2019 Commencement Speakers Announced

Jesuit author and commentator James Martin, SJ; and prison ministry and justice advocate Sister Helen Prejean, CSJ, will be Seattle University’s undergraduate and graduate commencement speakers, respectively, this June.

March 20, 2019

Noted Jesuit author and commentator James Martin, SJ; and prison ministry and justice advocate Sister Helen Prejean, CSJ, whose book Dead Man Walking was made into an award-winning film, will be Seattle University’s undergraduate and graduate commencement speakers, respectively, on June 16 at the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle.

As is tradition, Fr. Martin and Sr. Prejean will receive honorary doctoral degrees from the university.  However, this year a third honorary doctorate will be conferred upon P. José Alberto Idiaquez, S.J. Father “Chepe,” as he is known, is president of the Universidad Centroamericana (UCA) in Managua, Nicaragua. Seattle U shares a special, longstanding relationship with Father Chepe and UCA, which was formalized by a partnership agreement in 2014.

“In Fr. Martin, Fr. Chepe and Sr. Prejean we see representatives of the mission and values for which our university stands,” said Seattle U President Stephen Sundborg, SJ. “We look forward to welcoming and honoring these three extraordinary leaders at our commencement ceremonies in June.”

Martin is Editor-at-Large of America, the national Jesuit magazine, and the author of more than a dozen books including multiple New York Timesbestsellers. He has also written articles for a number of national publications and is a frequent commentator on religion and spirituality for major national and international news outlets. Fr. Martin has worked in hospitals, housing projects and community centers and has ministered to refugees in the U.S. and other countries.

A world-renowned advocate for justice, Sr. Prejean has been instrumental in shaping the Catholic Church’s position on capital punishment. Her ministry to death row inmates and her interactions with their families, victims and other prisoners led her to founding Survive, an organization dedicated to counseling families of victims of violence. Her book Dead Man Walking, an account of her prison ministry, became a bestseller and was adapted into an award-winning film.

An accomplished scholar and academic leader, Fr. Chepe has also done fieldwork with indigenous and marginalized communities in Honduras, Panama and Nicaragua. Since the Nicaraguan government’s crackdown on its own people began last spring, Fr. Chepe has stood up for those suffering persecution. He is a voice for justice, a beacon of hope and an agent for peace.