Nike Director to deliver commencement address to Class of 2016



Maria McGeary

The 173rd commencement ceremony on May 13 will feature an address from a former Villanova athlete, member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and Director of International Basketball for Nike.

George Raveling led the Wildcats in rebounds before graduating in 1960 with a Bachelor of Science in Economics. Following his graduation, Raveling became an assistant coach at Villanova, before becoming an assistant coach at the University of Maryland. He went on to take head coaching positions at Washington State, University of Iowa and University of Southern California. Raveling appeared at six NCAA tournaments and placed six players on NBA rosters over his entire coaching career. Raveling also served as an assistant coach for the U.S. Olympic team in 1984 and 1988.

Following his coaching career, Raveling joined Nike as Director of Grass Roots Basketball, and was promoted to Director of Global Basketball. Currently Director of International Basketball for Nike, Raveling manages global basketball relationships, encouraging more youth participation in countries unfamiliar with the sport.

“He really is a fascinating individual,” Rev. Peter M. Donohue, O.S.A., Ph.D., told The Villanovan. “He was one of the first African American players ever to come to Villanova. He was the first African American to become a coach. He’s been a lot in terms of bringing diversity into education.”

Donohue attended Raveling’s induction ceremony into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame with Jay Wright in 2015. “His entire acceptance speech was about how valuable Villanova was in his life,” Donohue said. “That if it had not been for his Villanova education, he would never have been as successful as he was. And this guy’s been very successful.”

Among Raveling’s long list of honors include Basketball Weekly Coach of the Year, Black Coaches Association Coach of the Year, and the John W. Bunn Lifetime Achievement Award. He is the author of two books, War on the Boards and A Rebounder’s Workshop. He is also in possession of the original copy of Dr. Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech. Raveling volunteered as a bodyguard for King during the march. “He was standing next to Dr. King, as he gave the speech,” Donohue recalls. “And at the end of it George said to him, is it possible, Dr. King, for me to have a copy of that? And he handed him the original.”

Raveling, along with two others, will also receive an honorary degree from the University. Sister Tesa Fitzgerald, CSJ, an educator and humanitarian, will receive the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa. In 1985 Fitzgerald became a foster parent to eight children while their mothers were in prison. Ten years later she founded Hour Children, an organization that helps incarcerated women and formerly incarcerated women and their children successfully re-enter the community, reunify with their families and build healthy, secure lives. Fitzgerald was nominated for the honor by Dr. Megan Quigley, Assistant Professor English.

Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Coast, Ghana, received the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, in February. Cardinal Turkson was instrumental in the publication of Laudato Si, On Care for Our Common Home, the Pope’s encyclical on the environment and human ecology, in May 2015. While Cardinal Turkson cannot return to the University for commencement, he addressed the community in the Villanova Chapel (?) before receiving his degree. Turkson spoke to the message of Laudato Si, saying, “Solidarity is to commit oneself to the common good of one another.”

According to Donohue, the process of nominating the recipient of an honorary degree is lengthy. “People submit names of people that they think have accomplished something in their life, either their career or through their service or a combination of both,” Donohue said. The honorary degree says, “we recognize what you have accomplished in your life, as being an important contribution to the common good.”

The process of choosing a commencement speaker is similar. “Every year we send out an email to faculty, staff, students, alums, to nominate people, and we get anywhere from 50 to 100 nominations for people, depending on the given year,” Donohue explained. Mr. Raveling has been a reoccurring name on the list for a few years. 

“We’re inviting people that have made a significant contribution, that have done something,” Donohue said. “They don’t necessarily have to be alums. We’re also looking for somebody that we feel would have a message for the graduates, and would be excited to come talk to the Villanova graduates.”

The speaker was honored to be selected, replying to Donohue’s request with a handwritten card that read, “You’ve made an old man very happy.”

Raveling, CLAS ’60 with 1985 Coach Rollie Massimino.

Courtesy of