Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne M. Burke to be Saint Mary’s 2017 Commencement speaker

April 24, 2017 (Notre Dame, Ind.) — Anne M. Burke, a Justice of the Illinois Supreme Court and a founder of the Special Olympics, will deliver the Commencement address to the Saint Mary’s College Class of 2017. She will receive the College’s highest honor, an Honorary Doctor of Humanities degree, at the ceremony on Saturday, May 20.

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

Anne M. Burke

“Justice Burke’s distinguished legal career and demonstrated care for the most vulnerable members of our society is a testament to her commitment to justice,” Saint Mary’s President Jan Cervelli said. “A leader in her chosen profession and in the service of others, she represents the qualities we seek to instill in Saint Mary’s students.”

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. Burke was elected to a 10-year term in 2008.

Before embarking on her legal career, 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.

“The common theme in Justice Burke’s life and career is dedication to advancing the common good for all people,” President Cervelli said. “She will send our newest graduates into the world with an inspirational message and an example that reflects the essence of their Saint Mary’s education.”

Saint Mary’s College will present two other honorary degrees at its 2017 Commencement ceremony:

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, Brannick 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. Brannick’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, the Denise DeBartolo York Chair in Science and professor of chemistry at Saint Mary’s, 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. Feigl’s commitment to mentoring students have 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.

“Sister Maura and Professor Feigl embody the spirit of Saint Mary’s,” Cervelli said. “Through their expertise and their example, they have shown us the ideal of servant leadership.”

About Saint Mary's College: Celebrating 175 years of empowering women to make a difference in the world, Saint Mary’s College is recognized as a pioneer in the education of women. A Catholic, liberal arts institution in Notre Dame, Indiana, the College offers more than 50 academic programs and also offers co-educational master’s degrees in data science, speech language pathology, autism studies, and a Doctor of Nursing Practice.

Contact for News Media: Haleigh Ehmsen, Media Relations Associate, Saint Mary’s College, (574) 284-5343