SALEM — Salem State University has announced the speakers for its three graduation ceremonies this May.
Tarana Burke, founder of the "#metoo" movement, will address Salem State University's School of Graduate Studies at its May 16 commencement ceremony.
District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett will be the graduation speaker for the College of Health and Human Services and the Bertolon School of Business on May 18. And Boston Police Commissiioner William Gross will speak to graduates of the College of Arts and Sciences and School of Education on May 18.
“This year, we salute the fight for justice," President John Keenan said. "Our speakers have a powerful, inspiring history of standing up for what is right, for giving those that lack a voice a platform to speak their truths, and for ensuring that members of our community are protected, empowered, and have the opportunity to thrive.”
Burke has been an activist and advocate for more than 25 years, and in 2003 she co-founded Just Be Inc., an organization committed to the leadership development and wellness of black girls. After seeing far too many girls whose lives were affected by sexual violence, she created the "#metoo" movement, which went viral in 2017. Burke was named Time Magazine 2017 Person of the Year along with the "Silence Breakers," a group recognized for standing up against sexual harassment and violence.
Blodgett, first elected in 2002, has been a leader in confronting issues including the opioid epidemic, domestic violence, animal cruelty, underage drinking, auto insurance fraud and gun violence. He instituted an adult drug diversion program and expanded juvenile and youthful diversion programs throughout the county. He is a graduate of Peabody High School, Princeton and Suffolk Law School.
Gross joined the Boston Police Department as a cadet in 1983 and has risen through the ranks, becoming superintendent-in-chief in 2014. Four years later he was named Boston's first African American police commissioner. Among other honors, he was presented with the U.S. Attorney’s Boston office award for outstanding dedicated service to the survivors of the Boston Marathon bombing during the trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
Joanne (O’Keefe) ’68 and Phil Ricciardiello will receive an honorary degree for their steadfast advocacy of the university. Creating the largest active alumni group outside of Salem, the Ricciardiellos have hosted alumni and friends of southwest Florida for over a decade, and helped lead fundraising efforts for the university.