U.S. Senator Peter Welch ‘69 to Deliver 2023 Holy Cross Commencement Address

U.S. Senator Peter Welch ’69, left, and housing and community development leader Rosanne Haggerty will be given honorary degrees during the 2023 Holy Cross Commencement ceremony.

Welch and housing and community development leader Rosanne Haggerty will also receive honorary degrees

U.S. Sen. Peter Welch '69, D-Vt., will address this year’s graduates during the Holy Cross commencement ceremonies on Friday, May 26, at 10:30 a.m. at the DCU Center in Worcester. This year's commencement marks the College's 177th graduating class.

A major figure in U.S. politics for over four decades, Welch has been an outspoken advocate of affordable higher education and a champion of working people in Vermont throughout much of his career. 

Welch was born in Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1947, where he attended local Catholic schools Holy Name Grammar School and Cathedral High School. He then enrolled at College of the Holy Cross, where he became interested in politics and involved in the civil rights movement. 

He eventually took time off from Holy Cross to go to Chicago, where he advocated against racist housing policies that prevented people who lived in black neighborhoods from getting mortgages, as one of the first Robert F. Kennedy Fellows. 

Welch graduated magna cum laude from Holy Cross with a degree in history in 1969 and enrolled in law school at University of California, Berkeley the following year, from which he graduated in 1973.

After law school, Welch settled in White River Junction, Vermont, where he worked as a public defender before founding a small law practice. He was first elected to represent Windsor County in the Vermont Senate in 1980. In 1985, he was unanimously elected by his colleagues to lead the chamber, becoming the first Democrat in Vermont history to hold the position of President Pro Tempore.

Welch was elected to Vermont’s seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2006—gaining national attention for refusing to air negative ads. In Congress, he was a leading advocate for clean energy and energy efficiency, making college more affordable, expanding access to health care and expanding broadband and telemedicine in rural America.

In 2022, Welch was elected to the United States Senate, only the second Democrat to be elected a U.S. senator from Vermont. 

He is married to Margaret Cheney, commissioner of the Vermont Public Utility Commission, and they share a home in Norwich, Vermont.

Welch will be given an honorary degree during commencement. The College will also award an honorary degree to housing and community development leader Rosanne Haggerty. 

Haggerty, an internationally recognized social entrepreneur and leader in developing innovative strategies to end homelessness, is the president and chief executive officer of Community Solutions, a non-profit organization dedicated to ending homelessness she founded in 2011.

Their large-scale change initiatives include the 100,000 Homes and Built for Zero Campaigns to end chronic and veteran homelessness, and neighborhood partnerships that bring together local residents and institutions to change the conditions that produce homelessness. In 2021, Community Solutions was awarded a $100 million grant from the MacArthur Foundation to accelerate an end to homelessness in 75 U.S. communities in five years.

Prior to Community Solutions, Haggerty founded Common Ground Community, a pioneer in the design and development of supportive housing and research-based practices that end homelessness. Previously, Haggerty served as the coordinator of housing development at Brooklyn Catholic Charities.

She is a graduate of Amherst College and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation.

“We are thrilled to present honorary degrees to Senator Welch and Rosanne Haggerty,” said Vincent D. Rougeau, president of Holy Cross. “Senator Welch has championed many causes that are aligned with our College’s core values—making higher education accessible to people of all socioeconomic backgrounds, stewarding our environment, and engaging in constructive dialogue across differences. We are proud to count him among our alumni.

“I have had the privilege of working with Rosanne on the board of directors for the Commonweal Foundation. She is incredibly dedicated to ending the cycle of homelessness in our society and advancing the missions of the organizations she serves. She is highly deserving of an honorary degree from Holy Cross.”

The College will host a reception and dinner for members of the Holy Cross community on Thursday, May 25, to celebrate the recipients of this year’s honorary degrees. Haggerty will deliver remarks. 

For more information on this year’s Commencement events, please visit the Commencement website.