Published 05/11/18

U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to Keynote at Bryant University's 155th Commencement

SMITHFIELD, RI – Bryant University Chair of the Board of Trustees William J. Conaty '67 and the Board of Trustees Honorary Degree Committee,has announced the Commencement speakers and honorary degree recipients for the University's 155th Commencement exercises to be held Thurs., May 17, and Sat., May 19, 2018. 

Complete Commencement schedule here>>>

Inspired to excel, 914 members of Bryant University’s Class of 2018 will be awarded a Bryant degree which has more value now than at any time in Bryant history. They will join a powerful, global network of alumni who are inspired to excel and have distinguished themselves as leaders in their organizations and communities.

Undergraduate Commencement, May 19, 2018

The Honorable Elaine L. Chao, 18th United States Secretary of Transportation and the first Asian American woman to be appointed to a U.S. President’s Cabinet, will deliver the Commencement address for undergraduate students and receive an Honorary Doctor of Business Administration degree. Honorary degrees will also be awarded to Jonathan D. Fain, Chair of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Teknor Apex Company (Honorary Doctor of Business Administration), and Beverly E. Ledbetter (Honorary Doctor of Laws), Vice President and General Counsel for Brown University. On May 17, the Graduate Programs Commencement address will be delivered by Sandra Glaser Parrillo (Honorary Doctor of Business Administration), President and Chief Executive Officer at Providence Mutual Insurance.

Secretary Chao is an accomplished public servant who came to America at the age of eight as an immigrant who spoke no English. She received her citizenship at 19. Her experience transitioning to a new country motivated her to devote most of her exceptional professional career to ensuring that everyone has the opportunity for a better life.

As U.S. Secretary of Labor from 2001-2009, Secretary Chao focused on increasing the competitiveness of America’s workforce by restructuring department programs to empower workers and modernizing regulations to respond to the realities of the 21st century workplace. She has also served the nation as Deputy Maritime Administrator, U. S. Department of Transportation; Chairman of the Federal Maritime Commission; and Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation. Before joining the Department of Labor, Secretary Chao served as President and Chief Executive Officer of United Way of America. She also served as director of the Peace Corps. Secretary Chao earned an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School and an economics degree from Mount Holyoke College. She is the recipient of 36 honorary degrees.

Jonathan D. Fain, Chair of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Teknor Apex Company, will receive an Honorary Doctor of Business Administration degree. Founded in 1924, Teknor Apex is one of the world’s leading custom producers of plastics compounds. Mr. Fain began his career at the organization in 1972, joining his father, Norman Fain, who was at the company’s helm. The privately held company, headquartered in Pawtucket, RI, is a global custom compounder of advanced polymer materials, with a focus on vinyls, thermoplastic elastomers, engineered thermoplastics, and colorants. Teknor Apex has nine locations in the U.S. and operations in Belgium, Singapore, China, and Germany.

A member of the board of directors of Lifespan and the Rhode Island Foundation, Mr. Fain also serves as a board member for the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council, Rhode Island Public Radio, and FM Global board of advisors. He has previously served in various board positions for the United Way of Rhode Island, the R.I.S.D. Museum, Rhode Island Hospital Trust National Bank, Providence Country Day School, The Providence Journal , and The Miriam Hospital. Mr. Fain holds a B.S. in Business Administration from Boston University.

Beverly E. Ledbetter, J.D., Vice President and General Counsel for Brown University , will receive an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree. Ms. Ledbetterbecame Brown’s first general counsel in 1978. She provides legal counsel, representation, and oversight of work on a wide range of legal matters for the University. A highly regarded expert in the field of higher education law, Ms. Ledbetter lectures frequently on higher education issues involving employment, civil rights, sexual and racial harassment, and federal regulatory compliance. She was a faculty member of the Management Development Program and of the Institute for Education Management, both at Harvard University. From 1998 to 2007, Ms. Ledbetter served as a member of the Bryant University Board of Trustees.

Ms. Ledbetter was recently named to the Higher Education Committee of 50, a leadership group that educates members of Congress about solutions to improve college access and affordability. She has held leadership positions at the Girl Scouts of Rhode Island, the Thurgood Marshall Law Society, and the Urban League. Among her many accolades, she received the Order of the COIF award from the University of Colorado Law School, the Minority Counsel Award from the American Bar Association, the Distinguished Service Award from the National Association of College and University Attorneys, the Thomas S. Biggs, Jr. Award for professional leadership from Stetson University School of Law, the Rosa Parks Award from the NAACP Providence Chapter, and the Education Leadership Award from the Urban League of Rhode Island. Ms. Ledbetter holds a B.S. from Howard University and a J.D. from the University of Colorado.

Graduate School Commencement, May 17, 2018

Sandra Glaser Parrillo, President and Chief Executive Officer at Providence Mutual Fire Insurance Company, will deliver the Graduate Programs Commencement address and receive an Honorary Doctor of Business Administration degree on May 17. She has been recognized as a leader in her industry and one of the region’s 25 most industrious and influential businesswomen by Providence Business News. Ms. Parrillo assumed her current position in 2000, and under her leadership the organization has evolved into a growing and financially strong enterprise. The company offers a variety of insurance products to policyholders throughout New England, lower New York, and New Jersey. Chartered in 1800 based on a model developed by Ben Franklin, it is the oldest mutual insurance company in New England and the fifth oldest in the United States.

In 2001, Ms. Parrillo received the Charles B. Willard Achievement Award from Rhode Island College, and she received the 2010 Women in Insurance Leadership Award from Insurance Networking News magazine. In 2011, she was named Insurance Professional of the Year by the Insurance Library of Boston. Dedicated to her profession and to the communities that Providence Mutual serves, Ms. Parrillo’s civic engagement includes serving as a director of Cranston Print Works, Mutual Fire Insurance Association, NAMICO Insurance Company, The Champlin Foundation, the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council, and the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce, where she is vice chair of the board of trustees. A member of the Insurance Commission of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence and the Rhode Island Governor’s Insurance Council, she serves on the board of trustees of the American Institute for Chartered Property Casualty Underwriters. Ms. Parrillo holds a B.S. in Business Management and a B.A. in Mathematics from Rhode Island College, and an M.B.A. from the University of Rhode Island.


For 155 years, Bryant University has been at the forefront of delivering exceptional education that anticipates the future and prepares students to be innovative leaders of character in a changing world. Bryant delivers an innovative, uniquely integrated business and liberal arts education that inspires students to excel. With approximately 3,700 graduate and undergraduate students from 38 states and 53 countries, Bryant is recognized as a leader in international education and regularly receives top rankings from U.S. News and World Report, Bloomberg Businessweek, Forbes, and Barron's. Visit www.Bryant.edu.