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Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, United States Representative to the United Nations, to Deliver 2021 Holy Cross Commencement Address

Thomas-Greenfield and three others — Dr. Michael Collins '77, Rev. David Beckmann and Sister Donna Markham — will also receive honorary degrees
April 1st, 2021 by 
Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Representative of the United States of America to the United Nations

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Representative of the United States of America to the United Nations

Holy Cross will host an in-person commencement ceremony this May, featuring an address by Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Representative of the United States of America to the United Nations. This year’s commencement marks the College’s 175th graduating class. The commencement ceremony will be held Friday, May 21 on the College’s Fitton Field – as well as livestreamed – with Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield’s address delivered virtually.

Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield, a career diplomat, returned to public service in February 2021 when she was sworn into her new role by the Vice President of the United States. She had retired from a 35-year career with the U.S. Foreign Service in 2017. From 2013 to 2017 she served as the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, where she led the bureau focused on the development and management of U.S. policy toward sub-Saharan Africa. Prior to this appointment, in 2012 and 2013, she served as Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of Human Resources, leading a team in charge of the State Department’s 70,000-strong workforce.

Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield’s distinguished Foreign Service career includes an ambassadorship to Liberia, and postings in Switzerland (at the United States Mission to the United Nations, Geneva), Pakistan, Kenya, The Gambia, Nigeria and Jamaica. In Washington, she served as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of African Affairs from 2006 to 2008, and as Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration from 2004 to 2006.

After retiring from the U.S. State Department in 2017, Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield led the Africa Practice at Albright Stonebridge Group, a strategic commercial diplomacy firm chaired by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. She was also the inaugural Distinguished Resident Fellow in African Studies at the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy at Georgetown University from fall 2017 to spring 2019.

Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield was the 2017 recipient of University of Minnesota Hubert Humphrey Public Leadership Award, the 2015 recipient of the Bishop John T. Walker Distinguished Humanitarian Service Award and the 2000 recipient of the Warren Christopher Award for Outstanding Achievement in Global Affairs. 

Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield holds a bachelor’s degree from Louisiana State University and a master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin, where she also did work towards a doctorate. 

Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield will be given an honorary degree during Commencement. The College will also award honorary degrees to the following individuals during the ceremony: Dr. Michael Collins ’77, Chancellor of the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Reverend David Beckmann, one of the foremost U.S. advocates for people struggling with hunger and poverty in the United States and around the world, and Sister Donna Markham, president of Catholic Charities USA. 

In addition to Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield’s commencement address, Dr. Collins will offer a reflection for Class of 2021 graduates on May 21, and both Rev. Beckmann and Sister Markham will speak during a special virtual Convocation event for the graduating Class of 2020 on May 22.

Dr. Michael Collins ’77 is chancellor of the University of Massachusetts Medical School and senior vice president for the health sciences for the University of Massachusetts. As the chief executive of UMass Medical School, Dr. Collins oversees a $1 billion academic health sciences center that includes three graduate schools; a $400 million research enterprise; Commonwealth Medicine, the medical school’s health care consulting and operations division; and MassBiologics of UMMS, the nation’s only nonprofit, university-based FDA-licensed discoverer and manufacturer of vaccines and other biologics. Over his fourteen-year tenure as chancellor, Dr. Collins has been an engaged and effective leader for the higher education and Central Massachusetts communities. During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, he has supported important public health initiatives, including the creation of the UMass Medical School Vaccine Corps, which has recruited more than 6,400 volunteers to support Massachusetts’ vaccination campaign and the equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. Prior to joining the university, Dr. Collins served as president and chief executive officer of the Massachusetts-based Caritas Christi Health Care System from 1994 to 2004. An alumnus and former board chair of the College of Holy Cross and a graduate of Tufts University School of Medicine, Dr. Collins is board-certified in internal medicine. He is a tenured professor of medicine and population and quantitative health sciences at UMass Medical School and a Fellow of the American College of Physicians.

Rev. David Beckmann is president emeritus of Bread for the World, a non-partisan Christian advocacy organization that advocates for policy changes to end hunger, where he led broad and successful campaigns for legislation to reduce hunger in the United States and around the world. He was awarded the World Food Prize in 2010 for helping to reduce world hunger. Rev. Beckmann is currently Coordinator of the Circle of Protection, an advocacy coalition of Christian church bodies and organizations who together have 100 million members. He is also a joint fellow of the University of California, Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy and the Graduate Theological Union. From 1991 to 2020, Beckmann was president of Bread for the World and its two affiliates, Bread for the World Institute and the Alliance to End Hunger. Prior to that, from 1976 to 1991, he was an economist at the World Bank, where he worked on urban poverty projects and led the Bank’s initial engagement with civil society around the world. He has authored numerous books on faith, economics, and politics, including “Exodus from Hunger.” Rev. Beckmann has earned degrees from Yale, the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago, and the London School of Economics, as well as eight honorary doctorates.

Sister Donna Markham is the president of Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA), the national office for Catholic Charities agencies nationwide. CCUSA’s members provide help and create hope for more than 13 million people a year regardless of religious, social or economic backgrounds. Sister Donna, an Adrian Dominican sister and board certified clinical psychologist with a doctorate in clinical psychology, is the first female president to lead CCUSA in the organization’s 110-year history. A widely-recognized author and speaker, she wrote “Spiritlinking Leadership: Working Through Resistance to Organizational Change” and has held faculty positions at St. John’s Provincial Seminary in Michigan and the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. Prior to joining CCUSA in 2015, Sister Donna served as president of the Behavioral Health Institute for Mercy Health, where she led the transformation of the delivery of behavioral health services across the seven major geographic regions of the system. Prior to joining Mercy Health, Sister Donna served 10 years as the president of the Southdown Institute in Ontario, Canada and as Prioress of the Adrian Dominican Congregation. She also served for eight years as a member of CCUSA’s Board of Trustees, two of which as Board chair. Sister Donna received her doctorate from the University of Detroit and was named a Fellow in the American Association of Clinical Psychologists. She was awarded the prestigious Harold S. Bernard Training Award from the American Group Psychotherapy Association.

For more information on this year’s Commencement events, please visit the Commencement website.

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