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2018 Honorary Degree Recipients

We are pleased to announce the 2018 Honorary Degree recipients! 

Law School

Eric Gonzalez
Kings County District Attorney
Degree: Doctor of Laws (LLD)
Honorable Robert G.M. Keating
Senior Advisor to the President, Pace University
Degree: Doctor of Laws (LLD)

Eric Gonzalez, JD, District Attorney for Kings County, is this year’s speaker and honorary degree recipient for Pace’s Elisabeth Haub School of Law. This is the school’s 40th commencement ceremony. Gonzalez made history as the first Latino elected to serve as District Attorney in New York State. His efforts have helped propel the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office to the forefront of criminal justice reform efforts taking place across the nation. His many professional accomplishments, dedication to the legal profession and administration of justice, and inspiring example to others both within and outside the legal profession.

He is a graduate of the New York City public schools, Cornell­­ University, and the University of Michigan Law School. Gonzalez has made his career as a prosecutor in the Brooklyn DA’s office, Assistant District Attorney to Executive District Attorney, and Counsel. Gonzalez has pursued justice for victims of domestic violence, gang violence, assault, and homicide. The bureaus he led became some of the most successful and productive trial zones in Brooklyn. He brought together precinct commanders, police officers, and citizens, which strengthened relationships between law enforcement and communities. He guided the launch of the Conviction Review Unit, which has become the model for similar efforts around the country.


Judge Robert G.M. Keating is an honorary degree recipient for Pace’s Elisabeth Haub School of Law commencement ceremony. Keating has served in a long and accomplished career as a member of the bar and made lasting contributions to Pace University and its Law School. Keating was New York City’s Coordinator of Criminal Justice, a cabinet-level advisor to Mayor Edward Koch. He developed and supervised the Midtown Community Court, the National Association for Court Management. He instituted the Court Health Referral Project, in which defendants received courthouse-based counseling on AIDS, drug abuse, and tuberculosis, recognizing the positive role social services can play in the justice system. Judge Keating had a notable career in the private sector as a partner in a law firm, senior executive vice president of a physician practice management company, and as chairman and CEO of a firm that provided consulting and alternative dispute resolution services. Judge Keating was chosen to lead the New York State Judicial Institute—the first judicial training and research facility in the nation built by and for a state court system, housed on Pace Law’s campus in White Plains. As Dean of the Judicial Institute, he oversaw programs that trained 14,000 judges and 50,000 non-judicial personnel across New York State. As both the Vice President for Strategic Initiatives at Pace University and an Adjunct Professor at the Law School, Judge Keating has made an important and lasting impact on thousands of Pace students.

He has served as the Chair of the Board of Trustees of the South Street Seaport Museum, as board member and treasurer of the Fund for the City of New York, and as a member of the board of Citizens Union. Judge Keating earned his JD from Duke University and then began his career as a trial attorney for the Legal Aid Society. He joined the Kings County District Attorney's Office, where he rose through the ranks to become Chief Assistant District Attorney. His initiatives in the Kings County District Attorney’s Office led to one of the nation’s first programs to offer an alternative to prison for drug offenders.

Westchester Undergraduate

James McBride
Award-winning Author, Musician, Screenwriter
Degree:  Doctor of Humane Letters (LHD)
David Swope
Chairman and Founder, Club
Degree:  Doctor of Humane Letters (LHD)
James McBride is this year’s honorary degree recipient and speaker for Pace’s Westchester undergraduate commencement ceremony. McBride is a writer, he is a musician, he is a teacher, and he is a native New Yorker. McBride was born and raised in the Red Hook housing projects in Brooklyn, and later St. Albans, Queens. He is the eighth of 12 children. He went to New York City public schools. He graduated from Oberlin College, where he studied music and communications and he also earned a master’s in journalism from Columbia University at age 22. He was a staff writer for the Boston Globe and Washington Post, and later served as a tenor saxophonist and composer for jazz luminaries. McBride is best known for his New York Times bestselling memoir, The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother. The book became a modern literary classic, read in schools across America. His novel The Good Lord Bird, about the abolitionist John Brown, won the 2013 National Book Award for Fiction. His body of work includes other novels, screenplays, musicals, and a biography of James Brown, called Kill ’Em and Leave: Searching for James Brown and the American Soul. His most recent book, published in 2017, is a short story collection called Five-Carat Soul. In 2016, President Barack Obama presented McBride with the National Humanities Medal "for humanizing the complexities of discussing race in America.” He has been a Distinguished Writer-in-Residence at New York University for more than a decade, mentoring young writers. He also created the Sister Lee music program, which teaches piano, drums, and music history to young people from the housing project where he grew up.In both his nonfiction and his fiction, he thinks and writes about the great challenges facing American society and the tensions and challenges around race, community, and humanity. McBride’s inspirational literary excellence, searching and insightful examinations of American society, and dedication to educating the next generation through his writing and teaching.

David Swope is an honorary degree recipient (posthumously) for Pace’s Westchester undergraduate commencement ceremony. David Avery Swope, JD, was the third generation of his family to take a leading role in Westchester County. Swope was born in Ossining and went to school in Scarborough before graduating from Harvard and Columbia Law School. He joined the Peace Corps and served in India. He formed a legal aid society in Bombay, now Mumbai. He became a corporate lawyer in Manhattan, first at White & Case and then Davis Polk.  He then came home to Westchester to manage the family businesses, which included a tennis club and Tappan Hill Mansion. He built the tennis club into one of the first full-service gyms in the area. As a successful businessman, he also became a major Westchester philanthropist. Swope was deeply involved in Teatown, founded with his family’s donation, and supported the Westchester Land Trust. He was chairman of the Jacob Burns Film Center and served on the boards of the Ossining Children’s Center and the Phelps Memorial Hospital. For many years, he was an active board member at Westchester Community College. He funded David Swope Scholarship to help graduates of Westchester Community College transfer to Pace. His passion for the environment led to his support of the Pace University Environmental Center.

