Nationally-recognized sports journalist, author and television broadcaster Jackie MacMullan delivered the Commencement address and received an honorary degree. The College also conferred honorary degrees on Charles F. Monahan Jr., president of MCPHS University, and Sister Mary Alice McCabe, SNDdeN, who has dedicated her life to serving others in Brazil and Nicaragua. While touching on current issues such as the #MeToo movement and immigration, speakers delivered messages of courage and determination in the face of adversity.
"Let Emmanuel College be your moon"
Class of 2018 student speakers representing undergraduate Arts & Sciences and Graduate & Professional Programs also addressed the crowd of nearly 3,000 family members, friends and guests.
Marie O'Neil, a double major in Psychology—Counseling & Health and Writing, Editing & Publishing, spoke of the moth's evolutionary inclination to use moonlight to orient themselves and navigate during nighttime flight. In dark times, O'Neil told her classmates, "let Emmanuel College be your moon."
Caitlin McCarty 'G18, the student speaker for the College's Graduate & Professional Programs spoke of the support she and her classmates received, noting "now it's time for us to build our futures." McCarty earned her Master of Science in Management with a specialization in research administration, which will aid her in her role as the finance manager for the department of neurology research at Brigham & Women's Hospital.
"We have received much more than we have given"
The College bestowed honorary degrees on longtime MCPHS University president Charles F. Monahan, Jr., and educator and missionary Sister Mary Alice McCabe, SNDdeN.
Monahan, a 1962 graduate of MCPHS University, owned and operated six pharmacies in his hometown of Worcester, MA, before returning to the Fenway to serve as the University's president in 1997. Under Monahan's leadership, enrollment has more than tripled, programs have grown in number and caliber, and the University's campus has expanded to Worcester and Manchester, NH.
In his citation, Emmanuel College president Sister Janet Eisner, SNDdeN, praised Monhan's leadership, entrepreneurial spirit, distinguished contributions to health sciences education, and his earned reputation as an esteemed colleague, trusted collaborator and true innovator.
"With your vision and tireless commitment, you have empowered ever-greater numbers of students to launch successful careers in healthcare—and to serve others with integrity, compassion and professionalism," Sr. Janet said. "Moreover, you have enriched learning experiences for students at Emmanuel and other Colleges of the Fenway, while strengthening cooperation among all of the prestigious medical, academic, scientific and cultural institutions that surround us."
Inspired by the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, Sr. Mary Alice, a graduate of Emmanuel College, answered the call to serve as a missionary in the coastal region of Maceió in northeastern Brazil. There, she helped poor communities fight for their basic rights to land, education and healthcare.
The College honored Sr. Mary Alice for her "unwavering will to uplift those living on the margins of our global society." Gathering farming and fishing families into base Christian communities, she and other Sisters accompanied them as they struggled to free themselves from oppressive and violent landowners.
Addressing the graduates, Sr. Mary Alice spoke of the unbreakable spirit of the people of Latin America. How, equipped with faith and courage, they built a community of faith and action—organizing themselves into grassroots organizations, agricultural cooperatives, women artisan groups, Bible study groups and more.
"It has been a great grace to walk with the people of Latin America," she said, asking attendees to not forget for the thousands of refugees and immigrants who are still on a journey to find a better life.
The Sisters of Notre Dame have a long history in the region, ministering to communities in Brazil, Nicaragua, Peru and other countries. "As all of us like to say, 'We have received much more than we have given,''' said Sr. Mary Alice.
"There's one great thing about getting older—courage comes with it"
The College also awarded an honorary doctor of humane letters to its Commencement speaker, sports journalist and author Jackie MacMullan, for her commitment to excellence in journalism and to using sport as a platform for transforming the lives of others.
"To countless women rising in male-dominated fields, you have provided an example of determination and grace," her citation read. "To all of us you have given the enduring gift of your words—descriptions of people and moments that lift off the page; investigative reporting that pulses with intelligence and verve; and writing that expresses a profound love of sport and its power to move us and change our world for the better."
MacMullan's investigative reporting skills were evident from the start of her address, when she listed some Emmanuel "lasts" the graduates recently experienced—the last tater tot at Moonlight Breakfast, the last Emmanuel College Dance Marathon, and the last time to watch women's head basketball coach Andy Yosinoff go crazy on the sidelines when a referee made a bad call.
Leaving college, MacMullan said, she thought she knew exactly what she wanted. To be a sportswriter. To be famous. To be rich. She had a list of boxes to check off.
"But your life is going to evolve, and your dreams are going to evolve right along with it," she said.
She spoke candidly of being a woman in a predominately-male profession. Early on, her name gave her a few passes. "Jackie Mac," she said. "People thought I might be an Irish Catholic guy from Southie instead of a Protestant woman from Long Island."
MacMullan relayed the story of the first time she met the legendary Boston Celtics coach and executive Red Auerbach. It was 1983, and she was 22 years old and two months into her full-time writing gig at the Boston Globe. While covering a Boston College game at the old Boston Garden, Auerbach sat in the chair next to her and asked her, at halftime, what she thought. She offered her opinion on the game, but was quickly interrupted. "I meant the girls," he said. "Aren't you the cheerleading coach?"
But most of her interactions with men in the field weren't so humorous. Often she found she was the lone female in a men's locker room—and that she wasn't welcome. Former New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor even went as far as throwing at hair dryer at her. Though she was living her dream, she sometimes wondered if the struggle was worth it. She was determined to build her credibility, one story at a time—but in the years before #MeToo, she still wonders if she should have spoken up about the harassment she endured.
"There's one great thing about getting older," she said of her presence in the industry now. "Courage comes with it."
In 35 years, MacMullan said, she's been to six continents and 48 states. Swam in Shaq's pool. Driven a four-wheeler on Larry Bird's ranch. Swung a bat with Big Papi in the Red Sox dugout. She was there when the ball went through Bill Bucker's legs at the 1986 World Series. When the Patriots won the 2002 Super Bowl. When the Red Sox finally broke the curse in 2004.
"I checked off a lot of boxes," she said. "But then there were new boxes. We're talking about evolution, right?"
Speaking of her own involvement in Rwanda with Shooting Touch, an international sport-for-development organization that uses the power of sport to educate and empower at-risk youth, women and their communities to live healthier lives, she commended Emmanuel College students for their commitment to service.
"Don't forget about that base foundation of community service," she said. "I wish I'd popped my head up a little sooner."
MacMullan encouraged graduates to marvel at their depth of their own imagination, to ask questions, to start conversations, and not to stress if they did not already have their own list of boxes to check off.
"Those detours are going to be the most important part of your journey."