Merrimack College Announces 2024 Honorary Degree Recipients, Commencement Speakers

The 10 honorees will be recognized across the College’s five school-based Commencement ceremonies on Thursday, May 16, and Friday, May 17.

Merrimack College is pleased to announce the 2024 honorary degree recipients for its 74th Commencement Exercises. The six recipients will be recognized for their significant contributions to the College and the greater community, as well as their exceptional stewardship of Merrimack’s values.

Additionally, distinguished speakers will address graduates and guests at the College’s five school-based ceremonies, sharing wisdom and encouragement to the graduates receiving a diploma throughout Thursday, May 16, and Friday, May 17, in Lawler Arena.


Honorary Degree Recipients

Erika Giampietro – Founding Executive Director, Massachusetts Alliance for Early College

Honorary Doctorate of Education

Erika Giampietro

The Massachusetts Alliance for Early College breaks down barriers to college and career success for all students, particularly for those who have historically been underserved and underrepresented, by supporting the growth of and creating conditions for high-quality, high-impact early college programs across Massachusetts.

Prior to founding the Alliance, Ms. Giampietro served as senior advisor to the chair of the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education. In this capacity, she built expertise in areas critical to the success of early college in Massachusetts. 

She facilitated a burgeoning coalition around early college, helped draft and advance legislation and policy related to early college, partnered alongside the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Department of Higher Education in growing the initiative, and provided technical assistance to a group of early college programs. 

Prior to that, Ms. Giampietro worked in the Boston Public Schools (BPS) for seven years serving in a variety of roles, including deputy CFO, interim CFO and special assistant to the superintendent. While at BPS, Ms. Giampietro oversaw the district’s $1 billion budget, facilitated strategic planning for the superintendent and co-authored a long-term financial plan for the district. 

She holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia. Ms. Giampietro will also be the honorary speaker at the Winston School of Education and Social Policy Commencement on Friday, May 17, at 6 p.m.


William ’66 and Nancy Marsden ’66 

Honorary Doctorates of Fine Arts

William and Nancy Marsden graduated from Merrimack College in 1966, with Mrs. Marsden receiving a bachelor’s degree in math education and Mr. Marsden receiving a bachelor’s degree in business administration. Their relationship, which started at Merrimack, ultimately led to them marrying in 1966. 

Mr. Marsden began his career in sales with Procter and Gamble and went on to work for RJR Foods and Welch’s in sales, marketing and general management. Later on, he served as a division president for Con Agra and Sunmark (Nestle) in St. Louis, Missouri. In 1995 the Marsdens and their financial partner acquired DeMoulin Brothers and Company from a fourth-generation DeMoulin family member and his partner. DeMoulin is a worldwide manufacturer and marketer of music apparel for marching bands, color guards and concert bands, as well as uniforms for military academies and several United States military bands. 

Mr. Marsden currently serves as chairman of the DeMoulin board. He is an active member of the board of directors of LOGOS School in St. Louis, and a former board member for many years with AAIM, an association serving businesses in Missouri and Illinois.

Mrs. Marsden has been involved in raising their family while also working over the years as a realtor, a teacher, the first female lay eucharistic minister at a local parish, a Girl Scout leader, owner of a boutique store and board member at the local and county levels. She has held leadership roles in various community and church organizations and is an active supporter of Play for Pink Breast Cancer Research. She currently serves as an officer and board member of DeMoulin. 

The Marsdens have three adult children, five grandchildren and one great-grandchild. They reside in Fort Myers, Florida and Saint Charles, Missouri and are active supporters of Merrimack College and its mission. 


John Petillo – President, Sacred Heart University

Honorary Doctorate of Public Health 

John Petillo

Dr. Petillo was named president of Sacred Heart University in March 2011. Before that, he served as interim president beginning in October 2010 and dean of the University’s Jack Welch College of Business & Technology since March 2009. Under his leadership, Sacred Heart has experienced unprecedented growth both academically and physically. 

During his tenure, the university has added or begun construction on approximately 10 new buildings, not including extensive renovations at the West Campus site. In addition, the university has added the Colleges of Education & Human Development and Nursing and the School of Computer Science & Engineering as well as many new programs at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. The university has also greatly expanded international educational opportunities for students under Dr. Petillo. 

Before coming to SHU, Dr. Petillo was president of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, where he oversaw a series of reforms relating to transparency and accountability, including the adoption of Sarbanes-Oxley protocols for the university. 

His other professional experience includes serving as president and chief executive officer of the Newark Alliance, a private-public partnership dedicated to enhancing Newark’s quality of life; regional president of First Union Insurance Services; chief executive officer of The Tribus Companies; chairman, president and chief executive officer of CareAdvantage, Inc.; and president and chief executive officer of Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey. He was also chancellor and chief executive officer of Seton Hall University and Immaculate Conception Seminary; chancellor for administration for the Archdiocese of Newark; and deputy director of Catholic Community Services.

