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At Lafayette’s 183rd Commencement on Saturday, President Alison Byerly will award the following honorary degrees:

Marcia Bloom Bernicat ’75, U.S. ambassador to Bangladesh, Doctor of Public Service degree; Jim Gardner, anchor of Channel 6 Action News in Philadelphia, Doctor of Letters; Eric Holder, 82nd Attorney General of the United States, Doctor of Laws; Beth Mowins ’89, play-by-play commentator for ESPN and CBS, Doctor of Letters; and Robert Sell ’84, who will become chair of the College’s Board of Trustees July 1, Doctor of Laws.

The following biographies will appear in the Commencement program.

JAMES L. GARDNER, has been anchor of 6ABC Action News at 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. on WPVI-TV, Philadelphia, for 41 years.

Gardner joined 6ABC in June 1976 as reporter and anchor of the noon newscast. In May 1977, he assumed the position he holds today. His popularity remains strong.

Action News anchor Jim Gardner still a ratings force for 6ABC,” reads a recent headline on “So what accounts for the unparalleled loyalty Action News has been able to accrue over the years? Maybe it’s the presence of Gardner himself, who is a familiar face to generations of local TV viewers and shows no signs of letting up any time soon.”

Gardner has interviewed every president and major presidential candidate since 1976 and covered every Democratic and Republican presidential convention since 1980. He has reported from West Germany, Russia, and Israel, among other locations around the world.

Philadelphia City Council adopted a resolution honoring Gardner for his hard work and dedication to the city. The recipient of the Philadelphia Public Relations Association’s Gold Medal Award, he was named Person of the Year by the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia and elected to its Hall of Fame.

Gardner holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Columbia University, where he had his first experience in broadcast journalism reporting for the student radio station on campus protests in 1968.

Following graduation from Columbia, he worked at all-news radio station WINS in New York. He joined WFAS radio in White Plains, N.Y., as a reporter in 1972 and was soon appointed the station’s news director. He began his television career in 1974 as news director at WKBW-TV in Buffalo, N.Y., where his first big story as anchor was the resignation of Richard Nixon as president.

Gardner has shared his wisdom with Lafayette students in an on-campus lecture. For 30 years, the Jim Gardner Scholarship has benefited broadcasting and journalism students at Temple University.

ERIC H. HOLDER JR. served as 82nd Attorney General of the United States from 2009 to 2015.

Nominated for the position by President Barack Obama, confirmed by the Senate, and sworn in by Vice President Joe Biden, Holder is the third-longest serving attorney general and the first African American to hold that office.

Holder majored in American history at Columbia College before attending Columbia Law School, where he clerked for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and Criminal Division of the Department of Justice. He joined the Department of Justice in 1976, assigned to the new Public Integrity Section, tasked with investigating and prosecuting official corruption at local, state, and federal levels.

In 1988, Holder was nominated by President Ronald Reagan to become an associate judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. He sat on the bench until 1993, when President Bill Clinton appointed him U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia. In 1997, President Clinton named him deputy attorney general, the first African American to hold that post.

In 2014, Time magazine named Holder to its list of 100 Most Influential People. “Most Americans do not realize all Eric Holder has done to protect their freedom,” wrote U.S. Representative John Lewis of Georgia. “He has worked tirelessly to ensure equal justice, even when some try to tip the scale in favor of a select few.”

Holder earned this praise from President Obama: “His department has relentlessly defended the Voting Rights Act — and the right to vote — and pushed back against attempts to undermine that right.”

A partner in the law firm of Covington & Burling LLP, Holder is an internationally recognized leader on a broad range of regulatory enforcement, criminal justice, and national security issues.

ELIZABETH A. MOWINS, member of the Class of 1989, is an award-winning television play-by-play announcer and sports journalist.

The voice of the Women’s College World Series on ESPN for more than 20 years, Mowins also has called NCAA championships in basketball, softball, soccer, and volleyball. A prominent voice on ESPN’s regular-season men’s and women’s basketball telecasts, she was a member of the broadcast team for the 2011 Women’s World Cup in Germany.

The national spotlight shone brightly on Mowins in September 2017. She became the first woman to be play-by-play announcer for a coast-to-coast National Football League telecast when she called ESPN’s Monday Night Football game between the Los Angeles Chargers and Denver Broncos. She was featured by Sports Illustrated, CNN, CBS News, The Boston Globe, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and other national media outlets. Mowins has been the play-by-play voice of Oakland Raiders’ preseason games since 2015 and has called college football games on ESPN since 2005.

An English major at Lafayette, Mowins was inducted into the Maroon Club Hall of Fame in 2005. A two-time captain in basketball, she led her team to the East Coast Conference championship in 1986-87. A three-time all-conference selection, she scored more than 1,000 points and holds the school record for assists.

