James Martin to appear at commencement
THE SANTA CLARA
April 2, 2014
Catholic writer and commentator James Martin, S.J., author of popular books such as “My Life with the Saints” and recurring guest on “The Colbert Report,” will address the graduating class of 2015 at Santa Clara’s 164th undergraduate commencement ceremony on June 13.
University Chancellor William Rewak, S.J., said Martin’s national reputation and core interests played a large role in choosing him to be the speaker.
“He’s very well-known within Catholic circles, social media circles and through television programs, and he’s well-known in the theater world in New York,” Rewak said. “He speaks broadly about issues of culture and society, and what faith means to a culture.”
Martin is arguably one of the most influential modern Catholic figures, providing religious commentary through a variety of media outlets. He has participated in theater productions and at one time worked with actor Philip Seymour Hoffman. He made six appearances on “The Colbert Report,” earning the unofficial title of “The Colbert Report Chaplain,” and has written a number of bestselling books, including “The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything: A Spirituality for Real Life” and, most recently, “Jesus: A Pilgrimage.”
Michael McCarthy, S.J., the executive director of the Ignatian Center for Jesuit Education, said Martin’s accessibility as a writer and his status as a public figure make him a good choice for commencement speaker.
“He has the unique ability to talk about Jesuit things, Catholic things and social justice things in a way that is non-technical and speaks to large groups of people,” McCarthy said. “When you’re dealing with some topics that Jesuits tend to deal with, that’s a great thing.”
Martin graduated from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business in 1982 and worked in corporate finance for six years before joining the Society of Jesus. He received his Master’s of Divinity from the Weston Jesuit School of Theology in 1998.
Martin has also written articles that have run in such publications as The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and TIME magazine, as well as on NPR and CNN.
Last fall, Martin gave a lecture to the campus on discernment, dialogue and freedom via Skype and discussed personal experiences of faith with a small panel of Santa Clara students.
“We invited him to begin this quarter’s offering because he’s written extensively about Jesus, who is a cornerstone of the Christian tradition and the Ignatian tradition,” said Theresa Ladrigan-Whelpley, Director of Bannan Institutes at the Ignatian Center. “Because he’s such a presence in media, we thought he would be a great person to experiment with, and he was.”
McCarthy hopes that graduating students will take “a sense of encouragement” from Martin’s address.
“Having a Jesuit speak to them about the importance of the way they live their lives moving forward is both, I hope, encouraging to our graduates as well as challenging in the best way,” McCarthy said.
Martin has spoken at universities nationwide, including St. Louis University and Marquette University.
He will receive an honorary degree from Santa Clara at this year’s commencement ceremony. Commencement speaker candidates are discussed by a group of staff, faculty and students and approved by the Board of Trustees.
The President of the University then writes a letter to the selected candidate asking if they would like to speak at graduation. According to Rewak, Santa Clara has reached out to Martin in the past.
This June, Michel and Mary Orradre will receive a joint honorary degree for their generosity to Santa Clara and their community of San Ardo, California.
Internationally-known sculptor Fletcher Benton will also receive an honorary degree. Benton has donated some of his work to the de Saisset Museum, including the sculpture at the building’s front entrance.
Previous Santa Clara commencement speakers include Steve Wozniak and Leon Panetta.
Contact Collin Baker at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (408) 554-4852.