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Five distinguished leaders to join former Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos as Notre Dame honorary degree recipients

The University of Notre Dame will bestow honorary degrees on five distinguished leaders in science, business, music and community service at its 178th University Commencement Ceremony on May 21.

The University of Notre Dame will bestow honorary degrees on five distinguished leaders in science, business, music and community service at its 178th University Commencement Ceremony on May 21. A sixth honorary degree will be presented to Juan Manuel Santos, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and former president of Colombia, who will deliver the principal commencement address.

The honorees are:

Howard G. Adams (doctor of science)


Howard G. Adams is a leading expert on developing individuals through mentoring and strategic career and life planning. From 1978 to 1995, he served as the inaugural executive director of the National Consortium for Graduate Degrees for Minorities in Engineering and Science Inc., headquartered at Notre Dame and credited with providing fellowships and internships that assisted 3,000 students from underrepresented backgrounds obtain advanced degrees in engineering and applied science. In 1989, he was appointed by President Ronald Reagan to a U.S. congressional task force on women, minorities and the handicapped in science and technology. Adams received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring in 1995, and the Golden Torch Award from the National Society of Black Engineers in 2002. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Norfolk State University, a master’s degree from Virginia State University and a doctorate from Syracuse University.

Amy Grant (doctor of fine arts)

Amy Grant

Hailed as an “artist beloved across genres and generations,” singer-songwriter Amy Grant released her first album in 1978 at age 17 and has since then topped the pop, adult contemporary and contemporary Christian music charts with songs such as “Father’s Eyes,” “El Shaddai,” “Breath of Heaven (Mary’s Song),” “The Next Time I Fall” and “Baby, Baby.” She is the recipient of six Grammy Awards, 22 Dove Awards from the Gospel Music Association and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 2021, she was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. In December she was recognized for her achievements in the arts and her commitment to philanthropy at the 45th annual Kennedy Center Honors, making her the first contemporary Christian music artist to receive this prestigious honor. She is a supporter of such causes as St. Jude Children’s Hospital, MusiCares, Compassion International and the Nashville Rescue Mission.

Dr. James O’Connell (doctor of science)


Known as Doctor Jim on the streets of Boston, James O’Connell has delivered health care to that city’s homeless population for almost four decades. The 1970 Notre Dame graduate and class salutatorian was the founding physician in 1985 of the Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program. What began as a one-year agreement to serve the city’s most marginalized citizens has led to the establishment of more than 30 clinics throughout Boston, serving more than 11,000 people annually. The author of “Stories from the Shadows: Reflections of a Street Doctor” and the subject of a current New York Times bestseller by Tracy Kidder titled “Rough Sleepers: Dr. Jim O’Connell’s Urgent Mission to Bring Healing to Homeless People,” O’Connell has also served as the national director of the Homeless Families Program for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. But the physician is best known for the care he brings to the people he serves personally, making daily rounds down alleyways, through encampments and along the backstreets.

James E. Rohr (doctor of laws)

Jim Rohr

The retired executive chairman and former chief executive officer of the PNC Financial Services Group, James E. Rohr guided one of the largest diversified financial services companies in the United States, earning many accolades for his leadership, vision and integrity along the way. Having joined PNC’s management development program in 1972, he served the company for more than 40 years. Named chief executive officer in 2000, Rohr oversaw the company’s expansion from an institution that served customers primarily in two states to one of the largest banks in the nation. He received an undergraduate degree from Notre Dame and a Master of Business Administration degree from The Ohio State University, and has served on Notre Dame’s Board of Trustees since 2010. In addition to leading and supporting many other civic, cultural and educational causes, Rohr was the driving force behind Grow Up Great, PNC’s $500 million, multi-year, bilingual program that helps prepare children from birth to age 5 for school and life.

Marguerite Taylor (doctor of laws)

Marguerite 2

Marguerite Taylor has dedicated her life to improving her hometown of South Bend and building lasting relationships between the city and Notre Dame. A lifelong resident of the Northeast Neighborhood, she was instrumental in establishing the University’s Robinson Community Learning Center, which is named for her mother, the late Renelda Robinson. She also worked at the center for many years, first as a volunteer monitor and later as assistant director for adult programs. An active member of the community, she has been involved with many local boards and organizations, including REAL Services, the Charles Martin Youth Center, South Bend Heritage Foundation, Goodwill Industries, the Northeast Neighborhood Revitalization Organization and First A.M.E. Zion Church. For her leadership and dedication to building a stronger community, she was inducted into the South Bend Community Hall of Fame in 2011.

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