Former Speaker Boehner Keynote Speaker at Madonna’s 69th Commencement

May 09, 2016

LIVONIA, Mich. – The featured speaker at Madonna University’s 69th Commencement was Former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives John Boehner (bio below). Some 1,300 graduates joined the Madonna University alumni ranks during two ceremonies Saturday, May 7, at Suburban Collection Showplace, Novi. Among this group were a dozen graduates of Madonna’s Doctor of Nursing Practice program and nearly 300 master’s students, who received their degrees in a morning ceremony. Approximately 1,000 students received a bachelor’s or associate degree during the undergraduate ceremony in the afternoon.

In addition to the conferral of graduate and undergraduate degrees and certificates, honorary doctoral degrees were bestowed upon Francis Edward Murphy, philanthropist, healthcare trailblazer and entrepreneur; and Former Speaker John Boehner. The Distinguished Alumna Award was presented to Mary Beth Smykowski of Northville (biographical information below).

Presiding over the commencement ceremony was Madonna University President Michael A. Grandillo, Ph.D., and serving as Master of Ceremonies was Provost and Vice President for Academic Administration Lewis N. Walker. Bagpiper Donald K. Ross provided the prelude music along with the Motor City Brass Quintet. The Honor Guard was Shrine Veterans Legion of Honor – Commander Craig A. Stigleman. The invocation was given by Jane Linahan, chair of the Religious Studies and Philosophy Department. The National Anthem was sung by Anna Dreslinski Cooke and Aaron VonAllmen, both graduating with degrees in vocal music, and interpreted by sign language studies grads Chelsea Cook, Amanda Duda, Rochelle Koloff, De’La McClendon, Regina Pestulak, Sarah Rau, and Andrea Reames. The mace bearer was Dennis Bozyk, chair of the History Department.

Biographical information for the Madonna University commencement honorees

Former Speaker John Boehner – Honorary Doctor of Laws
During the nearly five years that he served as the 53rd Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, John Boehner led the drive for a smaller, less costly, and more accountable federal government.

Born in Reading, Ohio, the son of a bartender and second oldest of 12, John Boehner grew up in Cincinnati and has lived in Southwest Ohio is entire life. He worked to pay his way through Xavier University where he earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration and later started his own small business. Boehner got involved in state and local government after seeing, firsthand, how high taxes and red tape impact entrepreneurs. In 1990, voters sent him to the U.S. House, where he was part of the reform-minded “Gang of Seven,” that forced the closure of the scandal-ridden House Bank and House Post Office.

With a reputation as a reformer, he worked alongside then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA), to craft the historic 1994 Contract with America, and he helped to lead the effort for the first balanced federal budget in a generation. Later, as Chairman of the House Committee on Education & the Workforce, he wrote legislation to expand school choice, strengthen America’s pension system, and reform the federal education bureaucracy to demand results for students and parents. Elected as House Majority Leader in 2006, Boehner was chosen to become House Republican Leader later that year.

On January 5, 2011, Boehner took the gavel as Speaker of the House. Armed with the Pledge to America – a new governing agenda reflecting the priorities of the American people – Speaker Boehner focused on removing government barriers to job creation and economic growth, addressing the drivers of America’s debt, eliminating pork-barrel “earmarks” and reforming Congress, and rebuilding the bonds of trust between the American people and their representatives in Washington.

A life-long Roman Catholic, he and Debbie – his wife of 41 years – have two adult daughters, Lindsay and Tricia. In the summer of 2015 he became a first-time grandfather, and in October that year, he left the United States Congress, after nearly 25 years of serving the people of Ohio’s 8th Congressional District and the nation.

Francis Edward Murphy – Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters
A philanthropist, healthcare trailblazer and entrepreneur, Francis (Frank) Murphy can trace his success to the support of his parish priest and a chance meeting with a successful businessman. Growing up in Columbus, Ohio, in a working class Irish Catholic family, Murphy attended Immaculate Conception grade school where his destiny was, at best, a vocational high school. Monsignor John Fagan, the parish priest, saw something special in the young Murphy, and secured a scholarship for him to St. Charles Preparatory School for Boys, enabling him to be the first in his family to graduate college. His early fundraising efforts as student co-chair of the St. Charles campaign, set a school record and whet his appetite for philanthropy.

After earning his bachelor’s degree in education from Otterbein College, Murphy taught English and Spanish with the Jefferson School System. He earned a master’s degree from Wittenberg University.

While teaching, he spent his summers working as a caddie at Brookside Golf & Country Club. There, he met Austin Knowlton, one of the premier construction entrepreneurs in the Midwest. It was Knowlton’s tutelage and mentorship that led Murphy to join the firm, where he rose to vice president of development.

Since 1984, Murphy has led multiple companies that have changed how residential services are delivered for the healthcare industry, the disabled and college students. He founded the VOCA Corporation, which constructed some 250 residential facilities in six states and the District of Columbia. His businesses own more than 400 residential treatment and assisted living facilities. One of Murphy’s ventures, University Housing Solutions, has built more than 30 residence halls in Michigan, Ohio and four other states.

Deeply involved in philanthropic work focused on building the human capital of the United States, Murphy is a staunch benefactor of higher education, Catholic charities and job creation. In addition, he has led capital improvement campaigns for hospitals, residence halls, and student centers, and developed an innovative model for providing clients with financial services and construction expertise.

Mary Beth Smykowski,’96 and ’99 – Distinguished Alumna Award
In 1996, Mary Beth Smykowski earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree from Madonna University. Pleased with her undergraduate experience, she returned to Madonna to complete a Master of Science in Business Administration degree in 1999.

Currently Director of Risk Management at Masco Corporation, Smykowski is an elected member of the Risk and Insurance Management Society (RIMS) Detroit Chapter Board of Directors.

A devoted supporter of her alma mater, she served on Madonna’s Foundation Board for the Leading the Way comprehensive capital campaign. Since 2012, she also has shared her time and talents as a member of the Trustee Committee on Advancement and Public Relations.

This woman of deep faith holds the mission and Franciscan values of Madonna close to her heart. Her goodness is most apparent in the way she pours herself into a project and cares very much that her contribution is meaningful. She and her husband Mike sponsored a complimentary Wine Tasting event at Madonna, from 2012 through 2014, for alumni and friends who support the University.

Grateful for her quality Madonna education, Smykowski generously contributes to student scholarships. She and her husband also are members of Madonna’s 1937 Society, as they have included the University as a beneficiary in their estate planning. She finds fulfillment in helping others achieve their academic goals, so that they, in turn, can apply their knowledge and skills in meaningful ways to improve society, while advancing the mission and values of Madonna University.