New York Undergraduate

Carmen Fariña
Retired Chancellor of the NYC Department of Education
Degree: Doctor of Humane Letters (LHD)
Marilyn Simons
Co-Founder, Simons Foundation
Degree: Doctor of Humane Letters (LHD)
Carmen Fariña is this year’s honorary degree recipient and speaker for Pace’s New York City undergraduate commencement ceremony. She has devoted her life to ensuring that New York City’s schoolchildren have access to a quality education. After 50 years working in the New York City public schools as a teacher, a principal, a superintendent, a deputy chancellor, and, for the last four years, as chancellor of the nation’s largest school system, Fariña is retiring this year. Fariña has been a passionate advocate for students and teachers. As chancellor, she worked to build collaborative relationships, to address inequalities in the school system, and to help students. Fariña was born in Brooklyn to parents who fled the Franco regime in Spain in the 1930s. They spoke Spanish at home. She went to parochial school at St. Charles Borromeo Church, in Brooklyn, where she was the only student in her kindergarten class who didn’t speak English. Fariña earned a bachelor of science from New York University and then three master’s degrees from New York schools: one in bilingual education from Brooklyn College, another in gifted and arts education from Fordham University, and, finally, in 1988, one in administration and supervision from Pace University’s School of Education. She spent 22 years as a devoted upper elementary school teacher at PS 29 in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn.She introduced a revolutionary way to integrate social studies called Making Connections, would be replicated citywide. She moved into administration as curriculum director in District 15. As principal, the school rose from ranking 76th among public elementary schools on the citywide reading test to the top three. Fariña went on to be a superintendent, from 2004 to 2006, she served as deputy chancellor for teaching and learning. She retired after her long and successful career, only to be called back a decade later. She has made instruction more teacher-driven and less test-focused, while continuing to improve graduation rates and test scores.
Friedman has written and lectured widely on regulation of the securities markets and of financial institutions. He is the editor of “An Affair with Freedom”, (Atheneum 1967), a collection of Justice Brennan’s opinions and speeches during his first ten years on the Supreme Court.

Marilyn Simons, Ph.D., is this year’s honorary degree recipient for Pace’s New York City undergraduate commencement ceremony. Simons is one of the greatest supporters of basic scientific research in the United States. She is the president of the Simons Foundation, co-founded with James Simons, her husband, which is one of the nation’s leading funders of basic scientific research, focused primarily on mathematical and physical sciences, life sciences, and autism research. Founded in 1994, today the Simons Foundation awards about $230 million dollars in grants to scientists each year, and spends another $50 million on conducting research in-house. Simons earned a bachelor’s and doctoral degree in economics from the State University of New York (SUNY) at Stony Brook. She and her husband created the Simons Foundation, they focused first on autism research. The foundation started a major data collection project, based on work with 12 collaborating universities. The data set they created then became a major resource to a broad community of autism researchers, jumpstarting the field. Their successes led them to expand into many other areas, including brain research, a telescope project, and much more. The Simons Foundation is able to fund basic research whether it crosses disciplines, crosses institutions, crosses geographies, or seems impractical that public sources might not.

Simons is also active in supporting other nonprofit work across New York City and Long Island. She has been involved in supporting K–12 education for underserved communities. She is vice president of the board of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, the noted 125-year-old biomedical research laboratory on Long Island. She is a board member at the Learning Spring School, a school in New York City for children on the autism spectrum, and she is a board member at the East Harlem Scholars Academy, a charter school program. Simons is listed among America’s most generous philanthropists.

Graduate-Level Ceremony

Irene Sankoff
Actor, Writer, Lyricist, Composer (creator: “Come From Away”)
Degree: Doctor of Humane Letters (LHD)
Irene Sankoff is Pace’s graduate commencement speaker and honorary degree recipient. Irene Sankoff has always believed in the power of theater. Working both onstage and off in her home of Toronto, she has found enormous success in her second home here in New York, while telling a story about a small community in Newfoundland. Sankoff, a lifelong musical theater fan, is part of the wife-and-husband creative team that wrote the Broadway hit “Come From Away.” The musical, about a remote Canadian village that welcomed stranded international travelers on 9/11 and the warm interactions between the locals and the visitors, has become a beloved show that was nominated for seven Tony Awards in 2017, winning one. Sankoff and her husband, David Hein, both Canadian, met as undergraduates at York University in Toronto. They moved to New York together in 1999 to pursue their creative passions: Hein as a musician and Sankoff as an MFA student at The Actors Studio Drama School. In Toronto, they realized they could combine their passions by writing a musical based on their family’s true story, called My Mother’s Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding. It was a huge Toronto hit and has since been produced across North America, winning many awards. Together, Sankoff and Hein crafted the script, music, and lyrics for “Come From Away.” Sankoff and Hein won Helen Hayes Awards and Drama Desk Awards. They were nominated for Tony Awards, and their show won one, for best director. “Come From Away” was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album.