Merrimack College Announces Honorary Degree Recipients

Merrimack College will award honorary degrees for both the class of 2020 and the class of 2021 at this year’s Commencement celebrations. Honorary degree recipients will be recognized for their significant contributions to their communities and for their exceptional examples of Merrimack values.

  • Honorary degree recipients embody Merrimack’s core mission and values of generous service and courageous leadership.

This year, Merrimack College will bestow the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Education upon William P. Leahy, S.J., longtime president of Boston College and leader in the broader Catholic Higher Education community. Additionally, the College will also bestow the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Public Administration upon Dan Rivera, president and CEO of MassDevelopment and former mayor of the City of Lawrence; the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Public Service upon Groundwork Lawrence, Inc. (GWL), an organization that has fought food insecurity in the Valley for over 20 years; the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Public Health upon Alfred J. Arcidi Jr., senior vice president of Whittier Health Network and Chair of the Board of Trustees at Merrimack College; the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Public Service upon Bread & Roses, which provides a network of support for the marginalized communities and those facing food insecurity; and the honorary degree of Doctor of Public Health upon Vivien Morris, a lifelong community advocate and founder of the Mattapan Food and Fitness Coalition (MFFC).

Each recipient embodies the College’s core mission and values of generous service and courageous leadership and was selected based on their extensive knowledge in their field and tireless efforts and contributions towards society as a whole. To learn more about each distinguished recipient, please see the bios listed below.

William P. Leahy, S.J.

William P. Leahy, S.J., a member of the Wisconsin Province of the Society of Jesus, became the 25th president of Boston College in July 1996. He came to Boston College from Marquette University, where he served as a faculty member for six years and then as Executive Vice President. Father Leahy holds a Ph.D. in history from Stanford University, an M.A. in U.S. history from Saint Louis University, and master’s degrees in divinity and sacred theology from the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, California. He is the author of “Adapting to America: Catholics, Jesuits and Higher Education in the Twentieth Century,” as well as scholarly articles on religious and educational history in the United States. Father Leahy is a trustee of Santa Clara and Creighton universities.

Dan Rivera

Dan Rivera is the President and CEO of MassDevelopment and the former Mayor of the City of Lawrence, Massachusetts. During his time as Mayor, the city saw significant commercial development, record new units of housing, and tens of millions of dollars invested in economic development planning and projects. Rivera’s focus on economic and community development as Mayor included investments in housing, job creation, downtown redevelopment, transit-oriented development and equity, infrastructure, brownfields redevelopment, placemaking, and quality-of-life improvements, and establishing professional, transparent, modern and streamlined permitting and licensing processes. Rivera was an invaluable member of the Baker-Polito Administration’s Reopening Advisory Board, bringing the municipal viewpoint to the group tasked with developing the Commonwealth’s strategy to reopen the economy during COVID-19, and the COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Group. In 2017, Governor Baker tapped Rivera to serve on the newly established Latino Advisory Commission charged with addressing concerns of the Massachusetts Latino community and promoting economic prosperity and well-being.

Groundwork Lawrence, Inc.

The mission of Groundwork Lawrence is to bring about the sustained regeneration, improvement and management of the physical environment by developing community-based partnerships which empower people, businesses and organizations to promote environmental, economic and social well-being. Groundwork Lawrence, Inc. (GWL), a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, has been making change happen in Massachusetts since 1999. Through its environmental and open space improvements, fresh food access programs, youth and adult education and employment initiatives, and community programming and events, GWL creates the building blocks of a healthy community and empowers residents to improve their quality of life. GWL achieves results by engaging the whole community – residents, youth, nonprofits, city government and businesses – in the planning and realization of its projects. With this collaborative approach, GWL ensures that all stakeholders are mutually invested in its outcomes, the key to healthy, stable neighborhoods and sustainable change. GWL’s mission and operations are premised on the understanding that environmental conditions are inextricably linked to the economic and health of a neighborhood. As a consequence, GWL is committed to “changing places, changing lives, and changing systems” through on-the-ground projects that help to transform local communities. To accomplish this, GWL leads and supports a variety of partnership-driven efforts that bring together the public, private and nonprofit sectors to solve complex environmental and health problems and sustain a long-term vision for neighborhood change and renewal.

Alfred J. Arcidi

Alfred J. Arcidi, currently the Chairman of the Board of Merrimack College, is Senior Vice President of Whittier Health Network, a multifaceted conglomerate that is composed of five resourcefully integrated divisions: Rehabilitation Hospitals; Nursing Homes; Assisted Living; Outpatient Services; Home Health. The company was founded in 1982 by Dr. Alfred L. Arcidi ’53, H’12, P’81, ’84, ’85, GP’06, ’15, M’17, ’18 and his sons. The family-owned healthcare organization provides the highest caliber of comprehensive healthcare services to thousands of patients on a daily basis while meeting their individual needs with dignity, respect and compassion. Whittier provides a seamless continuum of care at every level and in every setting of post-acute care. The mission of Whittier Health Network is to provide high-quality, comprehensive medical care to all of its residents in a warm, compassionate, caring “family” setting. At Whittier, the goal is to make sure patients have the freedom to make the choices that are important to them and their families. Alfred received his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Merrimack College in 1984. He resides in Rye Beach, New Hampshire with his wife, Mary Louise Arcidi P’06, M’17, ’18, GP’24. Alfred and Mary Louise have four children, including Alfred L. Arcidi ’06, Michael Arcidi M’17, and Andrew J. Arcidi ’18.

Bread & Roses

Fighting hunger and hardship for 40 Years, Bread & Roses, located in Lawrence, MA, is a center of hope and caring to thousands across the Merrimack Valley struggling for survival. Bread & Roses provides hot meals, pantry support, medical services, case management and community food outreach to all who are in need - regardless of legal, residential or income status.

Vivien Morris

Vivien Morris is the Founder and chairperson of the Mattapan Food and Fitness Coalition. A clinical dietitian, she holds a Master’s degree from Boston University and has 20 years experience in counseling pediatric patients and their families. She was raised in North Carolina and graduated with honors from Harvard College with majors in African American and Afro-Latin Studies. Vivien’s work in Boston’s communities is extensive. A board member, chair and advisor for several committees, she is a founding member of the Boston Organization of Nutritionists and Dietitians of Color, an organization created to meet the specific culture-based nutritional and health needs of low-income community members of African and Afro-Caribbean descent. Among numerous other initiatives she has directed and supported, Ms. Morris created the children’s garden at the Children’s Aids Program (now the SPARK Center).