Monsignor Michael J. Doyle to Deliver Commencement Address

Thursday, May 6, 2010

PHILADELPHIA, PA – Monsignor Michael J. Doyle, Ph.D., Camden’s “Poet of Poverty,” will deliver the 83rd commencement address at Chestnut Hill College on Saturday, May 15, 2010 at 2 p.m. at an outdoor ceremony on the College's campus.

The College will award 293 bachelor degrees and 215 graduate degrees as well as 7 doctoral degrees in clinical psychology during the ceremony. Honorary Doctor of Laws degrees will be awarded to Monsignor Michael J. Doyle, Ph.D., a tireless champion for the poor, and Sister Patricia Kelly, SSJ, a member of the Chestnut Hill College board of directors for over 20 years. Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degrees will be awarded to Leona and Nelson Shanks, accomplished artists and co- founders of Studio Incamminati in Philadelphia.

monsignor doyle Monsignor Michael J. Doyle was born in 1934 in County Longford, Ireland. He was ordained a Roman Catholic priest in 1959, at which point he came to Camden, N.J. — and he never left. For more than 50 years, he has devoted his life to addressing and alleviating the neglect of the people of Camden, working to provide them the human dignity and living conditions they deserve.

Monsignor Doyle was a priest and schoolteacher before becoming assistant pastor of St. Joseph’s Pro-Cathedral. In 1971, he was arrested for protesting the Vietnam War, for which he was acquitted. In 1974, he became pastor of his own parish, Sacred Heart.

In the decades that followed, Monsignor Doyle led a project to restore the Sacred Heart church building, an extension of his belief that “liturgy leads to justice;” founded Heart of Camden housing, which renovates abandoned houses and helps low-income families become homeowners; established a free medical clinic; helped to create Camden Churches Organized for People, a community organizing project; promoted a ministry of the arts, helping to build a community theater; and led the development of an urban farm in Camden.

A collection of Monsignor Doyle’s letters and prose, “It’s a Terrible Day…Thanks Be to God” was published in 2003. Five years later, the thousands of heartfelt letters he sent over the years to friends, parishioners, and supporters became the basis of the film “The Poet of Poverty.” The film offers a record of his parish and city, month after month, year after year, bearing witness to the consequences of poverty.

Leona Claire Shanks co-founded the Studio Incamminati with her husband, Nelson Shanks. In addition to her administrative role as vice president of the studio, Leona participates in the studio’s Professional Program, teaches, and serves as an affiliated artist. Studio Incamminati teaches students to attend fearlessly to detail, by its dedication to bringing back the skill of seeing and the skill of craftsmanship in the long tradition of American realism in art.

Twice a finalist in the Art Renewal Center’s International Salon in Still Life and, in 2002, the winner of the Edmund Stewardson Award for Sculpture at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Leona Claire Shanks’ own art includes probing portraits and hauntingly beautiful still life paintings. Her images both delight the eye and engage the spirit. In her most recent work, The Time Bomb Project, she captures the fragility of the earth’s ecosystems in a stunning image of the world wrapped in a trash bag and discarded along with two empty soda cans.

Leona trained at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, the Arts Students League, New York, and the Frudakis Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia. In 1985, she began a four-year apprenticeship with Nelson Shanks, a proponent of progressive realism. In 1989, they married and became partners in art education. Her work has been exhibited at the Art Union of Philadelphia, the Chauncey Center in Princeton, N.J., The Cosmopolitan Club of Philadelphia, Studio Incamminati’s Annual Exhibition and the Daylesford Abbey in Paoli, Pa.

Nelson Shanks is regarded as the foremost realist painter in America today. Most widely known as a portrait painter, especially of high-profile sitters such as European royalty, American presidents, and the Pope, his subjects include the human figure, landscape, and still life. His devotion to the fine arts also includes his commitment to educating young artists.

A lifelong resident of the greater Delaware Valley, Shanks spent most of his childhood in Chester County and has resided in Bucks County, Pa. since 1968. He executed his first oil painting at the age of five and went on to study at several notable art schools, including The Art Students League of New York and the National Academy of Design.

Responding to a growing need for serious art instruction, he began a series of successful workshops for students in the late 1990s. With his wife, Leona Claire Shanks, he founded Studio Incamminati in Philadelphia to teach the skills and techniques fundamental to realism in the traditional European ambience of the academia and the atelier as well as the essential skills needed to achieve and sustain a career as a professional painter.

In 2006, Pennsylvania Governor Edward G. Rendell presented to Nelson Shanks the Governor’s Distinguished Arts Award, recognizing a Pennsylvania artist of international fame whose contributions enrich the Commonwealth. In 2009, he received the Portrait Society of America’s Gold Medal Award.

Sister Patricia Kelly, SSJ is an alumna of the College and was a member of the College’s board of directors for 20 years (1989-2009), serving as the chair of the board for nine of those years. These years coincided with her 20 years of service as vice president and president of the Congregation of the Sisters of Saint Joseph.

In the 10 years she served as vice president and College board member, Sister Patricia, an English major who holds a master’s degree in religious studies and a certificate in pastoral counseling, worked with finances, investments, corporations, properties, and attorneys on behalf of both the Congregation and the College. She embraced the complexity of these challenges with grace and, in the words of several board members, was always “well prepared and knowledgeable about issues” as well as “welcoming (and)…inclusive of all.”

During her years of service as president of the Sisters of Saint Joseph and chair of the board, both the Congregation and Chestnut Hill College faced multiple challenges and changes. Carol Jean Vale, SSJ, president of the College, describes those times as “nothing short of transformational for Chestnut Hill College.” The construction of Martino Hall, the decision to become a coeducational institution, and the decision to purchase the SugarLoaf property provide just a few examples; the memories and imaginations of many present today can fill in others. Each challenge came with its own set of contradictory ideas, and Sister Patricia’s leadership throughout modeled how to entertain these ideas and draw from all sides of an issue to find the real wisdom.

Board members comment that she always “included all sides of an issue,” was “prepared to deal with anything that was put on the table,” and “set a standard for excellence and achievement while keeping us focused on the Mission of the College and the Mission of the Sisters of Saint Joseph.” Sister Carol describes Sister Patricia’s service as that of “a genuine partner in mission,” whose “egoless commitment to the common good” has been “pure gift” to the College.