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Honorary Degrees & Speakers

2020 Recipients

Gavin Newsom is an American politician and businessman who is the 40th governor of California, serving since January 2019.

Newsom attended Santa Clara University on a partial baseball scholarship, where he graduated in 1989 with a B.S. in political science. He reflects on his education fondly, crediting the Jesuit approach of Santa Clara for helping him become an independent thinker who questions orthodoxy.

Newsom began his political career in 1996 when San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown appointed him to serve on the city's Parking and Traffic Commission. Brown appointed Newsom to fill a vacancy on the Board of Supervisors the following year, and Newsom was later elected to the Board in 1998, 2000, and 2002.

In 2003, Newsom was elected the 42nd Mayor of San Francisco, becoming the city's youngest mayor in a century. Newsom was re-elected in 2007 with 72 percent of the vote. He was elected Lieutenant Governor of California in 2010 as the running mate of Jerry Brown, and served until 2019.

“All of us can do more and be better when we see the world with a different set of eyes, a little more empathy, a little more care, a little more collaboration, a little more recognition that we, as a society, are leaving too many people behind,” Newsom told the 1400 students graduating from what he called “one of the world’s great institutions, Santa Clara University.”

Judge Pichon has been a Superior Court Judge for Santa Clara County since 1998. She previously served as a Judge on the Municipal Court from 1984 to 1998, and also as a Court Commissioner from 1983 to 1984. She received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mathematics from SCU in 1973 and a Juris Doctor Degree from SCU School of Law in 1976. 

Judge Pichon served on the California Commission on Judicial Performance from 1999 to 2007 and was Chairperson from 2002-2004. She also served on the Judicial Council of California from 1994-1997 and the Archbishop Mitty High School Board of Regents from 2000 to 2006. In 2008, she served on the ABA Accreditation Self Study Committee for the Santa Clara University School of Law. She has taught in the California Judicial College, the National Judicial College, and has served as a panelist and speaker on numerous occasions on a variety of topics related to the judiciary and the administration of justice. She served as Supervising Judge of the Palo Alto Court Facility from 2006 to 2009, and on the Santa Clara County Superior Court 2008-2009 Executive Committee.

 Judge Pichon has also served as Distinguished Jurist in Residence for the Santa Clara University School of Law and as a member of Santa Clara’s Board of Regents, Alumni National Board, Markkula Center for Applied Ethics Advisory Board, and Law School Advisory Board.

Judge Pichon has a well-earned reputation for fairness, credibility and consistency, as evidenced by the many honors and awards she has received during her career, including the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Santa Clara County Trial Lawyers Association in 2019 and the Legendary Champions of Justice Award from the California Association of Black Lawyers in 2018. Judge Pichon is known among colleagues and attorneys for managing difficult situations and cases with grace and dignity.


Joanne Hayes-White, as a leader in public service, the first woman fire chief of the San Francisco Fire Department, and the longest-serving big-city fire chief in the country, spent her professional life inspiring constructive culture change with courage and determination. 

After graduating from Santa Clara University with a business degree in 1986, Joanne followed her passion and pursued her vocation to serve and protect her community. She broke down barriers with integrity and compassion, values that she embraced from her Jesuit education. 

Joanne joined the San Francisco Fire Department in 1990 when there were still fewer than 10 other female firefighters in the city. She rose through the ranks and became the first female firefighter promoted to captain in 1996 and was then appointed to Chief in 2004. Fifteen years later, Joanne Hayes-White retired with the honor of being one of the longest-running fire chiefs in the country. 

A dedicated servant-leader, she expanded sustainability and community engagement programs in the San Francisco Fire Department and hired one of the most diverse fire departments in the world. She further strengthened the Department by developing robust training programs that increased its capacity and efficacy.


2019 Recipients

Ramón Antonio Gerardo Estévez, better known as Martin Sheen, first achieved fame with roles in the films Badlands and Apocalypse Now. But to many fans, his most celebrated role during a long and acclaimed career is Josiah Bartlet, the fictional U.S. President—and devout Catholic—he portrayed in the television series The West Wing.

“I believe—like St. Thérèse of Lisieux—that everything is grace,” Mr. Sheen has said. “Being an actor has been the greatest grace of my life.” 

His portrayal of Capt. Benjamin L. Willard in Apocalypse Now earned him a nomination for Best Actor from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts. He has appeared in such notable films as Gettysburg, The Departed, and The Amazing Spider-Man.

