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Misericordia University Announces Distinguished Commencement Speakers, Honorees for Spring 2024 Ceremonies

Misericordia University Announces Distinguished Commencement Speakers, Honorees for Spring 2024 Ceremonies

Misericordia University Announces Distinguished Commencement Speakers, Honorees for Spring 2024 Ceremonies

Misericordia University is proud to announce the commencement speakers and honorees for its upcoming spring 2024 graduation ceremonies. This year, graduates will have the honor of hearing from two individuals whose contributions to their respective fields and commitment to service reflect the university's values. The university will also bestow the Catherine McAuley Award on a distinguished member of the community, along with Doctor of Humane Letters degrees on a former university president and his wife.   

Misericordia's undergraduate and graduate commencement ceremonies will be held on Saturday, May 11 at the Anderson Sports and Health Center on the campus in Dallas. The graduate ceremony for 82 students being awarded master's and doctoral degrees will be held at 10 a.m. and the undergraduate ceremony for the 217 members of the class of 2024 will be held at 2 p.m. This year's graduates represent 11 states and two countries.

Mary Cummings, Esq. Headshot

Mary Griffin Cummings, Esq. will deliver the commencement address to those attending the graduate commencement ceremony and receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters Degree.

Cummings, a native of Towanda, has established herself as a leader in the legal and banking sectors. After obtaining her Bachelor of Science degree in accounting from The Pennsylvania State University, she pursued her Juris Doctor from the Dickinson School of Law, Carlisle, Pa. She is a member of the Wilkes-Barre Law and Library Association and the Pennsylvania Bar Association.

Cummings' career trajectory has included positions at area organizations such as Rosenn, Jenkins & Greenwald and the Wyoming Valley Health Care System. Currently serving as an executive vice president and general counsel at FNCB Bank, Cummings' legal expertise is matched only by her dedication to community service. She has been actively involved with the Sisters of Mercy and has received numerous accolades for her leadership and philanthropy, including the 2010 Mercy Woman of the Year and Women Making an Impact award from Dress For Success Lackawanna. Cummings currently serves as the chair and member of the Board of Trustees of the Catherine McAuley Center, Scranton and sits on the Board of Trustees and the Nominating and Governance Committee of the McGlynn Learning Center.

Cummings' deep connection with Misericordia University extends through her family, as she proudly acknowledges her aunt, the late Mary Ellen Griffin Landy, who is a distinguished alumna of the university. Her address promises to inspire graduates as they embark on their journeys, emphasizing the importance of ethical leadership and community engagement.

Sr. Mary Haddad Headshot

Mary Haddad, RSM, the president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association of the United States (CHA), will address graduates and guests during the undergraduate ceremony and receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters Degree.

With a career spanning leadership roles in health care, social service and education, Sr. Mary brings a wealth of experience to her position. Since assuming leadership of CHA in 2019, Sr. Mary has been instrumental in advancing the mission of Catholic healthcare in the United States. Her advocacy for vulnerable populations and commitment to promoting accessible health care aligns closely with the values of Misericordia University.

Sr. Mary's extensive background includes service on the regional leadership team of the Sisters of Mercy, as well as work in international communities such as Belize and Trinidad and Tobago. She holds advanced degrees from the University of St. Thomas and Saint Louis University, and she is actively involved in various organizations, including the Vatican's Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

She received her master's degree in Business Administration in Health Care from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN and a master's degree in Social Work from Saint Louis University. She holds a bachelor's degree in Education from Southern Illinois University and is a member of Alpha Sigma Nu, the honor society of Jesuit Institutions of Higher Education.

Attorney Thomas P. Brennan Headshot

Thomas P. Brennan, Esq., will be presented with the Catherine McAuley Medal during this year's undergraduate ceremony in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the community and his unwavering commitment to the Sisters of Mercy and Misericordia’s core values. This is the university’s most prestigious award.

