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Distinguished leaders to receive Notre Dame honorary degrees, Laetare Medal

The University of Notre Dame will confer honorary degrees on four distinguished leaders in business, science, the Catholic Church and the arts at its 179th University Commencement Ceremony on May 19. University President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., will deliver the Commencement address.
Main Building framed by Notre Dame Avenue trees. Photo by Matt Cashore/University of Notre Dame.

The University of Notre Dame will confer honorary degrees on four distinguished leaders in business, science, the Catholic Church and the arts at its 179th University Commencement Ceremony on May 19. University President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., will deliver the Commencement address.

The honorees are:

John J. “Jack” Brennan (doctor of laws)

John J. Brennan
John J. Brennan

An admired and trusted business leader, Jack Brennan is the chair emeritus of Vanguard, one of the largest and most respected investment management companies in the world. He joined the company in 1982 and, over the next 27 years, served as president, CEO and chair of the board. Brennan has served as a member of the University’s Board of Trustees since 2009, was elected a Fellow in 2013 and became Board Chair in 2016. He is chair of the Vanguard Charitable Endowment Program, past chair of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, founding chair of Catholic Investment Services and a founding trustee of King Abdullah University of Science and Technology. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College and an MBA from Harvard Business School. He and his wife, Cathy, are the parents of three Notre Dame graduates.

Sabine Hadida (doctor of science)

A dark-haired woman standing with arms crossed.
Sabine Hadida

A renowned medicinal chemist, Sabine Hadida serves as senior vice president and San Diego site head at Vertex Pharmaceuticals. She gained international recognition as the leader of the chemistry team that developed now-approved medicines KALYDECO®, ORKAMBI®, SYMDEKO® and TRIKAFTA® as well as nine medicines in clinical development and two in preclinical development. For her revolutionary work in drug development and research, Hadida was a co-recipient, with Paul Negulescu and Fredrick Van Goor, of the 2024 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences, as well as the 2023 Wiley Prize in Biomedical Sciences. Prior to joining Vertex in 2002, Hadida was a research scientist at CombiChem Inc. and a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pittsburgh. She holds more than 60 U.S. patents and is the author of many peer-reviewed articles published in scientific journals. Hadida earned bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in pharmacy from the University of Barcelona in Spain.

Cardinal Christophe Pierre (doctor of laws)

Cardinal Christopher Pierre
Cardinal Christophe Pierre

Apostolic nuncio to the United States, Cardinal Christophe Pierre has devoted his life in service to the Catholic Church around the world, first as a parish priest and later as a member of the Vatican diplomatic service. In various global ministerial assignments, Cardinal Pierre has represented the Holy See, beginning during the pontificate of Pope Paul VI. Originally from Rennes, France, Cardinal Pierre holds a master’s in sacred theology from the Catholic Institute of Paris and a doctorate in canon law from the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome. He joined the diplomatic service of the Holy See in 1977 and was appointed to the pontifical representation in New Zealand and the Islands of the Pacific Ocean. Subsequently, he served in Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Cuba and Brazil and at the permanent mission of the Holy See to the United Nations in Geneva. Cardinal Pierre was appointed titular Archbishop of Gunela and apostolic nuncio to Haiti on July 12, 1995. He later served as nuncio in Uganda and Mexico before Pope Francis appointed him to the United States in April 2016. In September 2023, the Holy Father elevated him to the College of Cardinals.

Jaume Plensa
Jaume Plensa

Jaume Plensa (doctor of fine arts)

An internationally renowned artist, Jaume Plensa is recognized for his monumental sculptures in public spaces, including “Endless,” which greets visitors at the entrance of the new Notre Dame Raclin Murphy Museum of Art, and “Tale Teller VI,” which has adorned campus since 2014. Born in Barcelona, Spain, he studied at the Llotja School of Art and Design and Sant Jordi School of Fine Arts. Plensa’s work includes sculptures that appear in public places throughout the U.S. and around the world, including “Crown Fountain,” the interactive video sculpture in Chicago’s Millennium Park that catapulted Plensa to international fame. His sculptures and public art installations invite contemplation about connections among spirituality, the body and collective memory and focus on supporting global human rights and denouncing oppression, inequality and injustice. Awarded the Gold Medal of Merit in the Fine Arts from Spain’s Ministry of Culture, he also holds honorary doctorates from three universities, including the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and won Spain’s National Prize for Fine Art in 2012.

In addition to the honorary degrees, as previously announced, the Laetare Medal will be given to Claire Babineaux-Fontenot.

Claire Babineaux-Fontenot

A woman with short hair ang glasses, hoop earrings and an orange blazer.
Claire Babineaux-Fontenot

Claire Babineaux-Fontenot is chief executive officer of Feeding America, a national network of more than 200 food banks and 60,000 charitable and faith-based partners that works to rescue, store and distribute food to more than 49 million people facing hunger each year. It also conducts research on food insecurity and potential solutions. In the last six years, Babineaux-Fontenot has led Feeding America through a number of challenges, including navigating a global pandemic and the ensuing increase in food insecurity. Under her direction, Feeding America became the nation’s largest charitable organization in 2022, according to Forbes, and the network distributed 5.3 billion meals in 2023. Babineaux-Fontenot holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette; a Juris Doctor from Southern University Law Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; and a Master of Laws in taxation from Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law in Dallas. In 2020 she was named one of the world’s 100 most influential people by Time magazine, and she was featured in the 2022 Forbes “50 over 50” list.




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