Public Interest Lawyer Bryan Stevenson to Deliver 2015 Commencement Address at Holy Cross

Stevenson and three others — Ella Baff, longtime director of Jacob’s Pillow international dance festival; Kevin Condron ’67, former Holy Cross board chair and community leader; and Worcester physician Richard Sacra, who contracted Ebola while caring for those stricken in Liberia — will also receive honorary degrees

Bryan A. Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) in Montgomery, Ala., will receive an honorary degree from the College of the Holy Cross and address this year’s graduates during the College’s Commencement ceremonies on Friday, May 22 at 10:30 a.m. on the campus.

Stevenson is the widely acclaimed public interest lawyer who has dedicated his career to helping the poor, the incarcerated, and the condemned. Under his leadership, EJI has won major legal challenges eliminating excessive and unfair sentencing, exonerating innocent death row prisoners, confronting abuse of the incarcerated and the mentally ill, and aiding children prosecuted as adults. Stevenson has successfully argued several cases in the Supreme Court of the United States, and recently won an historic ruling banning mandatory life-without-parole sentences for all children 17 or younger as unconstitutional.

For his work fighting poverty and challenging racial discrimination in the criminal justice system, Stevenson has received numerous awards including the American Bar Association's Wisdom Award for Public Service, the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship Award Prize, the ACLU National Medal of Liberty, the National Public Interest Lawyer of the Year Award, the Gruber Prize for International Justice, and the Ford Foundation Visionaries Award.

Author of the acclaimed and bestselling book, "Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption" (Spiegel and Grau/Random House, 2014), Stevenson is a graduate of Harvard Law School and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

"Just Mercy" was named by Time Magazine one of the 10 best books of nonfiction for 2014, and has been awarded several honors including the 2015 NAACP Image Award for outstanding nonfiction literary work.  Stevenson’s 2012 TED talk, “We need to talk about an injustice,” has received more than two million views.

In addition to Stevenson, the College will award honorary degrees to the following individuals at Commencement:

  • Ella Baff is the executive and artistic director of Jacob’s Pillow, America’s longest running international dance festival, professional school, and archives, located in the Berkshires. Under her leadership, Jacob's Pillow was designated a National Historic Landmark, and in 2011, was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Barack Obama at The White House. She has received several awards in the cultural field including the Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters from the French Ministry of Culture, the William Dawson Award for Programmatic Excellence from the Association of Performing Arts Presenters, and an Honorary Doctorate from the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. Baff is from New York City, where she studied classical music and dance. She has been a consultant for foundations, government, and not-for-profit organizations and has been invited by U.S. and international government agencies and arts organizations to be a speaker and panelist. Baff was named one of the “Top 25 Most Influential and Powerful People in the Arts” by Inside Arts Magazine.  She has twice co-chaired the International Society for the Performing Arts (ISPA) Congress in New York and is the chair of The Gish Prize. She serves on the Board of Directors of MASS MoCA (Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art).  She lives in New York and the Berkshires.
  • P. Kevin Condron ’67 marked 21 years of leadership and service to the Holy Cross Board of Trustees (including six as chair) before he stepped down in the fall of 2014. During that time, he counseled four presidents, shepherded three successful fundraising campaigns, and oversaw multiple major building projects on campus, including the $65 million renovation and construction of the Integrated Science Complex. A native of Scranton, Penn., he remained in Worcester following his graduation from Holy Cross, serving as CEO and president of Central Supply, which became The Granite Group LLC, now a multistate, $175 million plumbing supply business. Well-known for his community leadership in Worcester, he has served as chair the board of Worcester Business Development Corp., the Worcester Redevelopment Authority, Worcester Area Chamber of Commerce, The Diocese of Worcester Bishop's Fund and Safety Fund National Bank. He is currently a director of The Hanover Insurance Group, Inc. and the lead independent director of TD Bank US Holding Company; and has served as director of the Eagle-Tribune Publishing Company and Banknorth, N.A. He previously served as trustee of St. Vincent Hospital and clerk of Greater Worcester Community Foundation. He and his wife Clare are parents of five children, including Erin who graduated in 2000. He lives in New Hampshire and Boston.
  • Richard Sacra, M.D., an assistant professor of family medicine and community health at UMass Medical School with a practice at the Family Health Center of Worcester, has served as a medical missionary in Liberia since 1995, and is affiliated with SIM (, an international Christian mission organization. Dr. Sacra contracted Ebola during a mission trip in 2014, was treated in the United States, and subsequently returned to Liberia to treat patients.  At the Family Health Center and UMass, he supervises residents and teaches topics in global health. At SIM’s ELWA Hospital in Liberia, he has helped increase the hospital’s response to HIV and AIDS, including starting a counseling program for patients living with the virus. He is also helping to develop a Christian Family Practice Residency training program for Liberian doctors. Dr. Sacra was the acting medical director at ELWA Hospital from August 2008 to March 2010. A Massachusetts native, he is a graduate of Brown University and UMass Medical School. He received the Teacher of the Year Award from the Family Health Center of Worcester in 2011.  He and his family live in Holden, Mass.

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