A native of West Pittston, Brennan's journey of service and dedication to others began early in life. After attending St. John’s School in Pittston, he pursued his education at Maryknoll College with aspirations of becoming a foreign missionary. During his time at Maryknoll, Brennan worked tirelessly in the Mission Medical Room, providing essential medical assistance to communities in need around the world. He then transferred to King's College, where he graduated magna cum laude. His experiences, including a transformative summer spent on an Indian reservation in Montana, solidified his commitment to serving those facing the challenges of poverty and injustice.

Drafted into the U.S. Army while enrolled at Villanova Law School, Brennan served in Okinawa, Japan. After his discharge, he returned to law school to complete his studies. His professional career led him to Philadelphia, where he honed his legal expertise before eventually settling in Wilkes-Barre. It was there that Brennan forged a lasting partnership with the Sisters of Mercy, embodying their mission of compassion and service in his legal practice.

Brennan's connection to Misericordia University runs deep. As a member of the Misericordia University Board of Trustees, he played a pivotal role in shaping the university's direction and fostering its growth. His dedication to Misericordia is further exemplified by his family's longstanding ties to the institution, with several relatives, including his aunt and sisters, proudly graduating from the university.

The Catherine McAuley Medal serves as a testament to Brennan's remarkable contributions and his embodiment of the values cherished by Misericordia University. His legacy of service and compassion will continue to inspire future generations of leaders to uphold the ideals of Catherine McAuley and the Sisters of Mercy.

The Botzman's Headshot

Former Misericordia University president Thomas J. Botzman, Ph.D., and his wife, Vanessa, will be awarded honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degrees during the undergraduate ceremony.

Thomas J. Botzman, Ph.D. was the 13th president of Misericordia University, serving from 2013 to 2020. During his presidency, Misericordia enhanced study abroad initiatives, increased the number and quality of faculty-student research and scholarship initiatives, replaced its student information system, renewed regional accreditation, launched a new strategic plan, and initiated a capital campaign through solicitation of the largest gift in the institution’s history. The campaign enabled the construction of the Frank M. and Dorothea Henry Science Center on campus, a state-of-the-art space that has enhanced learning for all students.

Dr. Botzman was a member of several nonprofit boards in Northeast Pennsylvania. He served as the Chair for Conference Presidents, Middle Atlantic Conference 2018-2019, as chair of the presidents' council for the Conference on Mercy Higher Education, as a member of the Tax Policy Committee for the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, and as a member of the board for the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania, AICUP.  He served on the board of the Northeast Pennsylvania Council of the Boy Scouts of America, receiving the Eminent Eagle award in 2015.

Before assuming the presidency at Misericordia, Dr. Botzman served as vice president for business and finance at St. Mary’s College of Maryland and on the faculty at Mount Union College in Ohio. He was a visiting professor and a Fulbright Scholar at the University of the Americas in Mexico City.  Dr. Botzman also worked in private industry and is the inventor of 12 U.S. patents. 

Upon leaving Misericordia in 2020, he returned to his Ohio roots and assumed the presidency of Mount Union before his retirement in 2022.

Vanessa Botzman actively supported and participated in both Misericordia University and local communities during the tenure of her husband as president of Misericordia University.

Mrs. Botzman's professional and personal actions consistently demonstrate her empathy, care, and compassion for others in the Mercy tradition.  She was a regular attendee and organizer of campus events, and she volunteered regularly for multiple regional charities and non-profits such as the Care and Concern Clinic at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Pittston, Meals on Wheels Wyoming Valley, and at the Catherine McAuley House. 

She earned a designation as a Mercy Associate. Mrs. Botzman served as a member of the Board of Directors for the Osterhout Free Library system based in Wilkes-Barre and also for Meals on Wheels of Wyoming Valley. In 2020, Vanessa and Dr. Botzman were the recipients of the Osterhout Library’s Evergreen Award honoring their service and support of the library.

Misericordia will honor several other deserving recipients during these ceremonies and throughout the university’s 100th anniversary this year, who have contributed to the prosperity of the university and the Sisters of Mercy.

For more information on the 2024 Misericordia University spring commencement ceremonies and other commencement week activities, click here.