Published 05/19/13

Three honorary degree recipients with President Machtley

Honorary degree recipients (from left) Jon Meacham, Navyn Salem and Catherine Bertini with President Machtley

At 150th Commencement, noted historian urges Bryant grads to provide 'energy, innovation, creativity'

SMITHFIELD, R.I. -- The University celebrated its 150 th Commencement ceremony not by dwelling on the past but by looking toward a brighter future for the world’s hungry.

President Ronald K. Machtley told the graduating seniors and guests who filled the Commencement tent May 18 that the University is dedicating its sesquicentennial year to making a difference in world hunger. “From a humanitarian standpoint and as citizens … it is in our own self-interest” to address the problem, he said.

Serving as examples of what can be done are two women upon whom Bryant bestowed honorary degrees:

"We hope you recognize money as a means … to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and educate the poor.”

  • Catherine Bertini, whose distinguished career includes service as executive director of the United Nations World Food Program, which she transformed into the world’s largest humanitarian organization and a model for U.N. effectiveness and accountability. Bertini received an honorary doctorate of humane letters.
  • Navyn Salem, founder and executive director of Edesia , the U.S. nonprofit manufacturer of ready-to-use, nutrient-rich foods that treat and prevent malnutrition in vulnerable populations in the developing world. She received an honorary doctorate of business administration.

Award-winning author and historian Jon Meacham, who received the day’s third honorary degree, praised their accomplishments.  “Navyn and Catherine make history. I just write about it,” he said before presenting the Commencement address. “They are remarkable people doing remarkable things.”



Meacham, who received an honorary doctorate of humane letters, noted that although the graduates leave Bryant as “citizens of the most powerful nation in the world … proud empires fade away.” What the nation now requires, he said, are citizens who provide “energy, innovation and creativity.”  

Bryant has uniquely prepared generations of students for the “experience of commerce and creation of wealth,” he said. But “commerce divorced from values can lead to dark places,” he said. “We hope you recognize money as a means … to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and educate the poor.”

Meacham urged the 729 graduates to be curious, gracious and hopeful, and, above all, to “remember that a life well lived is not judged by the bottom line but by the big picture.”

MarcAurele is Graduate School Commencement speaker

Graduate School ceremony

The May 18 ceremony wrapped up a series of events that began May 16 with the Graduate School Commencement.

In attaining their Master of Business Administration, Master of Professional Accountancy, or Master of Science in Taxation degrees, President Machtley told the graduates: “You have what many want but only 8 percent of Americans have achieved. And many of you did it while raising a family and maintaining a job.” The special knowledge they acquired and the determination they demonstrated, he noted, will serve the graduates well as they go on to become leaders of business and industry.  

Joseph J. MarcAurele (above), who received an honorary doctorate of business administration during the ceremony, offered the 173 graduates some simple lessons learned along the way as he moved from teaching to serving as chairman, president, and chief executive officer of The Washington Trust Company, the largest independent bank in the United States:

  • A good leader, he said, is rare and valued. “Lead by example, not by rhetoric.”
  • Remember that the people who hold the ladder are just as important as the people who climb it to the top, he counseled.
  • “Work with and hire people who are better than you or have the potential to be better than you,” said MarcAurele. “They will make you a success.”
  • Mentored by someone? Pass it on and impact future generations, he urged.  
  •  “Give back,” said MarcAurele, noting that some of the most gratifying experiences in his life involved service to others.
  • “And don’t forget to laugh. Banking’s not really that funny. Unless there’s a good Federal Reserve joke out there I haven’t heard,” he quipped. “Laughter is cheaper than therapy.”