The University of Notre Dame will present honorary degrees at its 177th University Commencement Ceremony on May 15 to two distinguished leaders, Ernest J. Moniz and Kathleen McChesney, who were originally to be recognized at the 2020 ceremony that was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Metropolitan-Archbishop Borys Gudziak of Ukraine, who will serve as the principal commencement speaker, also will receive an honorary doctor of laws degree. In addition, environmental activist Sharon Lavigne will be awarded the Laetare Medal and John W. Jordan II “Jay,” Notre Dame alumnus and longtime Trustee, will receive the Hesburgh-Stephan Medal.
Ernest J. Moniz (doctor of science)
The U.S. secretary of energy from 2013 to 2017, Moniz has spent the majority of his career on the faculty of MIT. After earning a bachelor’s degree in physics from Boston College and a doctorate in theoretical physics from Stanford University, he joined the MIT faculty in 1973. He has served as head of the Department of Physics and was the founding director of the MIT Energy Initiative. He is currently the Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Physics and Engineering Systems Emeritus and special adviser to the institute’s president. He also serves as co-chairman of the board and chief executive officer of the Nuclear Threat Initiative and CEO of the Energy Futures Initiative. As energy secretary, he placed energy science and technology innovation at the center of the Paris Agreement on climate change and negotiated the Iran nuclear agreement in collaboration with the U.S. secretary of state. He is the recipient of 11 other honorary degrees and the Distinguished Public Service Medal from the Department of Defense.
Kathleen McChesney (doctor of laws)
Now the chief executive officer and principal for Kinsale Management Consulting, McChesney previously held leadership positions with the FBI, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and The Walt Disney Company. In her 24-year FBI career, she led field offices in Chicago and Portland, Oregon, and was executive assistant director, the bureau’s third-ranking position. She served from 2002 to 2005 as the head of the USCCB’s Office of Child Protection, developing and administering a national compliance mechanism to ensure that all Catholic dioceses complied with civil laws and internal policies related to the prevention, reporting and response to the sexual abuse of minors. Since then, she has lectured frequently on the topic and was a featured panelist in the 2019 Notre Dame Forum presentation titled “Rebuild My Church: Crisis and Response.” She was vice president for global security with Disney. She holds bachelor’s and advanced degrees from Washington State University, Seattle University and Golden Gate University and is the co-author of “Pick Up Your Own Brass: Leadership the FBI Way” and co-editor of “Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church: A Decade of Crisis.” McChesney was the recipient of the 2020 Laetare Medal, the University’s highest honor and widely recognized as the highest honor given to an American Catholic.