Three to Receive Honorary Degrees at Commencement Ceremonies

May 19, 2015

The University of Scranton will bestow honorary degrees to its 24th President, Scott R. Pilarz, S.J., and alumna Karen L. Pennington, Ph.D., ’76, G’83, vice president for student development and campus life at Montclair State University, New Jersey, at its undergraduate commencement on May 31. University alumnus Col. James F. Cummings, M.D., ’88, director at the Department of Defense’s (DoD) Global Emerging Infection Surveillance and Response Systems, will receive an honorary degree at the University’s graduate commencement on May 30.

Father Pilarz will serve as the principal speaker at the undergraduate commencement, and Dr. Cummings will deliver the principal address at the graduate commencement.

Father Pilarz serves as president of Georgetown Prep in Washington, D.C., the nation’s oldest Jesuit educational institution. Previously, he served as president of Marquette University, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, from 2011 to 2014, and as president of The University of Scranton from 2003 to 2011.

Father Pilarz’s impact at Scranton can be seen in several transformational campus improvements, which include the Patrick and Margaret DeNaples Center, the John and Jacquelyn Dionne Campus Green and the Loyola Science Center. He was among 38 successful individuals profiled by Ronald Shapiro in The New York Times bestseller “Dare to Prepare: How to Win Before You Begin.”

As a scholar, Father Pilarz has delivered numerous papers at scholarly conferences on various aspects of medieval and Renaissance literature. His book, “Robert Southwell, S.J., and the Mission of Literature 1561-1595: Writing Reconciliation,” was published by Ashgate Press. He has also lectured and published on topics related to Jesuit education.

He has received numerous awards for teaching, service and scholarship, including the John Carroll Award from Georgetown University, which is a life achievement award and the highest honor bestowed by the Georgetown University Alumni Association.

Father Pilarz earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Georgetown University; a master’s degree in philosophy from Fordham University; and a master’s degree in divinity from the Weston School of Theology, Cambridge, Massachusetts. He earned a Ph.D. in English at the City University of New York. He entered the Society of Jesus in 1981 and was ordained a priest in 1992.

Dr. Pennington has held various mid- and senior-level student affairs positions at six institutions of higher education since 1980, including director of college activities, director of residence life, associate dean and dean of students, and vice president.

A former trustee of The University of Scranton, Dr. Pennington served as a former board member and president of the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA), an international association of student affairs administrators in higher education with more than 9,000 members. She also served as a member of the Review Group of the National Higher Education Center for Alcohol, Other Drug and Violence Prevention, which was an appointment of the U.S. Department of Education.

Currently, Dr. Pennington is a member of the Clery Center for Campus Safety Advisory Board, a member of the International Advisory Board of the Higher Education Law and Policy Center of Stetson University College of Law, on the roster of the Fulbright Visiting Specialists Program, and coordinator of the NASPA International Exchange Program.

Dr. Pennington received both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in history from The University of Scranton, her master’s degree in education counseling from Gannon University and her doctorate in educational administration from the State University of New York at Albany.

A U.S. Army colonel, Dr. Cummings is responsible for oversight, development, functionality and fiscal accountability of the DoD’s global surveillance program for emerging infectious disease. Dr. Cummings, who has spent many years working on a malaria vaccine, has helped to shepherd the resources and steer the research in response to the Ebola outbreak in order to create policy changes.

Dr. Cummings has held several positions at the Department of Immunology’s Division of CDI at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR), including assistant chief and chief of overseas vaccine development, director of OCONUS Vaccine Trials for the Department of Immunology’s Division of CDI, chief of the Department of Field and Clinical Trials for the Division of Malaria Vaccine Development and chief of the Department of Clinical Trials for the Division of Regulated Activities.

His military awards include the Order of Military Medical Merit, the Meritorious Service Medal and the Joint Service Commendation Medal, among others.

Dr. Cummings serves as an assistant professor of medicine at the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences and on the clinical faculty at The Commonwealth Medical College in Scranton.

Dr. Cummings earned his medical degree from Georgetown University School of Medicine and his bachelor’s degree in biology from The University of Scranton.

Back to Top