Le Moyne College will award six honorary degrees as part of its 72nd commencement ceremonies, taking place the weekend of May 20 to 22, 2022. Among the recipients will be commencement co-speakers Jonathan Capehart, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and Washington Post columnist, and Representative John Katko (NY-24), who will retire this year after serving four terms in Congress. Both individuals will address students at the College’s undergraduate commencement ceremony, which will be held on Sunday, May 22 in the Expo Center at the New York State Fairgrounds
“We are proud to honor these two distinguished individuals, both of whom lead lives guided by an unwavering commitment to seek truth and serve the public interest through honest engagement and dialogue,” said Le Moyne President Linda LeMura. “While they have contrasting viewpoints on a range of challenging topics, they have always modeled respectful and open conversation, which is what we aim to foster at Le Moyne."
Capehart, recently named an associate editor at the Washington Post, is a graduate of St. Benedict’s Prep in Newark, N.J. and Carleton College, and in 2019 was a fellow at the Georgetown University Institute of Politics and Public Service. In addition to writing about politics and social issues for the Washington Post, he is also a regular contributor to the PBS NewsHour, providing analysis and commentary alongside New York Times columnist David Brooks. He anchors “The Sunday Show with Jonathan Capehart on MSNBC, hosts the podcast “Capehart” and anchors the weekly Washington Post Live show “First Look.” Earlier in his career, he was the deputy editorial page editor of the New York Daily News and, in 1999, his 16-month editorial campaign to save the Apollo Theatre in Harlem earned the board the Pulitzer Prize for editorial reporting. He will be awarded a doctor of humane letters.
For the past eight years, Congressman Katko, an alumnus of Niagara University and the Syracuse University College of Law, has represented what has been called a "50-50" district, which has required navigating deeply disparate viewpoints on a range of topics. Throughout his congressional career, he has shown immense courage in voting his conscience on a range of complex topics despite strong headwinds from his own political party. In Congress, he serves as Ranking Member on the House Committee on Homeland Security and as a member of the House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure. Prior to his time in Congress, he spent 20 years in public service, including more than 15 years as a federal organized crime prosecutor in Syracuse for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Northern District of New York. He will be awarded a doctor of laws.
Others receiving honorary degrees during the weekend are:
- Dan Cummings, a long-time Central New York newscaster (doctor of humane letters)
- Dr. Indu Gupta, the Onondaga County Commissioner of Health (doctor of humane letters)
- William Whitaker, founding president of the Washington Jesuit Academy in Washington, D.C. (doctor of humane letters)
As previously announced, the College will also award an honorary degree in absentia to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who continues to defend the Ukrainian people, their human rights and freedom. Le Moyne is among more than 20 institutions across the nation that will honor Zelensky in this way. He will be awarded a doctor of laws.
Honorary degrees will be presented to Capehart, Katko, Cummings, Dr. Gupta and Whitaker at a special ceremony in Grewen Auditorium on the Le Moyne campus on Saturday, May 21 at 10 a.m.
Dan Cummings, a native of King Ferry, N.Y., spent more than 45 years in radio and television news, working in radio in Rochester and Ithaca before landing at WHEN in Syracuse in 1978, a position to which he was recruited by legendary news reporter Bill Carey. In 1984, Cummings began his 37-year career at News Channel 9, as assignment editor. He was promoted to assistant news director in 1987 and news director in 1989. Two years later, he returned exclusively to reporting and anchoring which included time spent anchoring every major newscast over the next 30 years. Throughout his career, Cummings was recognized numerous times by his peers for investigative reporting, spot news coverage and public affairs, including twice being honored with the Syracuse Press Club's "Professional Standards" award. Four years ago, he received the Press Club’s highest honor, being named to the Wall of Distinction. In 2013, he was honored with a regional Edward R. Murrow award for best news documentary for "Saints Among Us," which told the stories of newly-canonized Saints Marianne Cope and Kateri Tekakwitha, women with deep roots in Central and Upstate New York. Just before his retirement in 2021, Dan was honored with an Emmy award for “Veterans Voices,” a program dedicated to honoring the service and sacrifice of local veterans. Dan previously served as a member of the Board of Trustees of Bishop Grimes Jr./Sr. High School and volunteers his time as an emcee for numerous charitable events around Central New York. In 2018, he was honored by Catholic Charities of Onondaga County at the 33rd Annual House of Providence Dinner with the Bishop's Award, which recognized his personal and professional commitment to serving the community. He graduated from SUNY Geneseo in 1976 with a Bachelor's Degree in Speech Communications. Dan also holds a Master’s Degree in Communication Arts from Cornell. His son, Jonah, is a member of the class of 2021 at Le Moyne.
