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Commencement Dignitaries

  • The 2013 Commencement Address was delivered on Saturday, May 18, 2013, by Menbere Aklilu, community philanthropist and business women. As a role model in the East Bay community, Ms. Aklilu gives back by hosting dinners for the young women of the Delta Academy. She also finances tuition for some girls to attend Northern Lights School in Oakland. Two years ago she opened her restaurant to 300 homeless individuals for lunch, and this past year for 6oo homeless individuals. More...
  • The 2012 Commencement Address was delivered on Saturday, May 12, 2012, by Gwen Ifill, moderator of Washington Week and moderator, managing editor and senior correspondent for the PBS NewsHour. More...
  • The 2011 Commencement Address was delivered by Sr. Helen Prejean, Sister of St. Joseph of Medaille and author of Dead Man Walking. More...
  • The 2010 Commencement Address was delivered by Nicole Taylor President and Chief Executive Officer of the East Bay Community Foundation. More...
  • The 2009 Commencement Address was delivered by T. Gary Rogers, Chairman of Levi Strauss & Co. J Joan Payden, president and CEO of Payden and Rygel received the President's Medal and Judith Murphy, former executive director of the Y & H Soda Foundation in Moraga, received the Durocher Award. More...

2011 Dignitaries

Sr. Helen Prejean, 2011 Commencement Speaker and Honorary Degree Recipient

Sister Helen is a member of the Congregation of St. Joseph. She spent her first years with the Sisters teaching religion to junior high school students. Realizing that being on the side of poor people is an essential part of the Gospel she moved into the St. Thomas Housing Project in New Orleans and began working at Hope House from 1984 – 1986.

During this time, she was asked to correspond with a death row inmate, Patrick Sonnier, at Angola. She agreed and became his spiritual adviser. After witnessing his execution, she wrote a book about the experience. The result was Dead Man Walking: an Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States. It became a movie, an opera, and a play for high schools and colleges. [It was performed on the Holy Names University campus in 2006.]

Since 1984, Sister Helen has divided her time between educating citizens about the death penalty and counseling individual death row prisoners. She has accompanied six men to their deaths. In doing so, she began to suspect that some of those executed were not guilty. This realization inspired her second book, The Death of Innocents: An Eyewitness Account of Wrongful Executions, which was released by Random House in December of 2004.

Sister Helen has been instrumental in sparking national dialogue on the death penalty and helping to shape the Catholic Church’s vigorous opposition to state executions. She travels around the world giving talks about her ministry. She considers herself a southern storyteller.

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Faye Bower, DNSc, Recipient of the 2011 President's Medal

Dr. Bower, Holy Names University Professor of Nursing, is an award-winning healthcare professional and critically-lauded professor. In addition to her many awards and professional affiliations, in 2009 Cambridge Who's Who recognized Dr. Bower for demonstrating a lifetime of dedication, leadership and excellence in healthcare education. She is widely accepted at the University as an expert on evidence-based practice, research, and community healthcare. The founder of the Center for Third Age Nurses, Dr. Bower co-wrote Why Retire? Career Strategies for Third Age Nurses with Holy Names University business/sociology professor, William A. Sadler. She is also the past president of Sigma Tau International Nursing Honor Society.

During her ten years with Holy Names University, Dr. Bower has advanced numerous careers for nurses in California and Nevada with video-broadcasting of nursing classes, the implementation of a joint Bachelor of Nursing Degree program with Samuel Merritt University, a dual degree option with a Master’s of Business or a Master’s of Forensic Psychology and this year, a new LVN to BSN program. Prior to her HNU experience, she worked for San Jose State University in a variety of capacities including Chairperson of the Department of Nursing. She continued her nursing career at the University of San Francisco where she served as the Dean of the School of Nursing and Director of Institutional Research. In 1991, Dr. Bower accepted the position of President of Clarkson College in Omaha, Nebraska.

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2010 Dignitaries

Nicole Taylor, 2010 Commencement Speaker and Honorary Degree Recipient

Nicole Taylor is President and Chief Executive Officer of the East Bay Community Foundation.  A veteran executive with 17 years of experience in the Bay Area non-profit community, Ms. Taylor is the first African-American to lead the Foundation since it was established in 1928.  

She holds a Bachelors Degree in Human Biology and a Masters Degree in Education – both from Stanford. Ms. Taylor began her career as a teacher and also worked on school-reform efforts within urban school districts. For most of the 1990s, she worked at the East Bay Community Foundation where her work focused on education, children and youth services, nonprofit management and fund raising.

The East Bay Community Foundation serves as a catalyst for change in Alameda and Contra Costa counties by connecting community needs with individuals, families and organizations interested in charitable giving. It also focuses on advancing economic opportunity for adults and families in need and on ensuring very young children are successful in the education system so they have economic opportunity when they become adults.  It does this work through grantmaking, leading initiatives, advocacy and partnerships with business, government, and private foundations. As the first public foundation in Northern California, the East Bay Community Foundation is a leading resource on charitable giving and community needs, stewarding about 500 charitable funds and endowments with a value in excess of $330 million.       

Before coming to the Foundation in September 2007, Ms. Taylor was Managing Director of the Haas Center for Public Service at Stanford University, one of the nation’s premier institutions developing leaders capable of making social change. She has also served as the CEO of College Track, a nonprofit organization that works to get underrepresented students in the San Francisco Bay Area successfully through high school and college and she was the director of Oakland’s Fund for Children and Youth, which distributes over $7 million per year to youth serving organizations in Oakland, California.

