Commencement Speaker and Honarory Degrees
Passionist Priest/Physician Addresses Graduates
Reverend Richard (Rick) Frechette, C.P., D.O., Director of Medical Services, Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos International, was the keynote speaker at Marywood University’s Commencement on Sunday, May 8, 2011, at the Mohegan Sun Arena, Wilkes-Barre, PA. He was awarded an honorary doctorate during the ceremony, along with two additional honorary degree recipients, Reverend Scott R. Pilarz, S.J., Ph.D., outgoing president of the University of Scranton, and Reverend Thomas J. O’Hara, C.S.C., Ph.D., retiring president of King’s College, Wilkes-Barre.
Rev. Frechette, better known as Father Rick, became a Passionist priest in 1979. After a few years as a parish priest in Baltimore, he met Rev. William B. Wasson, founder of Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos (NPH), Spanish for “Our Little Brothers and Sisters,” and worked in Mexico in 1983 at an old hacienda that had been converted to a home for nearly 1,000 orphaned and abandoned children. As a priest and administrator, his next calling was to Honduras to help establish a second orphanage for NPH.
He was drawn next to Haiti, where Mother Teresa’s Sisters of Charity were caring for babies born of dying mothers, frequently sick with AIDS. Many of the babies did not survive, but those who did needed care, love, and a place to live. After visiting the poor country and children’s hospice, Rev. Frechette and Rev. Wasson decided to begin an orphanage there. Today, Nos Petits Freres et Soeurs, French for “Our Little Brothers and Sisters,” survives amidst political chaos, economic disaster and uncontrollable crime.
To further assist the Haitian people and their needs, Rev. Frechette went to medical school and became a physician in 1998. Despite ongoing obstacles, Rev. Frechette remains determined to make a difference in the lives of children in Haiti. His duties include overseeing NPH’s 250-bed hospital, St. Damien’s, which provides long-term care to critically ill children and outpatient services to over 17,000 children and adults each year; assuring the healthcare at the NPH orphanage called St. Hélène, with over 450 children; and spending five mornings a week working alongside the Sisters of Charity in their centers for the sick and destitute dying.
Rev. Frechette is a graduate of Assumption College in Massachusetts with degrees in math and philosophy. He also attended St. John’s University in New York and studied theology as a seminarian. He earned a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degree in 1998 from the New York College of Osteopathic Medicine and is a licensed general practitioner in New York and Florida. Rev. Frechette presently serves as Medical Director of NPH International and oversees the medical needs of the children in nine countries.
Local University Presidents awarded Honorary Degrees
Reverend Thomas J. O’Hara, C.S.C., Ph.D., retiring president of King’s College, and Reverend Scott R. Pilarz, S.J., Ph.D., outgoing president of the University of Scranton, were awarded honorary degrees at the 2011 Commencement of Marywood University.
Rev. O’Hara was named as the eighth president of King’s College in February 1999 and took office the following July. He holds the distinction of being the first alumnus of King’s College to be named as its president. He will conclude his 12-year term as president on June 30, 2011. Following a sabbatical, he plans to return to the classroom full-time as a professor of political science at King’s.
A native of Hazleton, Rev. O’Hara is the second longest serving president in King’s history. He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from King’s in 1971 before receiving a master’s degree in theology from the University of Notre Dame and a doctorate in political science from The American University. Rev. O’Hara taught in the political science department at King’s from 1988 to 1994 and again on his return to King’s in 1996 after a two-year faculty position at the Philosophical Centre of Jinga in Uganda. He was ordained a Roman Catholic Priest of the Congregation of Holy Cross in 1978.
Rev. Pilarz, outgoing president of the University of Scranton, will become the 23rd president of Marquette University. He will assume his duties this summer. A respected teacher and scholar, Rev. Pilarz became Scranton’s 24th president in 2003, following his service at Georgetown University, where he spent six years on the English faculty before being asked, in 2002, to serve for one year as interim University Chaplain, a position that included membership in the President’s Cabinet.
After receiving his bachelor’s degree in English from Georgetown University, Rev. Pilarz entered the Society of Jesus in 1981 and was ordained a priest in 1992. He received a master’s degree in philosophy from Fordham University, and master’s degrees in divinity and theology from the Weston School of Theology, Cambridge, Mass. He went on to earn a Ph.D. in English at the City University of New York, and his dissertation, Sacerdotal Self-Fashioning: Priesthood in the Poetry of Robert Southwell, S.J., and John Donne, won the 1997 CUNY Alumni Achievement Prize for Dissertation Excellence.