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The Rev. Dr. Joan Brown Campbell, director of the Department of Religion at historic Chautauqua Institution for 13 years, will be the keynote speaker Sunday, May 11, at St. Bonaventure University’s 154th Commencement.
Campbell will be among three distinguished guests receiving honorary degrees. Also being honored are Ann L. Swan, a longtime benefactor of St. Bonaventure and a staunch supporter of Catholic higher education; and Neal J. Johnson, class of 1973, president and CEO of Special Olympics New York.
Commencement Exercises, set for 10:30 a.m., will conclude a weekend of activities for St. Bonaventure graduates.
The annual Candlelight Induction Ceremony, when degree candidates are welcomed into the St. Bonaventure Alumni Association, will be held at 8:45 p.m. Friday, May 9, in front of De La Roche Hall on campus.
Saturday’s events on May 10 include the commissioning of ROTC cadets as second lieutenants in the U.S. Army, which takes place at 10 a.m. in the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts; an Honors Award Ceremony at 11:30 a.m. in the Reilly Center Arena; and the Baccalaureate Mass at 4:30 p.m., also in the Reilly Center Arena.
Joan Brown Campbell retired in December from The Institution, an internationally renowned center for religion, the arts, education and recreation on Chautauqua Lake for 140 years.
A distinguished lifelong ecumenist, she served as the first ordained woman appointed as general secretary of the National Council of the Churches of Christ (NCCC) in the USA. Prior to her time at the NCCC USA, Campbell served as director of the U.S. Office of the World Council of Churches.
During her time as general secretary, Campbell, in concert with Paul Gorman, Carl Sagan, Dean James Morton and Albert Gore, founded what is today the National Religious Partnership on the Environment (NRPE). She continues to serve as chair of the board.
Campbell is a devoted activist for peace and social justice, believing that citizens in a democracy must act on their conscience. This commitment was crafted during her life-changing work with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and was deepened in the struggle to end apartheid in South Africa.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu referred to her as “a woman of courage and compassion.” He pointed out that Campbell was the only woman in the clergy procession of more than 200 for his installation as Archbishop of South Africa, commenting, “Her voice helped to bring an end to the evil of apartheid.”
Campbell’s commitment to growing the global compassion movement is reflected in her work with Charter for Compassion International. She chairs its governing body, the Global Compassion Council. She is co-chair of the Global Peace Initiative of Women, providing leadership to GPIW’s important work with women throughout the world.
She chaired the Global Health Council and served the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Councils on faith and values.
Campbell has received 14 honorary degrees and, in 2010, was awarded the Walter Cronkite Faith and Freedom Award. She is author of “Living Into Hope: A Call to Spiritual Action for Such a Time as This,” and “Prayers From Chautauqua,” a collection of her prayers published in 2013.
Ann Swan has long been an active civic leader in Western New York. Elected to the Hilbert College Board of Trustees in 2004, she served as board chair from 2010 to 2013. She was awarded the President’s Medal, one of Hilbert’s highest honors, for her “extraordinary commitment” and “esteemed leadership.”
St. Bonaventure’s William E. and Ann L. Swan Business Center is named for Swan and her late husband. Bill Swan, a 1969 graduate of St. Bonaventure who served Western New York as a business leader and philanthropist, was a dedicated alumnus and Board of Trustees chair. The Swan Business Center honors Bill’s memory and the couple’s shared commitment to educating business leaders imbued with Franciscan values.
A graduate of the University at Buffalo, Ann Swan was a health and physical education teacher in Buffalo Public Schools for 27 years. She has long served the region as a director and/or volunteer with civic-minded, philanthropic and educational organizations.
She is executive director of the William E. and Ann L. Swan Foundation, which benefits philanthropy, volunteerism and grant-making foundations. In addition, she serves on the boards of Christ the King Seminary in East Aurora, the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo Foundation, YMCA Buffalo Niagara, the United Way of Buffalo and Erie County, Shea’s Performing Arts Center and Gilda’s Club, a support organization for cancer patients. She also serves on the advisory board of Hillside Family of Agencies’ Work-Scholarship Connection, which aids at-risk youth.
Swan’s tireless volunteer spirit is entwined with community support agencies across the region. A former chair of the United Way’s Day of Caring, she has also served as a fundraising volunteer for the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, Community Hospice Care, Roswell Park Cancer Institute and Catholic Charities.
St. Bonaventure honored Swan in 2006 with a Gaudete Medal, the university’s highest honor, in recognition of her compassionate spirit and desire to help mankind. Christ the King Seminary recognized her for those same qualities in 2002 with presentation of its Curé of Ars Award. Her many other honors include recognition as a Community Leader by the National Conference for Community and Justice.
Neal Johnson, president and CEO of Special Olympics New York, Inc., traces his commitment to others back to the Franciscan values he learned at St. Bonaventure. He has spent his entire adult life in service to people with intellectual disabilities, either professionally or as a volunteer.
Johnson’s involvement with Special Olympics began in 1975 when he was asked to help establish the program in his hometown, the Bronx. Since then he has served SONY at all levels and in all aspects of the organization. Globally recognized for his expertise as a Special Olympics coach, official and competition director, he has served as an international technical official at every Special Olympics World Games since 1995, and twice served as the referee-in-chief at the World Winter Games.
After serving as vice chair of the SONY board, Johnson was named president and CEO in 1997. Under his leadership, SONY has become the largest Special Olympics program in North America and the sixth-largest in the world, serving 65,000 athletes and involving 35,000 volunteers.
SONY provides year-round training and competition in 22 sports across the state. Capitalizing on St. Bonaventure’s history of caring, Johnson introduced Special Olympics to the university community.
Today the program engages hundreds of Bonaventure students annually in service to special needs athletes locally and from as far away as Rochester.
Johnson has served for years on the United States Leadership Council for Special Olympics and has frequently consulted on programmatic, organization and leadership strategies and training for Special Olympics International with other state and national programs across the globe.
Widely recognized as an advocate for people with intellectual disabilities, he has presented on their behalf to corporations, civic organizations, the New York State Legislature, the U.S. Congress and the United Nations.
In the private sector, Johnson previously served as the senior vice president & COO of Worldwide Computer Services, and as general manager of AFA Protective Systems, the largest provider of commercial fire protection systems in New York City.
In addition to his work with special needs athletes, he has spent more than 40 years as a coach, official, event manager and administrator at the amateur, interscholastic, intercollegiate, elite and world-class levels.
Read more about St. Bonaventure’s Commencement events at www.sbu.edu/Commencement.
About the University: The nation’s first Franciscan university, St. Bonaventure University cultivates graduates who are confident and creative communicators, collaborative leaders and team members, and innovative problem solvers who are respectful of themselves, others, and the diverse world around them. We are establishing pathways to internships, graduate schools and careers in the context of our renowned liberal arts tradition. Our students are becoming extraordinary.
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