Ms. Taylor serves as Vice Chair of the Board of Directors of the East Bay Economic Development Alliance.  She also serves on the governing boards of the John Gardner Center for Youth & Their Families at Stanford University, the California Governor and First Lady's Women's Conference, the League of California Community Foundations, Northern California Grantmakers, and the Council on Foundations Community Foundation Leadership Team, as well as the boards of several family foundations. In 2009, she was named by the San Francisco Business Times to its list of “East Bay Women of Distinction” and as one of the “Most Influential Women in Business in the Bay Area.” It is with honor that we bestow on her an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.

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2009 Dignitaries

T. Gary Rogers, 2009 Commencement Speaker

T. Gary Rogers is Chairman of Levi Strauss & Co., a company founded and headquartered in San Francisco since 1853.  He also is Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.  He is the immediate past Chairman and CEO of Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream, Inc., a company he and his partner purchased in 1977, took public in 1981, and sold to Nestlé in 2003. Mr. Rogers has a bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Berkeley and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

Mr. Rogers is a director of Shorenstein Properties LLC, Stanislaus Food Products and the UCSF Foundation.  He is a former Chairman of the Bay Area Council and Chairman of the Oakland Chief Executive Officers Council and the Oakland Dialogue.  He is a member of the Board of Dean’s Advisors of the Harvard Business School and a member of the Chancellor’s Executive Advisory Council of the University of California, Berkeley.

Mr. Rogers is the primary benefactor of Lighthouse Charter School, a K-12 charter school serving Oakland youth and is Chairman of Oakland Partnership, a public-private collaborative economic development program.  He is sponsor of the Rogers Family Foundation, a major supporter of the University of California, education and activities for youth in Oakland and the East Bay, Bay Area Hospitals, and medical research and innovation.  He also is the primary benefactor of the University of California Men’s Crew, the T. Gary Rogers Rowing Center, and the California Rowing Club and is a member of the High Performance Committee of U.S. Rowing. 

Mr. Rogers and the Rogers Family Foundation have generously contributed to various projects at Holy Names University. It is with honor that we bestow on him an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.

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Joan Payden, CFA, Recipient of the 2009 President's Medal

Joan Payden is the president and CEO of Payden and Rygel, the global investment management firm that she founded in 1983. She is a graduate of the Advancement Management Program at Harvard Business School and she earned a BA from Trinity College in Mathematics and Physics. She is a trailblazer in the field of investment management.

Since 1983, Payden and Rygel has advised corporations, foundations, endowments, pension plans, public funds and individual investors on their overall investment strategies. The firm, headquartered in Los Angeles with offices in London, Dublin and Frankfurt, is the adviser to the Paydenfunds family of no-load, low-expense bond and stock mutual funds. Ms. Payden has overseen the firms’ international expansion and its growth to more than $50 billion in assets under management. Payden & Rygel was named “U.S. Bond Manager of the Year” based on its investment excellence in 2003 by Global Investor Magazine.

Prior to founding Payden & Rygel, Ms. Payden was managing director of West Coast operations for Scudder, Stevens & Clark, where she rose through the ranks to become the first woman partner of the firm. She currently serves on the Board of Visitors of UCLA Anderson School of Management and is a trustee of the University of Southern California and Loyola Marymount University. Ms. Payden is also a member of the board of directors of the John Tracy Clinic, the California Chamber of Commerce, the LA ’84 Foundation and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles. She is past chairman of the Investment Counsel Association of America.  

Ms. Payden is a true philanthropist in the community of Southern California, supporting organizations such as Big Brothers & Big Sisters of Los Angeles; the Union Rescue Mission, the largest, private, homeless shelter in the United States located in downtown Los Angeles's skid row; United Way of Greater Los Angeles and the Union Station Foundation.

Beyond her success as an entrepreneur and corporate leader, Ms. Payden has also lent her time and expertise by serving on the Board of Directors of then-Holy Names College from 1976 – 1983. Since that time, she has provided generous support to the University in a variety of ways. Ms. Payden has made outstanding contributions to the growth and development of the University and it is with honor that we bestow on her the President’s Medal.

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Judith Murphy, Recipient of the 2009 Durocher Award

Judith Murphy retired in 2008 after serving for 18 years as executive director of the Y & H Soda Foundation in Moraga. She is a native of Los Angeles and attended UCLA and UC Berkeley. She married Roger Murphy in 1959. They have five children, four of whom live in the Bay Area.

During her tenure, the Y & H Soda Foundation grew its assets from $45 million to $150 million, increased its staff from one to eight, and acquired a permanent home in Moraga. It granted more than $79 million to education, health and human services programs in the East Bay, including Holy Names University, St. Mary’s College in Moraga, St. Vincent’s Day Home, FACE (Family Aid-Catholic Education), and Mercy Care and Retirement Center, Oakland.

Mrs. Murphy’s association with the Soda Foundation started in 1979 when she went to work for Y. Charles Soda, a businessman and an original co-owner of the Oakland Raiders. Soda and his wife, Helen, had established the foundation in 1964 to provide financial support to educational, religious and community organizations. After Soda’s death in 1989, Mrs. Murphy was selected by the foundation’s board of directors to serve as executive director. She is currently serving as president of the foundation’s board.

In November 2008 Catholic Charities of the East Bay awarded Mrs. Murphy their annual Catholic Businesswoman of the Year award. CCEB decided this year to begin recognizing outstanding Catholic business women who model the best in religious ethics, in addition to those women who espouse community service and social justice issues.

As an outstanding Catholic business woman and someone who believes that good ethics “should be as natural as breathing in all aspects of life and business”, Mrs. Murphy embodies the spirit and values of Marie Rose Durocher, snjm and it is with honor that we bestow on her the Durocher Award.

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