He holds a doctorate in counseling and personnel services from Fordham University, master’s degrees from the Darlington School of Theology and Rutgers University, and a bachelor’s from Seton Hall University.


Christine ’75 and James Zampell ’75

Honorary Doctorates of Business and Commerce

Christine and James Zampell met in the spring of their freshman year at Merrimack College when they both joined the Orientation Committee. Mr. Zampell graduated with a degree in political science and Mrs. Zampell graduated summa cum laude with a degree in biology. After graduation, they pursued careers that put their Merrimack education to use. Mr. Zampell worked as director of constituent services for then-Massachusetts Congressman Michael J. Harrington. Mrs. Zampell pursued graduate work in microbiology at the University of New Hampshire. A few years after they graduated from Merrimack, the Zampells married on campus in the Collegiate Church of Christ the Teacher.

In time, Mr. Zampell joined his father at Zampell Refractories and founded successful businesses including Zampell Facilities Management, which specializes in project management and facilities, and ZAR-TECH, which distributes refractories and high-temperature materials.  Zampell Companies’ operations expanded from Beverly, Massachusetts to offices throughout the United States and Europe. While supporting the growth of the family business, Mrs. Zampell taught science in Andover Public Schools and later at St. Mary of the Annunciation School in Danvers, Massachusetts.  

In keeping with the tenets of an Augustinian education, the Zampells have invested significant portions of their professional lives in giving back to their community. They have been involved with many local non-profits and educational institutions as volunteers, donors and trustees.  Mrs. Zampell served on Merrimack College’s Board of Trustees through the tenures of four presidents. Together they established the Zampell Family Faculty Fellowship at Merrimack College to support faculty research.  

The Zampells have two children, Kristin, executive director of the Wenham Museum, and Brian, now president of the Zampell Companies. They are proud grandparents of four grandsons.

Distinguished Speakers

Joshua Dion ’03 – Vice President of Engineering at RightHand Robotics

School of Engineering and Computational Sciences

Joshua Dion

Mr. Dion is an executive leader with more than two decades of product leadership experience. 

Known for his transformative leadership in tech, Mr. Dion has catalyzed significant growth and innovation at both startups and established corporations. At RightHand Robotics, he has revolutionized company strategy and processes, enhancing product delivery and scalability, markedly advancing the company’s standing in the industrial robotics sector. 

Previously, as vice president at HPE SimpliVity, he led a global engineering team of 600, significantly improving engineering efficiency and boosting revenue. Committed to developing diverse, dynamic teams, Mr. Dion ensures his groups are equipped for success in fast-paced environments. He champions mentorship and professional development, creating comprehensive training programs that enhance leadership and technical skills across his organizations. 

A proponent of the growth mindset and inclusive cultures, he extensively coaches teams toward continuous improvement. Mr. Dion was recognized as a Horatio Alger National Scholar, an exclusive honor bestowed for resilience in the face of adversity. In his spare time, he actively contributes to the Horatio Alger Scholar Alumni Association and volunteers in his local parish, teaching adult faith formation. 

He graduated from Merrimack College in 2003 with a bachelor’s degree in computer science and earned his master’s in business administration from Clark University in 2012.


Richard Gallant H’15, P’24

Girard School of Business

Richard Gallant

Richard Gallant’s career began at Ernst & Young providing financial consulting services to small and medium-sized companies, as well as providing strategic divestiture advice to banks undergoing restructuring as a result of the 1988-91 financial crisis. 

After Ernst & Young, he worked in leveraged finance at JPMorgan Chase and Credit Suisse First Boston working with private equity firms and private and public companies in structuring and financing leveraged buyouts, mergers and acquisitions advice and executing initial public offerings to help monetize client investments.

In December 2001, Mr. Gallant began his entrepreneurial career by founding and chairing Global Technology Finance, a financial surety company. He also served as a founder and president of Fibertech Medical a mid-sized endoscopic repair company, while also being heavily involved in several hockey-based endeavors including managing/owning several rinks and helping to steward the Islander Hockey Club.   

He is a member of Merrimack College’s Athletics Board of Advisors, sits on the board of trustees of several schools and fundraises for Autism Speaks.   

Mr. Gallant earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from Colgate University, as well as master’s degrees in accounting and business administration in finance from New York University Stern School of Business. He and his wife Susanna reside in Concord, Massachusetts with their four children – Mark M’24, Rachel, Sarah and Richard.


