2023 Honorary Degree Recipients

This year’s commencement ceremony will celebrate seven subjects with honorary degrees.

Among those receiving honorary degrees is famed musician Stevie Wonder, who is also scheduled to speak to the graduating class of 2023 during the commencement ceremony. Wonder will be awarded an honorary doctorate of humane letters. In speaking about Wonder’s award and as reported by Fordham News, President Tania Tetlow said:

“His music has charmed us, consoled us, elevated us, and entertained us for more than six decades. He is a shining example of an artist’s ability to stir the soul.”

Wonder has been hailed as an incredibly influential musician since he began as a child prodigy, working with Motown Record at age 11. In the six decades of his career, Wonder has earned 25 Grammy Awards, an Academy Award, induction into various musical Halls of Fame (including Rock & Roll) and eight honorary degrees. His musical work claims dozens of Top 40 singles, with 32 claiming the #1 spot, and spans over 100 million records sold across the globe.

Aside from Wonder, Fordham has not yet announced what subject of honorary degrees the remaining awardees will receive or why they will receive them.

Jennifer Jones Austin, a graduate of Fordham Law School in 1993, will also receive an honorary degree. Since graduating with a Juris Doctor degree, Austin went on to become the Chief Executive Officer of the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies (FPWA), an organization which describes itself in its mission statement as promoting “the social and economic well-being of greater New York’s most vulnerable by advocating for just public policies and strengthening human services organizations.” Austin continues to be the CEO of FPWA.

In her decades of humanitarian work, Austin has worked to propel the interconnectivity of social justice and religion. This can be seen in her history of working with the City of New York in various capacities, including serving as the first Family Services Coordinator, the Deputy Commissioner for the NYC Administration for Child Services and her current position as a chair of the NYC Racial Justice Commission.

Cardinal Michael Czerny, S.J., is also set to receive an honorary degree during the 2023 commencement ceremony. For the past year, Czerny has worked as the prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, a dicastery of the Roman Curia established under Pope Francis that combined the tenants of justice, peace, care of migrants and care for healthcare workers to support issues surrounding migrants who are impoverished or displaced due to conflicts or disasters.

Czerny is a second-generation immigrant as his parents fled from post-World War II Germany to Canada, where Czerny joined the Society of Jesus in 1964. As a Jesuit, Czerny worked to help found the Jesuit Centre for Social Faith and Justice in Toronto, spent time in Rome serving in the Social Justice Secretariat at the Jesuit general Curia and founded the African Jesuit AIDS Network, all before becoming the prefect of the aforementioned dicastery. Czerny was made a cardinal by Pope Francis in October 2019.

Norman Francis, former president of Xavier University of Louisiana, is set to receive an honorary degree. Francis served as Xavier’s president for 47 years between 1968 and 2015 as both the university’s first Black and lay president. Francis is widely recognized in academic, community service and faith circles for his participation in the Civil Rights Movement, recovery from Hurricane Katrina and his expansion of Xavier University. During Francis’ presidency, the university expanded immensely, with enrollment more than doubling and the campus itself increasing in size and facilities.
Francis has been highly awarded throughout his lifetime, even earning the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2006, during which then-President George W. Bush referred to Francis as “a man of deep intellect, compassion and character.” An honorary degree from Fordham University will be another in a long list of 39 honorary degrees Francis has received from various universities since 1969.

Next on the list of honorary degree awardees is Sharon Greenberger, current president and CEO of the YMCA of Greater New York, placing her in the service of over 600,000 New Yorkers. Greenberger has served in this role since 2015.
Prior to the role, Greenberg has worked in urban development for decades, with experience as the SVP, Facilities and Real Estate at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, the Chief Operations Officer for the New York City Department of Education and the president and CEO of the New York City School Construction Authority.

Greenberger’s experience in public service also reaches organizations like the Charles H. Revson Foundation (an organization serving “the Jewish community, medical institutions, and schools and universities in New York”), where she works as secretary. Greenberger also serves as the Vice Chair for the New York-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital and is a Board Member for the Prospect Park Alliance.
Jeh Johnson, the former United States Secretary of Homeland Security from 2013 to 2017, is also set to receive an honorary degree during the 2023 commencement ceremony. Johnson entered the sphere of civil service in 1989, when he served as an assistant United States Attorney in the Southern District of New York. Almost 10 years later, Johnson was appointed in the general counsel of the Department of the Air Force during the Clinton administration for three years between 1998 and 2001.

Johnson exited civil service at the end of Clinton’s presidency, but returned after being nominated as the Department of Defense General Counsel by President Barack Obama in 2009.

Under Obama, Johnson would become the U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security in 2013. Johnson left public office to pursue private practice in New York City. The final honorary degree awardee is Regina Pitaro, FCRH ’76, who has worked as a philanthropist, author, Fordham trustee fellow and managing director of GAMCO Investors, an investment advisory firm. Pitaro’s wide-ranging career has led her to a variety of opportunities, working as everything from an investment analyst at Lehman Brothers Kuhn Loeb to working under the federal government as an archaeologist. Pitaro is perhaps best known for her book “Deals, Deals and More Deals,” a financial self-help book to advise readers on risk arbitrage.

After earning a degree in anthropology at Fordham, Pitaro continued her academic career by attending the Columbia University Graduate School of Business, where she earned an M.B.A. in finance, and Loyola University of Chicago, earning an M.A. in anthropology. Pitaro’s work also includes previously serving as a board member of Futures in Education for Brooklyn and Queens, providing financial assistance to underprivileged students seeking Catholic education.