2017 Commencement Speaker and Honorary Degree Recipients

Anne Burke, Illinois Supreme Court JusticeAnne M. Burke is a Justice of the Illinois Supreme Court and a founder of the Special Olympics. A tireless advocate for children and the disabled, she has served as Special Counsel for Child Welfare Services in Illinois, implementing reforms to law enforcement procedures and social service programs to increase protections for children.

Justice Burke, a Dame of Malta, was appointed by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to chair the National Review Board for the Protection of Children and Young People.

Justice Burke received a bachelor’s degree in education from DePaul University in 1976. She is a 1983 graduate of the Chicago-Kent College of Law. In 1987, she became the first woman appointed to the Illinois Court of Claims. She was appointed to the Illinois Appellate Court in 1995. In 2006, upon the retirement of Chief Justice Mary Ann McMorrow, she was appointed to the state Supreme Court. Justice Burke was elected to a 10-year term in 2008.

Before embarking on her legal career, Justice Burke worked with disabled children. In 1968, she was a leader in establishing the Chicago Special Olympics, which she later helped develop into the International Special Olympics.


Sister Maura Brannick, CSC, founder of the South Bend health center that bears her name, will be recognized for her decades of work extending care to uninsured St. Joseph County residents. A registered nurse, Sister Maura established a clinic in 1986 to provide basic, preventive services for those without access to Medicaid, Medicare, or private insurance. Her vision attracted many volunteer physicians, as well as students and local residents, who have expanded the clinic’s offerings to include more comprehensive care for the most vulnerable members of the community.

Sister Maura’s work has been recognized with many awards including the Sagamore of the Wabash, the state of Indiana’s highest civilian honor, the Catholic Health Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and a 1991 Points of Light Award from President George H. W. Bush.


Dorothy M. Feigl is the Denise DeBartolo York Chair in Science and professor of chemistry at Saint Mary’s. She has served the College since 1966 in many roles, including as chair of the chemistry and physics department, as a Board of Trustees member from 1976-1982, and as vice president and dean of faculty from 1985-1999.

Professor Feigl’s commitment to mentoring students has been a hallmark of her distinguished career. Her dedication to Saint Mary’s and its students has earned Feigl the Spes Unica Award in 1973, the Maria Pieta Award in 1977, Honorary Alumna in 1991, and the President’s Medal in 1999.