Former head of U.S. Central Command, ‘Nova alumnus to speak at Commencement

Thomas Celona

Adm. William Fallon (United States Navy Retired) will be the speaker for the University Commencement ceremony on May 17. Fallon will address the Class of ’09 during the ceremony, which is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. and occur in the Villanova Stadium but will be moved to the Pavilion in the case of inclement weather.

Fallon will receive the degree of Doctor of Military Science, honoris causa.

Additionally, the University will award the honorary degree of Doctor of Medical Science, honoris causa to Sister Teresita Hinnegan.

Fallon, a ’67 Villanova alumnus, recently retired in 2008 after a distinguished 40-year career of military service. Most prominently, Fallon served as the head of the U.S. Central Command, directing all military operations in the Middle East, Central Asia and the Horn of Africa.

In this position, he focused on the recent combat efforts in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Fallon was the first naval officer to hold this high-ranking position.

“He’s been a very successful alumnus and has had some important military positions but political positions as well,” University President Rev. Peter Donohue, O.S.A., said. “We’re very honored to have him.”

Fallon began his military career during the Vietnam War, serving as a combat aviator.

He additionally led a Carrier Air Wing during the Gulf War of 1991 and commanded the U.S. 6th fleet Battle Force during NATO operations in Bosnia.

Before assuming the position as head of the U.S. Central Command, Fallon led the U.S. Pacific Command for two years, initiating a resumption of military engagement with China, outreach with India and humanitarian assistance in the wake of the 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia. Fallon additionally served as presidential envoy to Japan.

In all, Fallon has led U.S. and Allied forces in eight separate commands, assuming some of the highest leadership roles within the U.S. military and foreign diplomacy.

Since retiring from military service, Fallon has become a Robert E. Wilhelm Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Center for International Studies. Furthermore, he serves on the Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States and as co-chair of the National Association of Corporate Directors 2009 Blue Ribbon Commission. He also owns a private consulting firm.

Fallon was recommended by philosophy professor John Immerwahr and will be introduced at Commencement by Col. Brian Manthe of the University’s NROTC Program.

Hinnegan will be the other recipient of an honorary degree during the Commencement ceremony.

A fixture of Philadelphia health care advocacy, Hinnegan has become well known for her work to improve health care for economically disadvantaged women and to bring attention to maternal/child health issues.

Since the age of 21, Hinnegan has been a member of the Medical Mission Sisters, an international group of Roman Catholic sisters who work for health care-related social justice for many who are denied basic human rights.

From 1955-’69, Hinnegan served in hospitals in Bangladesh before returning to Philadelphia, where she co-founded the Maternity Care Coalition, which helps address the lack of services available to pregnant women.

In 1981, Hinnegan began a career as a lecturer at Penn’s School of Nursing before retiring in 2002. She currently serves as president of the board of directors of Dawn’s Place, a residence and therapeutic program in Philadelphia for women escaping commercial sexual exploitation. She additionally developed the Center for Empowerment of Women and Girls located in the Roxborough neighborhood of Philadelphia in 2007.

Hinnegan will be introduced at the ceremony by her recommender, Dr. Kimberly Trout of the College of Nursing.

The process of selecting the Commencement speaker and honorary degree recipients is a complicated one that begins during the preceding summer, according to Donohue.

Donohue sends an e-mail to the Villanova community, asking for nominations.

Then, beginning in September, a committee consisting of approximately 14 administrators, faculty members and students reviews the nominations and compiles a list of those they feel would be appropriate.

The committee immediately saw Fallon as a qualified candidate. At its December meeting, the Board of Trustees approved awarding Fallon an honorary degree, and he was always considered to be a potential Commencement speaker.

Donohue then saw Fallon at Villanova’s NCAA men’s basketball tournament games in both Boston and Detroit.

The two discussed the possibility of him speaking at Commencement, and Fallon expressed great interest.

“He’s very honored by the whole thing,” Donohue said.

The Board of Trustees approved Fallon to be the speaker at its annual April meeting last week.

One of the most notable changes about this year’s Commencement ceremony is that it will feature the awarding of only two honorary degrees. In years past, the University has conferred many more degrees, including six during last year’s ceremony.

This change emerged from discussion concerning last year’s ceremony by a committee organized by Assistant to the President for Events Christine Quisenberry, who organizes Commencement.

“We made the conscious decision to limit the number of degree recipients to no more than three because the committee felt the ceremony was getting bogged down,” Donohue said.

This effort to streamline the ceremony coincides with a major change to Commencement weekend. For the first time this year, all four colleges will hold separate ceremonies on April 16. Last year, the College of Arts and Sciences held a ceremony for medallion winners only.

The Commencement ceremony on April 17 will honor approximately 2,000 undergraduate and graduate students.

The only school that will not participate in this ceremony will be the School of Law, which will hold its own ceremony on May 15 at 11 a.m. in the Pavilion.

At the School of Law’s ceremony, the speaker will be Archbishop Wilton Gregory of the Archdiocese of Atlanta, while John Scarpa will receive an honorary degree in recognition of his efforts to create the School of Law’s John F. Scarpa conference and lecture series.