Dr. Jill Biden, Second Lady of the United States and Villanova alumna, to Deliver University’s 2014 Commencement Address, May 16

Honorary degrees to be awarded to Dr. Biden; Harry Dietzler, long-time youth theater and performing arts innovator; and, the Rev. Robert F. Prevost, OSA, JCD, ’77, former worldwide leader of the Augustinian Order

Jill Biden

VILLANOVA, Pa. – The Rev. Peter M. Donohue, OSA, PhD, Villanova University President, announced that Dr. Jill Biden, Second Lady of the United States and wife of United States Vice President Joe Biden, will address the Class of 2014 as the University’s commencement speaker. Dr. Biden, a 1991 graduate of Villanova University with a Master of Arts in English, will also receive the degree of Doctor of Humanities, honoris causa. The University’s 171st commencement will be held Friday, May 16 at 4 p.m.

UPDATE: Due to inclement weather, the Commencement Exercises for the Class of 2014 have been moved indoors. The ceremony will take place in the Pavilion at 4 p.m., with a live simulcast in Jake Nevin Field House. Additional viewing areas are located on Main Campus in Bartley Hall and Driscoll Hall. Please utilize campus signs for directions to these locations and the severe weather viewing map located here. The University Commencement Ceremony will also be streamed live. For more information, please visit www.villanova.edu/commencement.

Honorary degrees will also be awarded to Harry Dietzler, a long-time youth theater and performing arts innovator who founded Upper Darby Summer Stage (Upper Darby, Pa.), one of the most successful youth theater programs in the country; and the Rev. Robert F. Prevost, OSA, JCD, ’77 CLAS, the former two-term Prior General of the Augustinian Order, the worldwide leader of the Augustinians, and currently Director of Formation at St. Augustine Friary in Chicago.

COMMENCEMENT SPEAKER AND HONORARY DEGREE RECIPIENT:

Dr. Jill Biden, ’91 CLAS, wife of Vice President Joe Biden and a native of Willow Grove, Pa., is a mother and grandmother, a lifelong educator, and an active member of her community.  As Second Lady of the United States, Dr. Biden works to bring attention to the sacrifices made by military families, to highlight the importance of community colleges to America’s future, and to raise awareness around areas of particular importance to women, including breast cancer prevention. A Villanova alumna, Dr. Biden is also currently a full-time English professor at a community college in Virginia.

Dr. Biden works to emphasize the critical role of community colleges in creating America’s workforce. She recently traveled across the country as part of the “Community College to Career” tour to highlight industry partnerships between community colleges and employers. In 2010, she hosted the first-ever White House Summit on Community Colleges with President Obama, and she continues to work on this outreach on behalf of the Administration.

As a military mom, Dr. Biden understands firsthand how difficult it can be to have a loved one deployed overseas.  She is dedicated to shining a light on military families’ strength and courage, as well as the challenges that they face.  She travels regularly to military bases in both the United States and abroad to visit with service members and their families, and she wrote a children’s book, Don’t Forget, God Bless Our Troops, which was inspired by the story of a military family’s experience with deployment through the eyes of her granddaughter, Natalie, during the year her father was deployed to Iraq. 

In 2011, First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Biden co-founded Joining Forces, a national initiative to engage all sectors of society to give service members and their families the opportunities and support they have earned and deserve. Dr. Biden and the First Lady have issued a national challenge to all Americans to take action and find ways to support and engage military families in their own communities.

In 1993, Dr. Biden started the Biden Breast Health Initiative in Delaware, which over the past 21 years has educated more than 10,000 high school girls about the importance of early detection of breast cancer. She continues to stress the importance of breast cancer research and early detection.

Dr. Biden has been an educator for more than three decades having taught English at a community college in Delaware, at a public high school and at a psychiatric hospital for adolescents. She holds a Doctorate in Education from the University of Delaware, two Master's Degrees – one in English from Villanova University, and the other in reading from West Chester University, and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Delaware. Dr. Biden and Vice President Biden have three children and five grandchildren.

