March 23, 2022

BIG EAST Commissioner Val Ackerman to speak at Providence College commencement

BIG EAST Conference Commissioner Val Ackerman, J.D. ’20Hon. will be the featured speaker at Providence College’s 104th Commencement Exercises, which will return to the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in downtown Providence for the first time since 2019.

The undergraduate ceremony for the Class of 2022 will take place on Sunday, May 22, 2022, at 11 a.m.

A separate commencement for School of Continuing Education and graduate students will be held on Friday, May 20, 2022, at 6 p.m. in Peterson Recreation Center on campus. The keynote speaker will be Judge Maureen McKenna Goldberg, J.D. ’73, ’09Hon., justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court for 25 years.

Six honorary degrees will be awarded at the undergraduate ceremony. The recipients will be:

  • Mario DiNunzio, Ph.D. ’57, emeritus professor of history at PC
  • Bob Driscoll, who is retiring after more than 20 years as PC’s vice president and athletics director
  • John Flynn ’61, retired vice chairman and CFO of Fleet Financial Group and an emeritus trustee of the college
  • Sally Thibodeau, Ph.D. ’66G, who became the first female dean at PC when she was named assistant dean of undergraduate studies in 1971
  • Judge O. Rogeriee Thompson, J.D., the first African American woman confirmed to the First Circuit Court of Appeals
  • Mother Olga Yaqob, a native of Iraq and founder the Daughters of Mary of Nazareth, a Roman Catholic religious order in the Archdiocese of Boston

In a year in which the men’s basketball team won the BIG EAST Conference regular season title for the first time in history and the college is celebrating the 50th anniversary of women as undergraduates, the choice of Val Ackerman as commencement speaker is fitting.

Val Ackerman '20Hon. will be the featured speaker at Providence College's commencement for undergraduates in the Class of 2022.
Val Ackerman

Ackerman has been BIG EAST commissioner since the conference’s reorganization in 2013. She led its office relocation to New York City and manages its partnerships with Fox Sports and Madison Square Garden, which hosts the conference tournament each March. She also led the negotiations that brought the University of Connecticut back to the conference in 2020.

Ackerman was one of the first female student-athletes awarded a scholarship to the University of Virginia, where she became the first 1,000-point scorer in program history and majored in political and social thought. She earned a law degree from the University of California, Los Angeles, and worked for the NBA as staff attorney, special assistant to the commissioner, and vice president of business affairs.

Ackerman was the first president of the Women’s National Basketball Association from 1996-2005. In 2005, she was elected president of USA Basketball, leading the men’s and women’s teams to gold medal performances at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. In 2010, she assisted the National Hockey League in formulating a long-term plan to support women’s ice hockey, and in 2013 she prepared a comprehensive white paper for the NCAA on growth strategies for women’s college basketball.

Ackerman was inducted into the into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2021 after receiving its John Bunn Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008. She became a member of the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010.

Ackerman’s accomplishments were acknowledged by PC when she was awarded an honorary doctor of laws degree at the college’s 102nd Commencement Exercises for the Class of 2020, celebrated on campus in October 2021.

She said she looks forward to speaking to the Class of 2022 about the value of a liberal arts education and the impact of Title IX, also celebrating its 50th anniversary, on athletic opportunities for women.

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About the honorary degree recipients

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