In television, he won both a Golden Globe and two Screen Actors Guild awards for his role in The West Wing, and an Emmy for guest starring in the sitcom Murphy Brown. In 1989, he was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Born and raised in Dayton, Ohio, Mr. Sheen is the seventh of 10 children raised by immigrant parents—his father was from Spain, his mother from Ireland; both were devoted Catholics. Years later, after moving to New York City to become an actor, he adopted the stage name Martin Sheen to help him gain acting parts. His first name was inspired by a casting director friend named Robert Dale Martin, and his last name from Fulton J. Sheen, a popular Catholic archbishop and televangelist of the day. He is the father of four children: Emilio Estévez, Ramón, Carlos (aka Charlie Sheen) and Renée, all of whom are actors, as is his younger brother, Joe Estévez.

In addition to his work in film and television, Mr. Sheen is renowned for his social and political activism. He has campaigned against the death penalty, and on behalf of immigrants’ rights, among other causes. He has been an advocate of justice initiatives and Jesuit apostolic works, including Homeboy Industries, a non-profit in Los Angeles that works to help former gang

members redirect their lives. In 2014, he was honored for his ocean activism when the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society christened one of its research vessels The RV Martin Sheen.


Barry and Molly Swenson have touched the lives of countless Bay Area residents through the couple’s longtime philanthropy that benefits a variety of organizations, especially those that help children.

Mr. Swenson is chairman of SWENSON, a San Jose-based real estate development and construction company. He is the third generation of a family of builders that spans more than 100 years; the couple’s son Case now leads the firm. The company’s legacy projects include Santa Clara University’s Swig Residence Hall, which was constructed in 1966 in response to SCU’s booming student population.

Mr. Swenson’s company branched out to develop retail and high-rise residential structures in the South Bay and beyond. He has been recognized for his vision of transit-oriented development, which conserves precious open space by building vertically instead of horizontally, and close to major transit hubs.

Over the last four decades, Mr. Swenson and his firm have received numerous awards for design innovation and for civic involvement including the Golden Nugget Award for Historic Re-use, and the Silicon Valley Business Journal Best Project of the Year. In 2014 he was inducted into the Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce Business Hall of Fame. 

The SWENSON company is renowned for giving back to the community. Among more than 40 organizations it supports are Cristo Rey San Jose Jesuit High School, Breakthrough Silicon Valley, Boys & Girls Clubs of Silicon Valley, Sacred Heart Nativity Schools, the Sharks Foundation, and San Jose State University.

Molly Swenson has been an instrumental part of those efforts, alongside her extensive work with History San Jose. In 1972, she was one of the original signers of the Articles of Incorporation for the non-profit, then known as the San Jose Historical Museum Association.

She also helped found the Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose, where she was president and a board member. She has served as president of Eastfield Ming Quong (now Uplift Family Services), the Summit League, and is a member of numerous other non-profit boards.

Barry and Molly Swenson attended San Jose State University. The couple has three children, seven grandchildren (one of whom is a SCU alumna), and two great-grandchildren.


For decades, Fr. Gerald T. Wade, S.J., has been a recognized and respected figure in Jesuit secondary education. His name is synonymous with Bellarmine College Preparatory, which has educated young men since 1851, when it was part of Santa Clara College, later Santa Clara University. 

Born and raised in Santa Clara, Fr. Wade graduated from Bellarmine in 1955 and entered the Society of Jesus at the Jesuit Novitiate in Los Gatos. 

He went on to receive both bachelor and master’s degrees in philosophy from Gonzaga University, then returned to Bellarmine from 1962-1965 to teach Latin. Later, he received a master’s degree in theology from Santa Clara University and another in Latin from the University of Southern California. He was ordained in 1968.

Fr. Wade led Jesuit secondary educational institutions throughout most of his career, including positions at Loyola High School in Los Angeles and Jesuit High School in Sacramento before returning to Bellarmine in 1979 to serve a 14-year term as president.

He has served in multiple roles at Bellarmine, including interim president (2003-2005), chancellor (1999-present), and trustee (1978-present). In 2006, the Jesuit residence on the Bellarmine campus was re-named Wade Hall in his honor.

For his service to Bellarmine, Fr. Wade was awarded the President’s Insignis Medal by the Jesuit Schools Network in 2010. He was especially commended for his work to increase Bellarmine’s endowment to make Jesuit education more accessible to students with limited financial resources.

In addition to his leadership at Jesuit high schools, Fr. Wade is known for his ministry to alumni and friends of Bellarmine and other members of the local community. Those who know him speak of how his presence at significant points in their lives has filled them with grace and peace.

2018 Recipients

Since 2001, Kirk O. Hanson has served as the executive director of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, one of Santa Clara University's three Centers of Distinction. He also holds the John Courtney Murray, S.J. University Professorship in Social Ethics.

