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Loyola University New Orleans honors leaders, luminaries, and legends at Commencement 2016

Loyola press release - March 7, 2016

Civic, business, and philanthropic leaders; a federal judge; and one of the world’s greatest entertainers will receive honorary degrees at Commencement 2016.

Loyola University New Orleans will award honorary degrees to entertainer Harry Connick Jr., civic and education leader Phyllis Landrieu, business leader Alden McDonald, and leading philanthropist and civic leader Elizabeth “Betsy” Nalty at Commencement 2016, 9:45 a.m., Saturday, May 21, in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Connick will deliver the commencement address.

Later the same day, the Hon. Jay C. Zainey, a federal District Court judge, will receive an honorary doctor of laws degree at Commencement 2016 for the Loyola University of New Orleans College of Law, which runs from 5:45 to 7 p.m., also in the Superdome. Zainey will deliver the law school commencement address.

“These five extraordinary individuals have helped to shape New Orleans’ present, past, and future while making lasting contributions in music, business, education, law, social justice, philanthropy, and volunteerism,” said Loyola University New Orleans President the Rev. Kevin Wm. Wildes, S.J., Ph.D.

“Their lives of achievement and service have been deemed worthy of special commendation, and we are pleased to present them higher education’s most prestigious recognition, an honorary degree ─ a distinction reserved at Loyola for eminent individuals whose lives of achievement and service exemplify the philosophy of Jesuit education.”

Harry Connick Jr.Legendary entertainer Harry Connick Jr. will receive an honorary doctorate of music. The New Orleans native will also deliver the commencement address.

Ranked among the Top 60 best-selling male artists in the United States by the Recording Industry Association of America, Connick has earned more No. 1 albums than any other artist in U.S. jazz chart history. His achievements include 30 album releases, three Grammy awards, two Emmy Awards, two Tony nominations, induction into the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame, and sales of more than 28 million albums. On Sept. 12, 2016, the internationally celebrated singer, musician, and actor will expand his scintillating career by debuting a new, nationally syndicated daytime entertainment show, “Harry.”

Connick’s contributions to the post-Katrina recovery effort and preservation of music in New Orleans have been widely recognized. To this day, he continues with zeal his philanthropy work related to Musicians’ Village in New Orleans’ Ninth Ward, which he and New Orleans native and musician Branford Marsalis co-founded in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The Village and its centerpiece, the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music, provide homes for musicians and other displaced citizens, a community center with a performance hall, a recording studio, and after-school facilities for children.

Like the graduates Connick will address, the “American Idol” judge is #JesuitEducated. Connick is a graduate of Jesuit High School of New Orleans and began his academic career at Loyola University New Orleans, where he studied music briefly before heading to New York to pursue his career.

Phyllis LandrieuLongtime civic leader Phyllis Landrieu will receive an honorary doctor of humane letters degree. The current president and CEO of the Early Childhood and Family Learning Foundation, Landrieu co-founded the learning foundation and developed the Mahalia Jackson Early Childhood and Family Learning Center in New Orleans. She served four years as an elected member of the Orleans Parish School Board District 5, as well as two years as school board president. For decades, Landrieu has worked to improve the quality of life for New Orleans and Louisiana through education, health care, and safety. Landrieu and her husband, Joseph, an alumnus of Loyola, had 10 children.

Among her myriad accomplishments, Landrieu was the first woman to serve on the United Negro College Fund Board, the New Orleans Navy League, and the New Orleans Aviation Board. She has been honored with the 2000 Outstanding Child Advocate Award from Prevent Child Abuse Louisiana (which she co-founded); the 2003 University of New Orleans Outstanding Community Service Award; the 2004 Light of Hope Award for Dedication to Abused and Neglected Children, Prevent Child Abuse Louisiana; 2007 and 2010 CityBusiness Woman of the Year awards.

Landrieu attended Loyola University, where she studied elementary education. She earned a master’s degree in education from the University of New Orleans.