HONORARY DEGREE RECIPIENTS:

Harry Dietzler, a long-time youth theater and performing arts innovator, will receive the degree of Doctor of Humanities, honoris causa. A native of Upper Darby Township, Pa., Dietzler founded Upper Darby Summer Stage, a summer theater program for young people, in 1976, while he was an undergraduate student at Temple University. Today it is one of the most successful youth theater programs in the country, and this summer more than 700 youth will create six children’s theater musicals and a Broadway show in nine weeks.

Notable Summer Stage alumni include Emmy Award-winning actress and writer Tina Fey; Terrence J. Nolen and Amy Murphy, two of the co-founders of Arden Theatre Co.; actress Monica Horan; and Mark Cronin, the creator or VH1’s Flavors of Love.

Dietzler currently serves as Artistic Executive Director for the Upper Darby Performing Arts Center, a facility he helped found, which supports school and community performances and also presents professional children’s theater, music and dance to students.

From 1998 to 2009, Dietzler served as the founding Executive Director of the Upper Darby Arts and Education Foundation, Inc. He grew the foundation into a reliable source of funding for the educational programs of the Upper Darby School District, the Performing Arts Center, Summer Stage and other student programs. In 2009, it passed the $1,000,000 mark in funds awarded.

An accomplished pianist and composer, Dietzler has directed and produced more than 250 school musicals, plays and concerts. Dietzler has received numerous awards and distinctions, including the Barrymore Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in Theatre from the Philadelphia Theatre Alliance, and induction into the Monsignor Bonner Hall of Fame.

He and his wife, Dottie, have five children and four grandchildren. Dietzler holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Temple University.

The Rev. Robert F. Prevost, OSA, JCD, ’77 CLAS, the former two-term Prior General of the Augustinian Order, the worldwide leader of the Augustinians, will receive the degree of Doctor of Humanities, honoris causa.  A native of Chicago, Father Prevost was a student in the pre-novitiate formation program at Villanova University and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics in 1977.

Father Prevost served as Chancellor of the Diocese of Chulucanas, Peru, from 1985 until 1986, when he returned to the United States to become Director of Adult Vocations for the Midwest Province, as well as Temporary Director of the Province Mission Office.

In 1988, Father Prevost returned to Peru and was stationed in the Archdiocese of Trujillo for more than 10 years where he served as Director of Formation at Convento Sto. Tomás de Villanueva, Director of Studies at the archdiocesan Seminary of San Carlos and San Marcelo, where he also taught;  he was also acting pastor of two parishes and carried out the duties of Judicial Vicar for the archdiocese.

In 1999, Father Prevost was elected Prior Provincial of the Province of Our Mother of Good Counsel and oversaw the ministries of Augustinians in the Midwest, Canada and Peru. Two years later, Father Prevost was elected to a six-year term as Prior General, the worldwide leader of the Augustinian Order. In 2007, he was elected to a second term (the maximum allowed) and served for six more years.

During his 12 years as Prior General, Father Prevost was headquartered in Rome and traveled the globe visiting Augustinian missions and apostolates. At the opening of the order’s 2013 General Chapter in Rome, the meeting at which the next prior general would be elected, Father Prevost had the honor of concelebrating Mass with Pope Francis.

Father Prevost is currently the Director of Formation at St. Augustine Friary in Chicago. He dedicates himself to assisting men who are pursuing their studies and discerning vocations to the Augustinian Order.

Father Prevost professed solemn vows in the Order of St. Augustine in 1981 and was ordained a priest in 1982. In addition to a Bachelor of Science from Villanova, he holds a Master of Arts in Divinity from Catholic Theological Union in Chicago and a Doctor of Canon Law from St. Thomas University in Rome.

*For photos of the Commencement honorees, please contact the Villanova University Media Relations Office.

About Villanova University: Since 1842, Villanova University’s Augustinian Catholic intellectual tradition has been the cornerstone of an academic community in which students learn to think critically, act compassionately and succeed while serving others. There are more than 10,000 undergraduate, graduate and law students in the University's five colleges – the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Villanova School of Business, the College of Engineering, the College of Nursing and the Villanova University School of Law. As students grow intellectually, Villanova prepares them to become ethical leaders who create positive change everywhere life takes them.