe Complex at 225 Canal Street in Salem, MA. For more information, please visit


Salem State University, established in 1854, is a comprehensive, public institution of higher learning located approximately 15 miles north of Boston, Massachusetts. One of the largest state universities in the Commonwealth, Salem State enrolls over 9,000 undergraduate and graduate students. It offers 32 undergraduate programs and graduate programs that offer degrees in 24 fields. The university also has a continuing education division that offers both credit and non-credit programs. Known for the academic strength of its faculty, Salem State was named a Top Producer of U.S. Fulbright Scholars in 2011 and for the 2016-2017 academic year. The university is designated a Military Friendly School by G.I. Jobs, a Top College and University by Military Advanced Education, and a Best for Vets College by Military Times. In 2015 and 2016, Salem State was recognized as one of the top 100 women-led businesses in Massachusetts by the Commonwealth Institute and Boston Globe Magazine.

Nicole Giambusso