President's Message

A message from Bryant University President Ross Gittell, Ph.D.

April 28, 2021

Bryant University’s commencement weekend, May 20-May 23, is the culmination of an historic year marked by “Bryant Strong” Bulldog spirit and commitment to preserving the in-person campus experience. We have all worked together to make the cherished tradition of commencement significant for students and their families this year.

Bryant will celebrate the accomplishments of Class of 2020 and Class of 2021 students and seven distinguished honorary degree recipients, including industry and higher education leaders and heroes on the front line of the pandemic, with in-person traditions for 2,139 graduates and their guests. Bryant is the only college or university in Rhode Island to allow guests at Commencement ceremonies on campus this year.

As previously announced, to reduce the size of individual events, Bryant Commencement Weekend 2021 includes four ceremonies:

  • Thursday, May 20, 5 pm: Graduate Commencement Ceremony for the Class of 2021, 260 graduates
  • Saturday, May 22, 10 am and at 3 pm: Two Undergraduate Commencement Ceremonies for the Class of 2021, 840 graduates
  • Sunday, May 23, 11 am: Graduate and Undergraduate Commencement Ceremonies for the Class of 2020, 1,039 graduates

With high vaccination rates and improved COVID conditions, the State of Rhode Island has recently announced plans to curtail some public health related restrictions and requirements. This means that we can now allow guests, along with the graduates and the platform party, under the Commencement tent and there will be no need for advance COVID-19 surveillance testing for guests.

We are very grateful for the leadership of our Trustee Committee on Honorary Degrees, and excited to announce the seven outstanding Honorary Degree recipients for this year:

  • Lisa Bisaccia, executive vice president and chief human resources officer at CVS Health, will deliver the Graduate Commencement Address and receive an Honorary Doctor of Business Administration degree at the Graduate Commencement ceremony on May 20.
  • Dennis Coleman, JD, Senior Counsel at Ropes & Gray, who represents a wide variety of sports, media and entertainment clients including the National Football League and Boston Red Sox, will deliver the Undergraduate Commencement address at the May 22 morning ceremony. He will receive an Honorary Doctor of Business Administration degree.
  • The Honorable Ronald K. Machtley will deliver the Commencement address on Saturday afternoon and on Sunday, May 23. Ron Machtley served as Bryant’s eighth president for 24 years (1996-2020) and was one of the longest-serving college or university presidents in the country. He will receive an Honorary Doctor of Business Administration degree.

Also receiving honorary degrees in recognition of outstanding career achievements and mission-driven contributions to the region and their fields are:

  • Paari Gopalakrishnan, MD, '09MBA, Chief Medical Officer at Care New England Kent Hospital, who led the effort to establish Rhode Island’s COVID field hospital in Cranston. He will receive an Honorary Doctor of Letters degree at the Graduate 2021 Commencement ceremony on Thursday, May 20.
  • Rosanne Somerson, president of Rhode Island School of Design, advocate for the arts and an accomplished leader building a creative learning environment with innovative integration of technical knowledge, design thinking and the arts. She will receive an Honorary Doctor of Organizational Leadership degree at the Undergraduate Commencement ceremony on Saturday morning, May 22.
  • Andrey Zarur, Ph.D., P ’24, co-founder of GreenLight Biosciences, noted for developing advanced biological solutions for world challenges including pandemic response, sustainable food production and access to effective human health. He will receive an Honorary Doctor of Letters degree at the Undergraduate Ceremony the afternoon of May 22.
  • Debra Paul '85, '94MBA, president and Chief Executive Officer of Fellowship Health Resources, a not-for-profit behavioral healthcare organization supporting individuals across seven states in recovery from mental illness, co-occurring disorders and related chronic health conditions. She will receive an Honorary Doctor of Organizational Leadership degree at the May 23 Class of 2020 ceremony.

We are very proud of our Class of 2020 alumni and Class of 2021 graduates who are in high demand by employers. This is strong evidence that their Bryant diplomas continue to have great value despite the challenging economy. I hope you will join us, either in person or virtually, to celebrate their significant achievements.


President Ross Gittell, Ph.D.