Dr. Indu Gupta, M.D., MPH, M.A., FACP, is the Commissioner of Health of Onondaga County. She completed her medical degree in India; her Master of Arts (MA) in Public Administration and Certificate of Advanced Study in Health Service Management and Policy from the Maxwell School at Syracuse University and a Master of Public Health (MPH) from Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Gupta is board certified in Internal Medicine and is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians. Prior to her current role, she was an assistant clinical professor at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) after being in private practice for more than 15 years in Syracuse. As the Commissioner of Health, she dedicates all her efforts to identify health priorities in the community through a robust Community Health Assessment process and works towards implementing the Community Health Improvement Plan through strong community engagement. Dr. Gupta also believes that bridging public health and the healthcare sector is essential to reduce health disparities in Onondaga County residents by addressing social determinants of health through policy changes at the local, state, and federal level for long-term sustainable impact. Dr. Gupta is co-chair of the Onondaga County Drug Task Force and has served on the executive committee of Greater Syracuse H.O.P.E., a local antipoverty initiative, where she advocated for integrating principles of health equity and “Health in All Policies” because economic policies influence health outcomes. She is the president of the New York State Association of County Health Officials (NYSACHO), board member of New York E Health Collaborative (NYeC), and Regional Health Information Exchange Organization (RHIO) HealtheConnections, and serves on advisory committees of various organizations. Under her leadership, the Onondaga County Health Department achieved national accreditation for the first time through the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB). Since the beginning of COVID-19 pandemic, she led strong efforts to protect the health of community residents by implementing strategies to test, track, isolate, and quarantine to control transmission of the virus in Onondaga County. Once COVID-19 vaccines received emergency use authorization (EUA), she led a very successful COVID-19 mass vaccination campaign by the Onondaga County Health Department since December 2020 by working collaboratively with community leaders of faith-based organizations, educational institutions, hospitals, and local medical providers to ensure that there are no barriers to vaccination in Onondaga County. She has received recognition from various local organizations for her dedication to public service during this pandemic.
William Whitaker is the founding president of the Washington Jesuit Academy (WJA) in Washington, D.C. WJA was established in collaboration with the Washington area Jesuit Communities in 2001 and provides a comprehensive and rigorous education to boys in grades four through eight from underserved, low-income communities. WJA students attend tuition free and spend 11 hours a day, 11 months a year in the comprehensive program, which advances their spiritual, intellectual, emotional, and physical growth. Over the past 20 years, students have achieved close to a 100% high school graduation rate, compared to the 84% national high school graduation rate. Over the years, WJA has attracted prominent African American speakers and benefactors, including Eric Holder, Justice Clarence Thomas, James Brown, Wes Moore and John Thompson, III. Three Le Moyne trustees have been affiliated with WJA and several WJA students have graduated from Le Moyne. Prior to WJA’s founding, Bill was employed at Gonzaga College High School from 1991 to 2001, serving as dean of Admissions and Financial aid from 1997 to 2001 and as assistant dean of students and director work-aid program from 1991 to 1997. He has served on the boards of the St. Ignatius Loyola Academy, Mater Dei School (Chair), Connelly School of the Holy Child, Ignatian Volunteer Corps, and Nativity Miguel Network of Schools (Chair). He currently holds active board roles with Mater Dei School and Red Cloud Indian School. He graduated from Acadia University in 1989 with a B.A. in recreation and physical education management. In 2018 he received an honorary degree from the University of Scranton. In 2010, Bill was the recipient of the John Carroll Society Medal and in 2016 he was named a “Washingtonian of the Year” by Washingtonian Magazine.