Francis Kenneally – President & CEO, Merrimack Valley YMCA

School of Nursing and Health Sciences

Frank Kenneally

Francis “Frank” Kenneally III is president and CEO of the Merrimack Valley YMCA, one of the region’s leading nonprofits serving more than 40,000 individuals annually through programs and services that promote youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. 

The Merrimack Valley YMCA operates facilities in Andover, North Andover, Lawrence and Methuen, Massachusetts, a day camp in Salem, New Hampshire, and two overnight camps on Bear Island Lake Winnipesaukee in Meredith, New Hampshire.

As a lifelong resident of the Merrimack Valley, Mr. Kenneally brings a unique perspective and understanding of the communities the Y serves. This understanding has led to several creative and innovative approaches by the Y to address community needs around early education and care for young children, food insecurity, safety around water, educational inequalities and bridging communities.  

Mr. Kenneally is a leader in promoting collaboration among state and local governments, educational institutions, healthcare providers and other nonprofits to address issues that impact youth and families in Northeast Massachusetts. He started his career in camping and aquatics and has held several program and executive positions leading up to being named president and CEO in July 2019.

Under his leadership, the Y has focused on reimagining programs and services to create an impact that is guided by the needs and aspirations of the community. He has also increased philanthropy to the Y which has been leveraged for facility improvements, infrastructure upgrades and to provide greater access and assistance to residents of the Merrimack Valley seeking to improve their health and wellness.

In 2017, Mr. Kenneally was presented with the Kiwanis Club of Greater Lawrence Humanitarian Award. Additionally, he has received Y-USA’s Emerging Leaders Resource Network Legacy Award for 2020 and the Rotary Club of Andover Citizens Who Care Award in 2023. Mr. Kenneally has a certificate in non-profit business leadership from Mendoza College of Business at the University of Notre Dame and completed a LEADS Fellowship in partnership with Harvard Business School in 2021. 

He is deeply engaged in the Merrimack Valley community serving on the boards of the Lawrence Partnership, Merrimack Valley Chamber of Commerce, Andover Service Club, North Andover Scholarship Foundation and Merrimack College School of Nursing and Health Sciences Board of Advisors. He also volunteers on the boards of the Epilepsy Foundation of New England and the Alliance of Massachusetts YMCAs chairing the Public Policy Committee. 

Mr. Kenneally is a graduate of Salem State University, earning a bachelor’s degree in sport, fitness and leisure studies. He also earned a master’s degree from Springfield College in human services organizational leadership. He lives in North Andover, Massachusetts with his wife Amy. They have three adult sons.


Dave McGillivray ’76, H’12

School of Arts and Sciences

Dave McGillivray

Dave McGillivray is the founder and president of DMSE Sports, a full-service event-management organization, providing a full range of event and race production, management and consulting services to support events of all sizes. The firm has produced more than 1,400 events since opening its doors in 1981 and serves clients throughout the United States. Through DMSE Sports events and Mr. McGillivray’s personal fundraising, together they have helped raise more than $200 million for various charities through the events they manage. Mr. McGillivray has directed or consulted on more than 1,400 events throughout the world including the Boston Marathon, the Olympic Marathon Trials and the Olympic Games.

Mr. McGillivray is also the founder of the Dave McGillivray Finish Strong Foundation, which seeks to inspire and empower youth across New England and beyond to increase physical activity, expand literacy and build community and self-esteem through running, reading and performing acts of kindness. For over 18 years, the foundation has remained committed to preparing individuals for future success and building vibrant communities. Mr. McGillivray raised more than $100,000 for the foundation while training for and completing his 50th Boston Marathon.

In addition to these two roles, Mr. McGillivray is a sought-after motivational speaker. He has given more than 1,600 motivational talks throughout the U.S. and abroad and was selected to present a Ted Talk. He is the author of four books.

Mr. McGillivray has earned the Road Race Management’s Race Director of the Year Award, Runner’s World Heroes of Running Award, MarathonFoto Road Race Management Lifetime Achievement Award, the Fleet Feet Lifetime Commitment to Running Award, the Ron Burton Community Service Award, the Runner’s World Hero of Running award, the Old North Church Third Lantern Award and the “Jimmy Award” by the Jimmy Fund and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute for 30 years of contributing time and expertise to help raise millions for cancer research and treatment.

He was inducted into the USA Triathlon Hall of Fame, the Running USA Hall of Champions and the Road Runners Club of America Long Distance Running Hall of Fame. 

Mr. McGillivray is a graduate of Medford High School and Merrimack College. He was born and raised in Medford, Massachusetts and now resides in North Andover, Massachusetts. He is married to his wife Katie and they have five children: Ryan, Max, Elle, Luke and Chloe.


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