Renowned Catholic Scholar Robert Royal to Deliver 2020 Commencement Address

Apr 28, 2020

Robert Royal, Ph.D., founder and president of the Faith & Reason Institute and editor-in-chief of The Catholic Thing, will deliver the Commencement address during Assumption’s 103rd Commencement exercises on Sunday, August 23, at the DCU Center in downtown Worcester, which was rescheduled from May due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Royal, James T. Brett, president and chief executive officer of The New England Council, and Kenneth J. Bates G’90, president and chief executive officer of Open Sky Community Services, will receive honorary degrees during the ceremony.  

On Sunday, May 10, the date of Assumption’s original Commencement, the instution will host an online Mass and Conferral of Degrees ceremony. Beginning at 6:30 p.m., President Francesco C. Cesareo, Ph.D., Provost and Academic Vice President Greg Wiener, Ph.D., and Vice President for Mission Father Richard Lamoureux, A.A., Ph.D., will perform the ceremony, which will be livestreamed from the Chapel of the Holy Spirit. Following this brief ceremony recognizing the Class of 2020 graduates, the Assumption will livestream a special Mass for seniors from the Chapel beginning at 7 p.m. The Conferral of Degrees Ceremony does not replace the Baccalaureate Mass and Commencement scheduled for August 22 and 23, respectively.

Royal is a distinguished scholar known for his writings that address questions of ethics, culture, religion and politics, topics he discusses in international lectures, on television and radio stations, and through his work with the Faith & Reason Institute and his online publication, The Catholic Thing. Founded in 2008, The Catholic Thing offers daily columns by renowned Catholic thinkers offering thoughtful insight, commentary and analysis on current events, complementing the work of the Faith & Reason Institute, which seeks to infuse religion into the public discourse through research, conferences, seminars, and publishing of relevant material. According to the organization’s website, the Institute is “the first Washington think-tank devoted to encouraging both of these essential dimensions of our existence,” addressing “questions of economics, politics, public policy, science, technology, the environment, and public culture, from perspective of both faith and reason” in the context of the richness of Western and Catholic history.

“As a Catholic, liberal arts institution of higher learning, faith and reason are fundamental foundations upon which students engage in a thoughtful and intense academic journey in pursuit of knowledge and truth,” said Assumption President Francesco C. Cesareo, Ph.D. “We are honored to welcome Dr. Royal to share his thoughtful insights with the Class of 2020 as they prepare to embark upon lives of purpose and meaning. Despite the postponement of Commencement to August, Assumption is committed to providing a proper recognition and celebration to culminate students’ academic achievements.” 

In October 2016, Royal visited Assumption when the institution hosted a unique discussion on Pope Francis’s Apostolic Exhortation on the family, Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love). The event featured prominent Catholic scholars and Church leaders analyzing different aspects of the document; Royal provided a layman’s perspective on the Synod.

Throughout his career, Royal has taught at Brown University, Rhode Island College, and The Catholic University of America, and received fellowships to study in Italy from the Renaissance Society of America and as a Fulbright scholar. He has also served as vice president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, and as editor-in-chief of Prospect magazine. He has written numerous essays that have appeared in scholarly journals and has translated books and articles from French, Italian and Spanish, and  published several books, including 1492 And All That: Political Manipulations of History; Reinventing the American People: Unity and Diversity Today; The Virgin and the Dynamo: The Use and Abuse of Religion in the Environment Debate; The Catholic Martyrs of the Twentieth Century: A Comprehensive Global History; The Pope’s Army; The God That Did Not Fail; and A Deeper Vision: The Catholic Intellectual Tradition in the Twentieth Century. 

Royal earned his bachelor’s and master’s degree from Brown University and a doctorate in comparative literature from the Catholic University of America. 

Kenneth J. Bates G’90, President and Chief Executive Officer of Open Sky Community Services
Bates has dedicated his career to serving the Worcester community. Named the 2019 nonprofit Business Leader of the Year by the Worcester Business Journal for his successful leadership to shepherd the July 2018 merger between The Bridge and Alternatives Unlimited, Inc. The merger resulted in Open Sky Community Services, a nonprofit dedicated to assisting and empowering families and individuals suffering from mental health or substance abuse challenges. Bates joined The Bridge of Central Massachusetts in 2015 and has since developed a strong community presence, which includes helping lead the formation of the new statewide Central Community Health Partnership with AdCare Hospital, LUK, Inc., and Venture Community Services, which provides for those in the greatest of need. 

Bates earned his bachelor’s degree from Worcester State University and a master’s degree in counseling psychology from Assumption. 

James T. Brett, President and CEO of The New England Council
Brett is a leading advocate for public policy issues such as education, health care, financial services and energy throughout New England and in Washington D.C. He has served as president and CEO of The New England Council—an alliance of schools, hospitals, corporations and private organizations working to promote economic growth and quality of life throughout New England—since October 1996, during which the organization has experienced significant membership and financial growth. He is also co-host of NECN’s D.C. Dialogue, and previously spent more than 15 years serving in the Massachusetts House of Representatives. While in the House, he served as chairman of a number of committees and helped pass legislation that not only created jobs, but kept them in the state. 

Brett is also committed to service, participating on and leading a number of philanthropic organizations, for which he has received many honors and awards, though most notable for his advocacy for the physically and mentally challenged. He currently serves as vice-chairman of the National Council on Disability; chairman of the Governor’s Commission on Intellectual Disability; and chairperson of the Massachusetts Disabled Persons Protection Commission. The James T. Brett Chair in Disability and Workforce Development at UMass Boston is the nation’s only endowed chair in disability and workforce development and in 1996 Boston’s Bay Cove Human Services named a new community home for disabled adults “Brett House” in his honor. He has been designated by the Boston Red Sox as a disability advocate multiple times and was the driving force behind the Able Act, federal legislation that creates “a savings plan for people with disabilities for future education, training, living expenses, and other supports.”

Brett holds degrees from American University, Suffolk University and Harvard University and has been awarded with Papal Honors such as being named a Knight of Malta and Knight Grand Cross of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem. He and his wife, Patricia, live in Dorchester.