Alden J. McDonaldAlden J. McDonald Jr., president and CEO of Liberty Bank and Trust Company, one of the top three African-American-owned banks in the United States, will receive an honorary doctor of humane letters degree. McDonald oversees a network of financial institutions serving urban communities across America and providing economic development resources to a diverse customer base. The first African-American bank officer hired in Louisiana (in 1966), McDonald has led Liberty Bank and Trust Company since 1972, and in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, he led rebuilding efforts for his bank and banks in the entire New Orleans region, efforts that ultimately led to expansion in other states.

Helping underserved communities to grow and develop has been a cornerstone of McDonald’s life’s work and the Liberty brand, and McDonald has both invested time and resources in K-12 public and private schools and led the business community’s efforts to reform public education. McDonald has served on the boards of numerous public agencies, including Fannie Mae and the FDIC Advisory Committee on Economic Inclusion, as well as a number of corporate and civic boards. McDonald is the recipient of numerous awards, including the 2013 100 Black Men Inc.’s Trailblazer Award and the 2012 National Urban League’s Business Pioneer Award. He was one of Fortune magazine’s 2006 “Portraits of Power” and in 2001 received The Times-Picayune’s Loving Cup award, the highest civic honor in the metro New Orleans area.

Elizabeth "Betsy" S. NaltyElizabeth “Betsy” S. Nalty, who has served as elected president of the Edward G. Schlieder Educational Foundation Board since 1998 and elected vice president since 1993, will receive an honorary doctor of humane letters degree. Nalty currently serves on boards for the Tulane Education Fund, Tulane's Executive Committee, Tulane University Hospital and Clinic, Louisiana State University’s Health Science Department of Psychiatry Advisory Board, the Louise S. McGehee School, and the Greater New Orleans Foundation. She also serves as a board member emeritus of the Ogden Museum of Southern Art and vice regent emeritus of the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, representing the state of Louisiana.

Highly celebrated for her longstanding volunteerism and philanthropic work, Nalty has long served organizations throughout the Greater New Orleans area, including institutions of higher education, health organizations, museums, research foundations, and philanthropic organizations, such as the Ethics Review Board for the city of New Orleans, the Tulane University Health Sciences Center, the Pennington Biomedical Research Foundation Board, Citizens for 1 Greater New Orleans, and the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, among many, many others.

Nalty has received numerous awards for her volunteerism and leadership, including the Institute for Human Understanding’s Ten Outstanding Persons award, St. Elizabeth’s Beautiful Activists Award, the Young Leadership Council’s Role Model Award, the Garden Club of America’s Creative Leadership Award, and the Junior League of New Orleans’ Outstanding Sustainer of the Year Award. Her outstanding fundraising and leadership have benefited the New Orleans Museum of Art, the New Orleans Philharmonic Symphony, the Hermann-Grima House, and various local museums and nonprofits.

The Hon. Jay C. ZaineyThe Hon. Jay C. Zainey, who was appointed by President George W. Bush to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana on Feb. 19, 2002, will receive an honorary doctor of laws degree from the Loyola University New Orleans College of Law. A past president of the Louisiana State Bar Association, Zainey is highly recognized for having established the state bar association’s Community Action Committee and Committee to Provide Legal Services for the Disabled, purportedly the first of their kind in the nation. Zainey is also co-founder of SOLACE, a volunteer Louisiana State Bar Association program that provides services to members of the legal community and their families who experience tragedies or otherwise have special needs―and is now the model for programs in 23 states and Puerto Rico.

Zainey organized the Homeless Experience Legal Protection (H.E.L.P.) program, which provides legal services to five homeless centers in New Orleans. He developed a Homeless Court in New Orleans, as well as veterans’ courts in Jefferson and St. Tammany parishes and in federal court. Zainey has long worked to provide pro bono legal services for the disabled. In 2004, together with his wife, Joy, Zainey founded the God’s Special Children’s Program and St. Andrew’s Village, a faith-based long-term living community for adults with disabilities.