Ken Burns to Speak At Boston College Commencement May 18

May 14, 2009, 13:37 ET from Boston College

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass., May 14 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Filmmaker Ken Burns, whose distinctive and acclaimed documentaries have brought to life the Civil War, baseball, jazz and other facets of American history, will address the Class of 2009 at the 133rd Boston College Commencement Exercises on May 18. Some 3,000 undergraduate and graduate students will receive Boston College diplomas at ceremonies that day.

Boston College President William P. Leahy, SJ, will present Burns with an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree at the ceremonies.

Burns has been hailed as one of the most influential documentary makers of his or any other generation. His nine-part film "The Civil War" was the highest-rated series in American public television history, attracting an audience of some 40 million during its 1990 premiere. It also popularized his directorial style and the use of such visual elements as archival photographs and newsreels, classic artwork and original footage, combined with narratives culled from period journals, newspapers and other writing -- not only by major historical or literary figures, but average Americans.

Born in Brooklyn in 1953 -- five years before the borough's beloved Dodgers moved west, as recounted in his 1994 film "Baseball" -- Burns graduated from Hampshire College in 1975 and went on to co-found Florentine Films. His debut film, "Brooklyn Bridge" (1981), earned an Academy Award nomination, the first of many honors.

Burns' 2007 World War II chronicle, "The War," won three Emmy awards, was selected for the Cannes Film Festival, and was chosen as one of the year's top shows by such publications as TV Guide, People Magazine, New York Post, Los Angeles Times and Detroit News. He also captured three Emmys for "Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson," and one for "Baseball."

Boston College also will confer honorary degrees upon five distinguished individuals:

Margot C. Connell, an advocate and active supporter of education and health care in Boston, is chairman of the board at Connell Limited Partnership -- formerly run by her late husband, William, a 1959 graduate of the University, for whom BC's School of Nursing is named. Connell Limited Partnerships operates manufacturing companies in the aluminum alloy and industrial equipment sectors.

Connell's devotion to Catholic education was recognized by her selection by St. Mary's High School of Lynn as winner of the 2007 Richard Cardinal Cushing Award, honoring an individual who has vigorously championed Catholic education and whose personal and professional life mirrors the mission of the school.

The mother of six children, all of whom are alumni of Boston College, Connell is a convening co-chair of the Boston College "Light the World" campaign, and an energetic volunteer on behalf of the University. She also serves as a member of the board of governors of the Tournament Players Club of Boston and a board member of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation.

Joseph E. Corcoran, a 1959 graduate of Boston College and widely recognized as one of Boston's leading real estate developers, is founder and CEO of Corcoran Jennison Companies, a leader in mixed-incoming housing. The company's notable communities include Boston's Harbor Point Apartments, King's Lynn Apartments in Lynn, The Townhomes on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, and Oak Hill in Pittsburgh, each of which was given the Urban Land Institute Award for Excellence. In 2000, Corcoran Jennison was selected as "Development Firm of the Year" by the National Association of Homebuilders.

Corcoran is founder of The American City Coalition, a non-profit organization that plans and implements the revitalization of urban neighborhoods, and is a member of the board of the American Ireland Fund.

At Boston College, Corcoran has served on the Board of Trustees, chairing the board's Building and Properties Committee. He is currently a trustee associate.

Rev. Daniel J. Harrington, SJ, who received bachelor's and master's degrees from BC in 1964 and 1965, respectively, is the author of 40 books on various aspects of Biblical studies and a frequent contributor to America magazine. Fr. Harrington has a longstanding interest in the actualization of scripture in antiquity and modern times. His publications include How do Catholics Read the Bible?, Jesus and Virtue Ethics, Why Do We Suffer? A Scriptural Approach to the Human Condition and New Testament Abstracts, for which he served as editor.

An Arlington native, Fr. Harrington entered the Society of Jesus in 1958 and was ordained as a Jesuit priest in 1971. A year later, he joined the faculty at the Weston Jesuit School of Theology, and -- following its reaffiliation with Boston College last year -- now is a professor in the University's new School of Theology of Ministry.

Fr. Harrington has celebrated Masses every Sunday at St. Agnes Church in Arlington for almost 40 years, and at St. Peter Parish in Cambridge for almost 20 years. He also has lived with students in the same Jesuit community in Cambridge since 1972.

Carolyn A. Lynch, who along with her husband Peter, a 1965 graduate of BC, is the namesake of BC's School of Education, is president of The Lynch Foundation, which provides assistance to programs with an emphasis on education, culture and historic preservation, health care and medical research, and religious and educational efforts of the Catholic Church.

Lynch is a member of the board of the Boston College Campus School, which provides educational and other services to children with multiple disabilities and complex health care needs. She also has served on boards or committees for the Gregorian University Foundation, New England Conservatory of Music, Catholic Charities, Ralph Lowell Society, Boys and Girls Club of Boston and the Peabody Essex Museum, among others.

Lynch's honors and achievements are similarly diverse, including the Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam Award from the Society of Jesus New England Province, the Pedro Arrupe Medal for Excellence in Ministry from the Weston Jesuit School of Theology, Boys and Girls Club of Boston Partners of Youth Award and the Massachusetts Horticulture Society President's Choice Award.

Benaree Pratt Wiley is principal of the Wiley Group, a firm specializing in strategy, talent management and leadership development. For 15 years, she was president and CEO of The Partnership Inc., an organization that strengthened Greater Boston's capacity to attract, retain and develop talented professionals of color. Under her leadership, The Partnership became a major force in Boston's corporate world, helping more than 1,300 African Americans integrate themselves into the corporate community and encouraging more than 200 corporate partners to open doors for black professionals.

Wiley's experience in the business sector includes consulting with major corporations such as Abt Associates and Urban Systems Research and Engineering, as well as with non-profit organizations. She is a director on the boards of Dreyfus Mutual Funds, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts and CBIZ, and chairs the PepsiCo African American Advisory Board.

At Boston College, she served for 12 years as a trustee and is currently a trustee associate and a member of the Council for Women of Boston College.

SOURCE Boston College