Hanson joined the University with a mandate from then-President Paul Locatelli, S.J., to transform the Markkula Center into an international resource. Under Hanson's leadership, the Center has adapted as a 21st century thought leader. The website draws millions of visitors each year. In addition to serving SCU students and faculty, the Center provides programming and resources for organizations around the world in fields including government, journalism, business, technology, healthcare and non-profit work. Hanson and staff have provided guidance to more than 75 universities and hosted the leaders of Botswana, Jordan and Australia all who have visited the Center. An app, a blog, videos, podcasts, and massive open online courses (MOOCs) supplement the Center's more traditional offerings.

Hanson received a B.A. in political science and an M.B.A, both from Stanford. He later studied and was a fellow at the Yale Divinity School and the Harvard Business School. He was a professor at Stanford's Graduate School of Business from 1978 2001. During that time, he founded the Business Enterprise Trust, a national organization that promotes exemplary behavior by businesses, and was the first chairman of the Santa Clara County Political Ethics Commission. Later, while at SCU, he founded the advisory board of the Center for International Business Ethics in Beijing. He continues to sit on that board as well as those of the Skoll Community Fund and the Neely Center for Ethical Leadership at the University of Southern California. In 2007, he received a lifetime achievement award from the Aspen Institute's Center for Business Education.

Peter Pabst, S.J. was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona, and graduated from Brophy Jesuit College Prep in 1972. He joined the Society of Jesus in 1974, earned his B.A. in philosophy and sociology from Gonzaga University, and began teaching at Bellarmine College Prep in San José in 1981. 

After theological studies at the Jesuit School of Theology, he was ordained in 1986 and assigned to Santa Clara University, where he earned a master's degree in counseling psychology. He worked in the University's student counseling center and served as Minister of the Jesuit Community and director of the Resident Ministry Program. 

In 1993, Fr. Pabst joined the Brophy Prep community as chair of the counseling department, teacher of psychology, and Rector of the Jesuit Community. 

In 2000, he returned to the Bay Area as the founding president of Sacred Heart Nativity School, a middle school for boys in San José's Washington-Gardner area. He oversaw the opening of Our Lady of Grace Nativity School for girls on the same campus in 2006. Together the schools educate more than 100 children from low-income families in the neighborhood. 

Having grown the middle schools successfully, Fr. Pabst joined the effort to launch Cristo Rey San José Jesuit High School on San José's East Side. The school opened in 2014 and serves nearly 500 students from underserved communities. He was the founding president and remains the chancellor of Cristo Rey, whose college prep curriculum blends academic excellence, work experience and community service. Fr. Pabst serves on the Boards of Directors of Sacred Heart Nativity Schools, Bellarmine College Prep and the University of San Francisco. 

Lorna Christine Mondora Panelli, a lifelong resident of the South Bay, has been a vital supporter of Santa Clara University for more than 50 years. 

She is the only child of Italian immigrants Joseph and Elisa Mondora. Her father owned and operated an Italian restaurant, Fior d'Italia, in San José and earned local fame for his ravioli. Her mother owned the largest fabric business in the region, Elisa's Fashions in Yardage. Lorna earned a B.A. in food and nutrition from San José State University, then completed a one-year internship at Massachusetts General Hospital and became a Registered Dietitian. She began her career at Santa Clara County Hospital (now Valley Medical Center). 

In 1956, she married Ed Panelli, a double alumnus of Santa Clara University who was an attorney and later an associate justice on the California Supreme Court. Lorna embraced the University connection as her own. In 1962, she and Ed became founding members of the Bronco Bench Foundation, which has raised millions of dollars for SCỤ athletics. Among many other University commitments, she also served as an advisory member of the de Saisset Museum and on the board of the Kenna Club, a speaker series and community forum. 

Ed and Lorna raised three sons in the area: Tom '80, Jeff '82, and Michael, who graduated from the University of San Diego. Lorna returned to school to earn her teaching credential in nutrition and food service from UC Santa Cruz, then taught courses at West Valley College in Saratoga for 15 years. Her volunteer service extended beyond Santa Clara University and throughout the community. She volunteered with the Summit League women's group and Eastfield Ming Quong (now Uplift Family Services). She was president of the San José Peninsula Dietetic Association, the Santa Clara County Nutrition Council, and the St. Francis Women's Club. She remains involved with Services for Brain Injury, which provides rehabilitation and vocational services to those who have suffered a traumatic brain injury.

2017 Recipients

Juan Felipe Herrera is a poet, performer, writer, cartoonist, teacher, and activist, and is currently serving a second term as the U.S. poet laureate.

