ESPN executive Chris LaPlaca will be the keynote speaker at St. Bonaventure University’s 157th Commencement ceremony on May 14, 2017.
The university’s Board of Trustees unanimously approved LaPlaca’s nomination at its December meeting. University administrators sought speaker candidates from senior class leaders and LaPlaca, Class of 1979, was at the top of the list.
“I’d like to congratulate St. Bonaventure and its graduating seniors for taking a different approach in selecting a commencement speaker. I’d also like to ask the entire Bonaventure community to forgive those same seniors – everyone can have an off day,” LaPlaca said with a smile.
“This is a singular honor for me and I am truly humbled by it,” he said. “St. Bonaventure is a special place; the Bonaventure community is filled with special people. I pledge to do all I can to live up to the faith the students have placed in me to help celebrate this wonderful moment in their lives.”
LaPlaca has been ESPN’s senior vice president of corporate communications since 2008. He joined the company in July 1980, less than one year after its launch in September 1979.
Today, he is responsible for the company’s worldwide internal, public and media relations strategies, including oversight of consumer, corporate and employee communications for ESPN’s 50 business units. He also oversees the company’s day-to-day working relationship with The Walt Disney Company’s corporate communications group, and plays a pivotal role in ESPN’s ongoing collaboration with Disney’s investor relations team.
LaPlaca is based in ESPN’s Bristol, Conn., headquarters.
He received his bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communication from St. Bonaventure and since graduation has remained active in support of the university. He serves on the Jandoli School of Communication’s Advisory Council. He is a founding contributor to the School’s Dick Joyce Sports Symposium, named after the late AP sportswriter and 1960 St. Bonaventure alumnus.
LaPlaca was also instrumental in establishing the Joyce Symposium’s John Domino Award, named after another late Bona graduate and a former ESPN colleague of LaPlaca’s. The award is given to a Bonaventure graduate who best personifies the ideals set forth by the Jandoli School.
LaPlaca was honored in 1995 with the Jandoli School’s Alumnus of the Year Award, given to a graduate who exemplifies the highest professional standards and for service to the journalism program at St. Bonaventure.
In April 2003, LaPlaca became the seventh alum in the program’s history to be inducted onto the Jandoli School’s Wall of Fame, which includes five Pulitzer Prize winners.
Prior to joining ESPN, LaPlaca worked for one year (1979-1980) as assistant sports information director at Brown University.
In 2014, LaPlaca received the Corporate PR Professional of the Year Award from PR News, one of the industry’s highest honors. In 2015, he was inducted into the PR News Hall of Fame.
ESPN’s Communications group has earned many additional accolades over the years, including PR Week’s “Team of the Year” for large corporations in 2005, and CableFAX Magazine’s “Team of the Year” for 2012.
LaPlaca is active within the industry and the community. He is a member of the NCTA’s Public Affairs Committee, and co-chaired the Association for Cable Communicators’ annual conference in 2013. In 2010, he was a keynote speaker at the PR News annual Media Relations Forum, and presented at the Conference for Corporate Communication at Notre Dame in 2013.
He has served on several industry programming boards, and the boards of several Bristol or Connecticut community organizations, including the United Way and Bristol’s Chamber of Commerce.
In 2003, LaPlaca was awarded the Fred Soliani Award for his overall contributions to Bristol’s Caring About People program, which provides mentors to at-risk children in need of positive role models.
About the University: The nation’s first Franciscan university, we believe in the goodness of every person and in the ability of every person to do extraordinary things. 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. Named the #6 best college value in the North by U.S. News and World Report, we are establishing pathways to internships, graduate schools and careers in the context of our renowned liberal arts tradition.
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