A look back at La Salle’s honorary degree recipients

March 6, 2023
In 1977, former La Salle President, Brother Daniel Burke, F.S.C., Ph.D., received an honorary degree. All photos courtesy of La Salle University Archives.

La Salle University has celebrated many accomplished professionals, community leaders, elected officials, and Christian Brothers with the conferral of honorary degrees over its 160-year history.  

These recognitions—typically awarded at Commencement or during other special events—spotlight people who are exceptional in their respective fields and uphold Lasallian values. 

An installment in a monthly series celebrating La Salle University’s rich history and the forthcoming 160th anniversary of its charter from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. 

Compiled below, with help from University Archives, you can learn more about some of La Salle’s past honorary degree recipients:


The first honorary degrees La Salle awarded were to Maurice F. Egan, an American writer and diplomat, and John H. Grove, M.D. 


This year, the first elected official was recognized with former Pennsylvania Gov. George H. Earle, LL.D., D.C.L., receiving a Doctor of Laws degree.  


Alice O’Halloran, RN

The first woman to receive an honorary degree was Alice O’Halloran, RN. 


Brother Athanase Emile, F.S.C., Superior General of the Institute of the Christian Brothers, received an honorary degree.  


In the early 1950s, La Salle awarded honorary degrees to business leader Henry Belin du Pont, vice president of du Pont de Nemours and Company. 


Former U.S. President and
Senator John F. Kennedy

Before becoming president of the United States, U.S. Senator John F. Kennedy received an honorary degree from La Salle and spoke during the ceremony. 


La Salle awarded a variety of honorary degrees this year including to Brother Charles Henry, F.S.C., Assistant Superior General of the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools.  


Blake Hayman, ’41, M.D., HON ’64, was recognized. His namesake lives on today as Hayman Hall is named after this alumnus.


The American painter Andrew Wyeth was honored this year. 

La Salle officials present Andrew Wyeth with his honorary degree.


Edmund Bacon, Philadelphia urban planner and architect, was honored this year. He is also actor Kevin Bacon’s father.  


La Salle President Brother Daniel Bernian, F.S.C., was honored at the end of his tenure with an honorary degree.  


Following his time as La Salle President, Brother Daniel Burke, F.S.C., Ph.D., received an honorary degree for “the example he has given as a man, a scholar-teacher, and community leader.”  


Brother Jose Pablo Basterrechea, F.S.C., Superior General of the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools, was honored. 


Brother Gregory Paul, F.S.C., Ph.D., President emeritus of La Salle College was celebrated. 


Charles H. Fuller, Jr.

Charles H. Fuller, Jr., known for his Pulitzer Prize-winning drama A Soldier’s Play, was honored.


Former La Salle President Brother Patrick Ellis, F.S.C., Ph.D., received an honorary degree this year.  


Actor Peter Boyle, ’57, known for playing Frank Barone on Everybody Loves Raymond, among other parts in television and film, was recognized.  


William J. Burns, ’78, was recognized. He is the current head of the CIA.  


Philadelphia Mayor Edward G. Rendell was honored. 


Brother Alvaro Rodriguez Echeverria, F.S.C., Superior General of the Institute of the Brothers of Christian Schools, received an honorary degree—as did William J. “Bill” Raftery, ’63, basketball commentator and analyst, and Gary C. Smith, ’75, Sports Illustrated senior writer, were also recognized.   

Brother Alvaro Rodriguez Echeverria, F.S.C., Superior General of the Institute of the Brothers of Christian Schools, was presented with an honorary degree in 2001.


Brother Armin Altamirano Luistro, F.S.C., the current Superior General of the Christian Brothers, was the president of De La Salle University in Manila at the time he received an honorary degree. 


Matthew Quick, ’96, author of The Silver Linings Playbook and other novels, was recognized.  


Tom Curley, ’70, was the editor of La Salle’s school newspaper The Collegian while a student and went on to be the president of the Associated Press.  


Brother Michael McGinniss, FSC, Ph.D., ’70, received an honorary degree years after his presidency. Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC’s Hardball, was another honoree this year.  


Brother Robert I. Schieler, FSC, Ed.D., ’72, a current Trustee, was serving as the third American Superior General of the Christian Brothers, when he was honored.  


Mike Sielski, ’97, a sports columnist for The Philadelphia Inquirer, was this year’s honoree.  


Marian Wright Edelman was recognized for being the founder and president of the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF). She is the first Black woman admitted to the Mississippi Bar and directed the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund office in Jackson, Miss. She received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Robert F. Kennedy Lifetime Achievement Award for her writings. 


Fran Dunphy, ’70, the current coach of La Salle’s men’s basketball team, spoke to 2020 graduates at Lincoln Financial Field as an honoree. The global pandemic prompted that year’s graduating students to celebrate a year later. Also, that year, Adam Schecter, ’86, a global business leader who became chief executive officer of Labcorp in 2019, and chairman in 2020. 

In October, at Honors Convocation, the University awarded an honorary degree to Most Reverend Nelson J. Perez, the Archbishop of Philadelphia.  

—Meg Ryan