The son of migrant farm workers, Herrera was educated at UCLA and Stanford University, and earned his MFA from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Community and art have always been part of what has driven Herrera, beginning in the mid-1970’s, when he was director of San Diego’s Centro Cultural de la Raza, headquartered in an occupied water tank in Balboa Park that had been converted into an arts space for the community. Herrera is also a performance artist and activist on behalf of migrant and indigenous communities and at-risk youth. His creative work often crosses genres, including poetry, opera, and dance theater.

Herrera’s publications include 14 collections of poetry, prose, short stories, young adult novels and picture books for children with 21 books in total in the last decade. His 2007 volume 187 Reasons Mexicanos Can’t Cross the Border: Undocuments 1971-2007 contains texts in both Spanish and English that examine the cultural hybridity that “revolve around questions of identity” on the U.S.-Mexico border. Herrera was awarded the 2008 National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry for Half the World in Light.

In 2011, Herrera was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. In 2012, Herrera was named California’s poet laureate, and the 21st U.S. poet laureate in 2015. He has won the Hungry Mind Award of Distinction, the Focal Award, two Latino Hall of Fame Poetry Awards, and a PEN West Poetry Award. His honors include the UC Berkeley Regent’s Fellowship as well as fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and the Stanford Chicano Fellows. He has also received several grants from the California Arts Council.

He has taught at California State University-Fresno and at the University of California-Riverside, and most recently spoke at Santa Clara University in 2016 on “Immigration, Migration and

the Alien Thing.”

Brother Guy Consolmagno, S.J., is director of the Vatican Observatory and president of the Vatican Observatory Foundation.

A native of Detroit, Michigan, he earned undergraduate and master’s degrees from MIT, and a Ph.D. in Planetary Science from the University of Arizona. He was a postdoctoral research fellow at Harvard and MIT, served in the U.S. Peace Corps in Kenya where he taught physics and astronomy, and taught physics at Lafayette College before entering the Jesuits in 1989.

At the Vatican Observatory since 1993, his research explores connections between meteorites, asteroids, and the evolution of small solar system bodies and observes Kuiper Belt comets with the Vatican’s 1.8-meter telescope in Arizona. Along with more than 200 scientific publications, he is the author of a number of popular astronomy books including Turn Left at Orion (with Dan Davis), and most recently Would You Baptize an Extraterrestrial? (with Father Paul Mueller, S.J.). He also has hosted science programs for BBC Radio 4, has been interviewed in numerous documentary films, and for more than ten years has written a monthly science column for the British Catholic magazine, The Tablet.

His work has taken him to every continent on Earth, including collecting meteorites with a NASA team in East Antarctica. He has served on the governing boards of the Meteoritical Society, the American Astronomical Society Division for Planetary Sciences, and International Astronomical Union (IAU) Commission 16.

In 2000, the small bodies nomenclature committee of the IAU named an asteroid, 4597 Consolmagno, in recognition of his work. In 2014 he received the Carl Sagan Medal from the American Astronomical Society Division for Planetary Sciences for excellence in public communication in planetary sciences. He recently was a guest speaker for the Bannan Institute lecture series of the Ignatian Center for Jesuit Education at Santa Clara University.

Mike E. Fox Sr. and Mary Ellen Fox are long-time Silicon Valley residents and former business owners renowned for their philanthropy in the local community.

Originally from the Midwest, the Foxes married in 1959 and moved to San Francisco. In 1965, Mr. and Mrs. Fox founded M.E. Fox and Company, Inc., a beverage distribution firm in Santa Clara County, which began with 10 employees. Before selling the company shortly after its 50th anniversary in 2015, the Foxes had grown their business to 150 employees and annual revenue of approximately $70 million.

Mr. and Mrs. Fox have supported numerous Bay Area organizations including Santa Clara University, Catholic Charities, United Way Silicon Valley, and the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center Foundation, which Mr. Fox founded with an initial gift. Active in civic leadership, Mr. Fox has chaired or served on several boards across multiple sectors including the San Jose Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, the National Conference of Christians and Jews, Cristo Rey San Jose Jesuit High School, The Tech Museum, and West Valley-Mission Foundation. In 2009, West Valley College opened the M.E. Fox Technology Center, named in honor of Mr. Fox.

At Santa Clara University, Mr. and Mrs. Fox have been dedicated ambassadors who have given generously through their philanthropy, expertise, and guidance. A long-time member of the Board of Fellows, Mrs. Fox served as its first woman chair. She also has been a member of the advisory boards for the de Saisset Museum and Graduate Program in Pastoral Ministries. Mr. Fox has chaired the Board of Regents, served on the Leavey School of Business Advisory Board, and currently sits on the Advisory Board of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics. Their generosity has reached broadly across the University. 

