PROVIDENCE — Dr. Mae C. Jemison, the first woman of color in space, an engineer, physician and author who has also founded technology consulting firms and a science camp for teenagers, presented the Commencement Address at the long-delayed Commencement exercises for the Providence College Class of 2020. The ceremony took place on Sunday, Oct. 3 in the Peterson Recreation Center on the Providence College campus.
Commencement for the PC Class of 2020 was originally scheduled for May 17 of that year. However, the COVID-19 pandemic forced postponement of the event. The College held a virtual degree conferral ceremony on that date which officially proclaimed seniors as having graduated. PC then began planning for an in-person commencement in October of last year, but the fall spike of COVID cases locally and nationally disrupted those plans as well. PC promised members of the Class of 2020 that the College would reward their patience with in-person commencement exercises, and 60% of the class was in attendance on Sunday. The Class of 2020 Commencement was the last major event of PC’s annual Homecoming Weekend which this year also included the inauguration of PC President Father Kenneth R. Sicard, O.P., which also was postponed from last year because of the pandemic.
Dr. Jemison was one of seven honorary degree recipients at the Class of 2020 Commencement. The others were: Val Ackerman, former NBA vice president, WNBA president and current commissioner of the BIG EAST Conference; the late J. Peter Benzie ’70, former trustee emeritus and global practice leader of Broadridge Financial Group; Sister Jane Gerety, R.S.M, the former president of Salve Regina University; Dr. Hugh Lena, who retired last year as PC’s senior vice president and provost after a 45-year career at the College; the late Dr. Francis P. MacKay, a chemistry professor who spent more than 50 years on the PC faculty and as a college administrator; and Erich Miller, president of My Brother’s Keeper, a nonprofit based in Easton and Dartmouth, Massachusetts, that delivers furniture and food to families in need.