[CUA Office of Public Affairs]   

          May 9, 2005


Catholic University to Confer More Than 1,100 Degrees at Commencement

Faith-Based Initiatives Director James Towey to Speak at Main Ceremony


The Catholic University of America will confer more than 850 bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees during its 116th Annual Commencement Ceremony to be held at 10 a.m., Saturday, May 14, on the east steps of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, located at 400 Michigan Ave., N.E.


For the rain plan on commencement day, visit:  http://publicaffairs.cua.edu/news/05CommencementRainPlan.htm. For other commencement details, visit: http://graduation.cua.edu/.


More than 250 degrees will be distributed at the commencement ceremony for CUA’s Columbus School of Law on Saturday, May 28.


James Towey, director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, will deliver the main commencement address on May 14. Towey, who was appointed to his White House post in January, is the founder of Aging with Dignity, a national non-profit organization that helps families discuss the care they want during serious illnesses. Prior to that, he served in a variety of government and volunteer positions.


“I am delighted that Jim Towey has accepted my invitation to address the graduates, faculty, staff and guests at this year’s May 14 university commencement exercises,” said Very Rev. David M. O’Connell, C.M., president of Catholic University. “He has distinguished himself both in public service ‘on both sides of the aisle’ and in social work. He is an excellent role model for our students.”


During a rich and varied career, Towey, an attorney, has served as a senior adviser to Florida Gov. Lawton Chiles (D), as director of the Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services and as a senior adviser to Sen. Mark Hatfield (R). It was on a trip for Sen. Hatfield that Towey met Mother Teresa in Calcutta in 1985.


That meeting had a profound influence on Towey’s life. He was so impressed with Mother Teresa and her mission that he began doing legal work for the Missionaries of Charity and working in a soup kitchen in Washington, D.C.’s Anacostia neighborhood.  In 1990, he volunteered a year of his life in the AIDS hospice Mother Teresa founded in Washington, D.C.


Mother Teresa once said of him: “Jim Towey has been a friend to me and the Missionaries of Charity for 11 years, helping us in legal matters, doing everything in a spirit of humble service.”


Towey will receive an honorary degree at the commencement ceremony. Father O’Connell also will award an honorary degree to Most Rev. Gabriel Montalvo, the apostolic nuncio to the United States, and the Thomas J. Shahan Award for Service to Helene Connellan O’Neil, a trustee emeritus who earned a CUA master’s degree in nursing in 1956. 


Federal Communications Commissioner Kathleen Abernathy, a 1983 law school alumna, will be the speaker at the Columbus School of Law commencement ceremony, which will be held at 2 p.m. on May 28 in the Great Upper Church of the National Shrine.

“Commissioner Abernathy has served the American people with distinction and is regarded as one of the most effective commissioners in recent memory,” said William F. Fox Jr., dean of the Columbus School of Law.  “She is one of the most important women in telecommunications both within the United States and internationally.  She exemplifies the commitment to public service of the graduates of the Columbus School of Law.”


Appointed to the FCC by President George W. Bush in May 2001, Abernathy also has served as the president of the Federal Communications Bar Association. The magazine Electronic Media named her one of the most powerful women in television. 


Father O’Connell will present the President’s Medal to Abernathy.


Outstanding students will be lauded during the Honors Convocation at 2 p.m. on May 13 at Hartke Theatre. Father O’Connell will be the official celebrant and homilist during the Baccalaureate Mass in the National Shrine, Great Upper Church, at 4 p.m. on May 13.


MEDIA: To cover the commencement, reporters must contact CUA Public Affairs Officers Chris Harrison or Katie Lee at 202-319-5600.










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Revised: 5/9/2005

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The Catholic University of America,
Office of Public Affairs.