Mr. and Mrs. Fox have been honored by various civic, charitable, and religious organizations. The Foxes have been named Santa Clara County Philanthropists of the Year, and received multiple awards including the PACT Leadership in Action Award, Diocese of San Jose Donor of the Year Award, the Spirit of Ireland Award from the San Jose-Dublin Sister City Program, the Distinguished Business Leaders Award from the Silicon Valley Organization, and the Community Cornerstone Award from Silicon Valley Leadership Group.

Mr. and Mrs. Fox have six children, including two alumnae of Santa Clara University— Mary Beth ’86 and Catherine ’84, JD ’89.

2016 Recipients

Carolyn Y. Woo is the president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. Operating in more than 100 countries, CRS responds to crises around the world and reaches over 100 million people—from Syria’s millions of war refugees to African communities suffering from climate-caused farm devastation to victims of human trafficking worldwide.

Woo was raised in Hong Kong after her parents fled communist China. She immigrated to the United States to attend Purdue University, where she received her bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degrees, and then joined the faculty at Purdue.

Before working with CRS, Woo served as dean of the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business from 1997 to 2011. During her tenure, the Mendoza College was frequently recognized as the nation’s leading business school in ethics education and research. Prior to her position at the University of Notre Dame she served as associate executive vice president for academic affairs at Purdue University.

Woo was one of five presenters in Rome at the release of Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment in June 2015. Her faith journey and work at CRS are recounted in her book, Working for a Better World. Representing CRS, she was named by Foreign Policy as one of the 500 Most Powerful people on the planet (2013), and was one of only 33 listed in the category of “a force for good.”

Charles Geschke co-founded Adobe Systems in 1982 with John Warnock, and drove technology innovations that changed how people create, transform, and consume digital content. Currently, along with Warnock, he is co-chairman of Adobe’s board of directors. Previous positions with Adobe include chief operating officer and president. Prior to co-founding Adobe, Geschke formed the Imaging Sciences Laboratory at Xerox Palo Alto Research Center and was a principal scientist and researcher at the center’s Computer Sciences Laboratory.

Geschke, along with Warnock, received the 2008 National Medal of Technology and Innovation, one of the nation’s highest honors bestowed on scientists, engineers, and inventors. In 2008 he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and in 1995 he was elected to the National Academy of Engineering. He currently serves on the Advisory Board of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University.

Nancy Geschke is an alumna of Marygrove College and San Jose State University. Trained professionally as a librarian, she began work volunteering as a librarian at her children’s elementary school. She later managed the Westinghouse Research Facility library and worked as sales director and consultant for a library placement firm until 1993. She was president of the Special Libraries Association-San Andreas chapter for two years and was active on many association committees. She has also assisted the City of Los Altos Historical Commission in preserving the city and region’s history through film and exhibits. She was instrumental in creating the Nancy A. McDonough Geschke Writing Center at her alma mater, Marygrove College, where she is also a member of the board of trustees.

Through the Charles M. and Nancy A. Geschke Foundation, the Geschkes have supported Catholic education across the country. Catholic institutions such as the University of San Francisco, Xavier University of Cincinnati, Marygrove College in Detroit, the Catholic Foundation of Santa Clara County, and Magnificat and St. Ignatius high schools in Cleveland have benefited from their leadership. In 2012, the Geschkes received the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Award from the National Catholic Educational Association for their ongoing leadership and philanthropic contributions to Catholic education.


Michael E. Kennedy, S.J. is the executive director and founder of the Jesuit Restorative Justice Initiative (JRJI). The initiative is a pastoral ministry that strives to heal broken relationships between those who are incarcerated and their families, as well as the victims of crime and their families, through prayer, education, and advocacy.

From 1994 to 2007, Fr. Kennedy was pastor at Dolores Mission in Los Angeles, where he demonstrated a passion for working with poor and marginalized families—many of whom were torn apart by gang violence and crime. Returning from the General Congregation of the Society of Jesus in 2007, he founded the JRJI to create restorative practices and retreats for incarcerated people; he has given special care to youthful offenders being tried as adults.

Fr. Kennedy has served as a parish priest in the United States and in Latin America. He has also served as a spiritual director who speaks widely on his method of Ignatian meditation and as a prison chaplain in juvenile halls and California state prisons.

He has authored numerous books including Jesus, The Risen Prisoner: An Invitation to Freedom and the award-winning The Jesus Meditations: A Guide for Contemplation. He has been recognized by the California Chief of Probation Officers and the City of Los Angeles for his work in transforming the lives of incarcerated youth, their families, and their communities.