Mowins holds a Master of Arts degree in journalism from Syracuse University’s Newhouse School. She is one of five recipients to date of the Newhouse School’s Marty Glickman Award for Leadership in Sports Media, along with Bob Costas, Marv Albert, Sean McDonough, and Mike Tirico. The College Sports Information Directors of America honored her with the Jake Wade Award in recognition of her outstanding contributions to collegiate athletics.

A native of North Syracuse, N.Y., Mowins was inducted into the Greater Syracuse Hall of Fame in 2009.

ROBERT E. SELL, member of the Class of 1984, will become chair of the Board of Trustees on July 1. A trustee since 2006, he has served as vice chair of the board since 2016. He also is vice chair of the Steering Committee and of Executive Committee, and a member of the Committee on Trustees and Governance.

Sell is the former chair of the Committee on Student Life and Nominating Committee and former vice chair of the Committee on Compensation. He served on the Committee on Information Technology and Committee on Development and Alumni Affairs.

Sell was an alumni member of the search committee that identified Daniel H. Weiss as Lafayette’s 16th president and member of the Committee on the Presidential Inauguration. He served as a trustee member of the search committee that identified Alison R. Byerly as 17th president of the College. He is a former member of the Steering Committee for the Live Connected, Lead Change fundraising campaign.

Before becoming a trustee, Sell was president of the Alumni Association and chaired the association’s Long-Range Planning Committee. A past president of the Maroon Club, he was a board associate and member of the Alumni Council’s Executive Committee and Alumni Affairs Transition Team. The Alumni Association honored him with its George T. Woodring 1919 Volunteer of the Year Award.

A gift from Sell and his wife, Susan Sell, endowed a professorship in honor of Bob’s parents, the Richard H. Jr. ’60 and Joan K. Sell Chair in the Humanities. Bob and Susan Sells were inducted into the Société d’Honneur in 2011.

An economics major at Lafayette, Sell joined Accenture in 1984 and has held a variety of leadership roles in the company. A partner since 1995, he is group chief executive of Accenture’s Communications, Media and Technology operating group. He is a corporate officer of the company and a member of its Global Management Committee.

Categorized in: Commencement 2018, News and Features


  1. Gary says:

    Pardon my ignorance but why is a college handing out honorary Doctor of Laws degrees when they are not a law school? The many courses offered on government and politics by the college is on the undergraduate level and not graduate law level. In contrast, when I had earned the masters degree from the university, one of the other colleges within the university was a graduate law school offering JD and LL.M degrees. This clearly means the school was qualified to recognize others in their discipline. Does the department of education grant doctor degree authority and recognition to any undergraduate institution? Of course not which is cause to consider the reasons behind “honorary”which it may or not be real honor. To be frank, I’m not a fan of any honorary doctor degree because the doctorate has not be earned through the hard work of normal academic process. People hear the word honorary “doctor” and most disregard the word “honorary” and focus on the word “doctor” thinking it is a real earned Doctorate. Regardless of how many accomplishments someone otherwise has done in the world, saying the word doctor as in Ph.d, D.Phil, Ed.d, D.min, Th.D, M.D, or JD etc, without earning the degree, must be a slap in the face or kick in the rear to anyone who has earned the real doctoral degree. If the commencement speakers cannot come to speak without getting something like this for payment then it shows their own degree of vain glory to be lifted up higher than they should be. If I was a college board member, there would be no honorary degrees offered to anyone. Giving a check, room and dinner are enough to pay someone to be in my company.

    If the honorary is used as a kiss up fund raising tool or political affiliation ideology embracement which is the probably reason then at least line it up with connecting the dots of the honorary to the school that teaches the same subject which in this case is law. I can imagine the holder of the honorary law degree, hearing laughter from those who can connect the dots saying, Whats this, fake news? So, what is next on the commencement horizon, Honorary Doctor of Humanities for those working on global warming taxation?

    1. Thomas Bruggink says:

      A little research on honorary doctorates would answer all your questions and correct your inferences about the bestowing of these honors.

      I can’t imagine any holder of a Ph.D. feels diminished when an honorary doctorate is awarded to someone who has earned widely recognized honor in his/her chosen field.

  2. Richard Sappelli '57 says:

    I was appalled when I heard that the Board of Trustees of the college awarded a Doctor of Law Degree to Eric Holder, a former head of the Department of Justice. He of all persons should never have been awarded a “law ” degree of any kind as he was the only Attorney General in U.S. history who was voted by the majority of Congress to be held in criminal contempt of Congress.
    To honor such a person is a stain on all those law-abiding graduates and honor degree holders who preceded this travesty of justice. As a former graduate I will never look upon my alma mater with the respect it once held in my opinion.

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