Xavier 2008 Commencement Set for May 17

CSO’s Erich Kunzel and Rev. Howard Gray, S.J. are commencement speakers | May 9, 2008

Xavier University’s 170th commencement ceremonies will be held Saturday, May 17 at the University’s Cintas Center.


Separate ceremonies will be held for students receiving undergraduate and graduate degrees.

The undergraduate class of 2008 will receive their diplomas beginning at 9:00 a.m. Graduate degrees will be awarded at 2:00 p.m. Two ceremonies are being held to accommodate the large number of graduates and their families. No tickets are required for the ceremonies and graduation is open to the public.


Xavier will award approximately 1,100 undergraduate diplomas and 1,050 graduate diplomas. This includes all students who have graduated during the last academic year.


Media are welcome to cover both commencement ceremonies. Please enter the Cintas Center through the north loading dock.


A Baccalaureate Mass will be held prior to commencement on Friday, May 16 at 8:00 p.m. at The Cathedral of St. Peter in Chains located on the corner of 8th and Plum Streets in downtown Cincinnati.


Commencement Speakers and Honors

  • Erich Kunzel, principal conductor of the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, will be the undergraduate commencement speaker. He will also be awarded a Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa.
  • During the undergraduate ceremony, James Brockhoff, long time men’s and women’s tennis coach at Xavier, will be awarded the Paul L. O’Connor Leadership Award.
  • Also during the undergraduate ceremony, Phil Gasiewicz, ’68, will be honored with the Distinguished Alumnus Award in recognition of his outstanding service to Xavier and society, and of his life reflecting Jesuit values.
  • Jerome Gutzwiller, Jr., ’98, will be awarded Xavier’s first Magis Award. This recognizes a Xavier undergraduate alumnus or alumna who, within fifteen years after graduation, has achieved a high degree of excellence and embodies Jesuit morals and ethical values in his or her life.
  • The top graduating senior will now be honored as the John A. Elet, S.J. Scholar. Named after the first president of Xavier University, this recognizes a student for academic and service excellence. This year the honor goes to Matthew D. Hartig.
  • Xavier’s graduate commencement speaker will be Rev. Howard Gray, S.J., Assistant to the President for Special Projects at Georgetown University in Washington, DC. He will also be honored with the Leadership Medallion in recognition of his professional achievements, his generosity in giving back to the community he loves and his dedication to Catholic, Jesuit education

Undergraduate Commencement Speakers and Honors

Erich Kunzel’s remarkable conducting career now spans five decades. For more than 40 years, Kunzel has been the face of the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra and a driving force in the cultural development of the region. In that time, his appearances around the globe, as well as sales of more than 10 million recordings, have brought the conductor world fame. Kunzel began his career with the Pops in 1965. In the intervening years, the Orchestra has been involved in numerous national tours, performing in venues as diverse as Carnegie Hall, Radio City Music Hall and the Grand Ole Opry. He has led international tours as well, including the historic tour to China in 2005 that marked the first appearance of a Pops orchestra in that country. Under his leadership, the Pops has made 85 recordings since 1977, more than 55 of which have appeared in Billboard magazine’s Top 10 charts. Kunzel was named Billboard’s Classical Crossover Artist of the Year for an unprecedented four consecutive years. He has won Grammy Awards, the distinguished Grand Prix Du Disque and the Sony Tiffany Walkman Award for visionary recording activities. Kunzel has also used his skills to conduct other orchestras, recently leading the Vienna Volksopera Symphony Orchestra on a tour of Japan. And, every year since 1991, he’s led the National Symphony Orchestra on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol in PBS-TV’s internationally televised Memorial Day and Fourth of July concerts. In a 2007 White House ceremony, President George W. Bush presented Kunzel with the National Medal of Arts. Kunzel will conduct the Pops at the Beijing Olympics this summer.


