SHU Announces 42nd Commencement and Honorary Degree Recipients

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Mark Freitas, Sacred Heart University trustee and president and COO of Frank Crystal & Company; Deacon Hans Gram, SHU trustee and retired CEO of R.S. Platou a.s., an international ship-broking company; and James P. Comer, M.D., the Maurice Falk Professor of Child Psychiatry at the Yale University School of Medicine’s Child Study Center will address graduates on Commencement Weekend at Sacred Heart University, May 17th and 18th.

Mr. Freitas and Mr. Gram will deliver commencement addresses at SHU’s 42nd Undergraduate Commencement on Sunday, May 18th, at 11:00 a.m. on Campus Field. They will both receive honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degrees.

Dr. Comer will address the University’s Graduate Commencement on Saturday, May 17th, at 1:00 p.m. in the William H. Pitt Health and Recreation Center. He will receive a Doctor of Humane Letters degree.

Also receiving a Doctor of Humane Letters degree at Undergraduate Commencement on May 18th is Jane E. Ferreira, president and CEO of Bridgeport’s Mercy Learning Center.

The University will bestow a total of 1,465 degrees this year, including 23 Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degrees, 422 master’s degrees, 937 bachelor’s degrees, 29 associate’s degrees and 54 professional certificates.

Mark Freitas, a member of SHU’s Board of Trustees, is the president and COO of Frank Crystal & Company, one of the top 20 insurance brokerage firms in the U.S., and in the top five percent in the world.

A dedicated philanthropist, Mr. Freitas established the Mark Edward Freitas Foundation in 2005 to support programs that promise substantial impact on children and adolescents who are physically, intellectually and financially challenged.

A 1981 graduate of the University of Connecticut, Mr. Freitas has contributed greatly to his alma mater as well. Among other aspects of involvement, he serves as a director of the UConn Foundation, is a member of the Leadership Cabinet of the School of Business, and has established an endowment fund and an athletic scholarship. In 2005, UConn named its 2000-seat ice rink for its alumnus, dubbing it the Mark Edward Freitas Ice Forum.

A resident of West Redding, Conn., Hans Gram grew up the son of a shipbroker in Oslo, Norway. In 1936 his father was a founding partner of R.S. Platou a.s., an international ship-broking company that serves the shipping and offshore industry worldwide.

Mr. Gram graduated from Oslo's Commercial College in 1959 and attended the Oslo Academy for Business in 1960. In 1977, he completed the Advanced Management Course for Executives at C.E.I. in Geneva, Switzerland. He served as CEO of R.S. Platou from 1977 until 1986, and is still serving as a non-executive director of that company. He headed an independent ship-owning company from 1986 until 1990, which he sold when he moved with his family to the U.S.

Mr. Gram, who became a U.S. citizen in 2000, and his wife, Ingela, have four children. He served on the Parish Council of St. Mary Parish in Ridgefield, Conn., from 1992 to 2002 and has served on the parish Finance Committee since 1998. In 2006, Mr. Gram was ordained a deacon for the Diocese of Bridgeport and is currently a member of SHU’s Board of Trustees.

In 2002, Jane E. Ferreira became the president and CEO of Mercy Learning Center of Bridgeport. Believing that each woman can make a difference in her life if only given the opportunities, Ms. Ferreira quickly endorsed Mercy Learning Center’s motto: “Educate a woman…Educate a family.”

The Mercy Learning Center now serves 500 women and 100 children annually. Adding an ESL and GED program has enabled the Center to take a woman without education and to bring her to the equivalency level of a high school diploma. Since the implementation of these classes, 49 women have received their GED and over half of them are now enrolled in a community college. Ms. Ferreira believes that education is key to ending the cycle of poverty.

Prior to her work at Mercy Learning Center, Ms. Ferreira served as an associate chaplain at Yale University. She has spent 25 years as a pastoral minister and administrator in various communities throughout the United States.

James P. Comer, M.D., is the Maurice Falk Professor of Child Psychiatry at the Yale University School of Medicine’s Child Study Center. He is known nationally and internationally for his creation of the Comer School Development Program (SDP).

He is the author of nine books, including Maggie’s American Dream, and Leave No Child Behind. His pioneering work in school restructuring has received widespread media attention. He is a co-founder and past president of the Black Psychiatrists of America and was a consultant to Children's Television Workshop.

He has been the recipient of many awards and honors, including the John & Mary Markle Scholar in Academic Medicine Award, Rockefeller Public Service Award, Harold W. McGraw, Jr., Prize in Education, Charles A. Dana Award for Pioneering Achievement in Education, the Heinz Award for the Human Condition, and most recently, the University of Louisville 2007 Grawemeyer Award for Education. He is a member of the Institute of Medicine of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.