In recognition of his outstanding contributions to the arts, his untiring pursuit of an expanding excellence and for his work in using music to increase understanding around the world, Xavier University proudly presents Erich Kunzel with a Doctor of Humanities, honoris causa.


Paul O’Connor Leadership Award

James Brockhoff has devoted his adult life to furthering the mission and ideals of Xavier University. As a coach, advisor, friend and mentor, his dedication to his students and the University’s Catholic, Jesuit tradition stands above all else. His leadership at Xavier has manifested itself in many ways. He retired in August 2007 as head coach for Xavier’s women’s and men’s tennis teams—positions held for 34 and 45 years respectively. His career record was 1,005 wins, 576 losses. Brockhoff was twice named Midwestern Collegiate Conference Coach of the Year and was the second coach in Division I history to notch 1,000 wins. In 2004, alumni and friends of the tennis program established the James and Mary Brockhoff Scholarship Fund to ensure the many benefits of a Xavier education are passed on to future generations. Brockhoff continues to raise funds for Xavier’s tennis program, generating more than $600,000 through gifts from friends, alumni, and the annual TAP pro-am tournament. He is also a member of the President’s Advisory Council. A double graduate of the University, Brockhoff earned a BA in 1957 and a MEd in 1964. He was a three-sport star at Cincinnati’s Purcell High School and played football and tennis at Xavier. His performance as a tennis player—he owns the University’s all-time winning percentage over 50 matches—and his contributions as a coach led to his induction in the Xavier Athletic Hall of Fame in 1981. Brockhoff is also a member of the Purcell-Marian Hall of Fame, the Summit Country Day Hall of Fame and the Greater Cincinnati Tennis Association Hall of Fame. A lifelong competitor, he won city singles and doubles championships in all age divisions. His love for and dedication to sports extend beyond Xavier. Among many involvements, he has taught tennis at the Eastern Hills Indoor Tennis Club and at Coldstream Country Club, umpired the Western Southern Financial Group Tennis Masters Series, and refereed for the National Fathers and Sons Tournament. Brockhoff began his career in education in 1957. From 1965-1971, he served as headmaster for Summit Country Day School. But Brockhoff is about much more than his career. He and his wife, Mary, have five children and eight grandchildren, all of whom know him as a loving, committed parent and grandparent.


In recognition of his unreserved commitment to the University’s ideals, his exemplary service and his leadership on and off the court, Xavier University is honored to present James J. Brockhoff with the Paul L. O’Connor, S.J., Leadership Award.


Distinguished Alumnus Award

Philip Gasiewicz’s life of accomplishment, service and dedication truly exemplifies the Jesuit spirit. His longstanding commitment to excellence is reflected in his personal achievements and in his role as a family man and his willingness to step in on behalf of causes and institutions he believes in. Gasiewicz is the retired COO of USIS Inc., one of the nation’s largest investigations and support services companies. The company serves government agencies and private-sector clients, providing background checks, investigative services, and security staffing and training. Gasiewicz joined USIS in 1996 as vice president for governmental operations and retired as COO in 2004. During his tenure, USIS grew from 600 employees to more than 6,000 with sales of $450 million. Active in a wide range of philanthropic enterprises, Gasiewicz gives freely of his time and resources. At Xavier, he is a member of the President’s Advisory Board and a subcommittee chair for the Williams College of Business. Gasiewicz and his wife, Beth Surkamp Gasiewicz, also a Xavier graduate, are longtime members of the Father Finn Society. The family has also set up scholarship opportunities, donated funds for the Brueggeman Center for Dialogue and provided funding to develop the Surkamp Family Welcome Center in the Alumni Center and the Learning Commons prototype in the Library. Most recently, Gasiewicz made a $1 million gift toward the new Williams College of Business building and programs. On the personal level, Phil and Beth function as a true team. He humbly credits her with much of his success. They are devoted to their two children, Robert and Rebecca.


In recognition of his distinguished career in business and in appreciation for his gracious spirit of philanthropy, which affirms its mission and Jesuit ideals, Xavier University is proud to present Philip W. Gasiewicz with its Distinguished Alumnus Award.


Magis Award

Jerome J. Gutzwiller Jr.’s first exposure to Latin America came from studying Spanish and Latin American Studies at Xavier in the 1990s. He majored in Spanish and international affairs with a Third World concentration. His second brush with Latin America came through a 1996 University-led service learning semester in Nicaragua. Gutzwiller has carried the Jesuit ideal of being a person for others through his work and study in Mexico, Nicaragua, El Salvador and, most recently, Lima, Peru. Working for a private contractor in Peru, he served as operations manager for the U.S. Agency for International Development’s $51 million poverty reduction and alleviation project. This innovative, demand-driven economic growth project promotes private-sector development in traditionally neglected regions of the country by identifying market demand, forging market linkages and providing technical assistance. It also assists the Peruvian government in structuring concessions to leverage private investment to improve infrastructure in order to reduce transport time and cost and increase the country’s competitiveness. The project’s success has resulted in more than $140 million in additional sales, 60,000 new jobs, $13 million in new productive investment in secondary cities and rural areas, and more than $700 million in private funds to rehabilitate two major highways and modernize the country’s main port. In the relatively short time since his graduation, Gutzwiller has amassed an impressive range of experiences. He interned at the Washington Office on Latin America and Amnesty International while taking graduate courses in peace and conflict resolution at American University. He twice served as an assistant for Xavier’s Academic Service Learning Semester in Nicaragua. He also met his wife, Rosalinda, while working with Crispaz—Christians for Peace—in El Salvador.


In recognition of the high degree of excellence he brings to his work, and his embodiment of the Jesuit morals and ethical values in his personal life, Xavier University is honored to present Jerome J. Gutzwiller Jr. with the first Xavier University Magis Award.


Graduate Commencement Speaker and Honors

Howard Gray, S.J., has dedicated his life to broadening and deepening the role of Ignatian spirituality in higher education. He has been a teacher, a thinker and a writer, but first and foremost a leader. Gray is the assistant to the president for special projects at Georgetown University. He earned his bachelor’s degree in English and classics, a licentiate in philosophy and a licentiate in theology from Loyola University of Chicago. He received his doctorate in English from the University of Wisconsin. Gray was rector and adjunct professor at Weston School of Theology from 1976-1983, associate professor of spiritual theology there from 1977-1983, and served as dean in 1982-1983. During this period, he also was an adjunct professor of spiritual theology at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, California. Gray was provincial for the Jesuit’s Detroit Province from 1983-1989 and executive director of the Detroit Province Spirituality Team from 1991-1995. In 1996, Gray became a Fellow of the Jesuit Institute at Boston College; from 1976-2000, he served as director of the school’s Center for Ignatian Spirituality; and from 2001-2007, Gray was rector of the Jesuit community and assistant to the president for University Mission and Identity at John Carroll University. Gray has also served as a consultant to the Jesuit provinces of East Asia from 1989-1990, and has been a delegate to the Jesuit’s two most recent general congregations, in 1983 and 1994. Active in the classroom, over the course of his career Gray has taught at Fordham University, John Carroll University, Loyola University of New Orleans and the University of Detroit Mercy, and has lectured at Boston College. He has written extensively in spiritual theology, Ignatian spirituality and higher education. Outside the classroom, he has served on the boards of trustees for a variety of institutions, including Georgetown University, the University of Detroit Mercy, Fairfield University, Loyola University of New Orleans, Boston College High School, the National Catholic Reporter, Walsh Jesuit High School, Weston Jesuit School of Theology and John Carroll University. Gray has received six honorary degrees, including one from Xavier, and has been honored with the Bi-Centennial Medal from Georgetown.


In recognition of his lifetime of dedication, commitment and leadership in expanding the role of Ignatian spirituality, Xavier University is honored to present Howard Gray, S.J., with its Leadership Medallion.