Candidates for honorary degrees at the 175th Commencement are award-winning TV journalist Joan Lunden, who will deliver the Commencement address (Doctor of Journalism); Edward W. Ahart ’69, incoming chair of the Board of Trustees and managing partner and chairman of the law firm of Schenck, Price, Smith & King, Florham Park, N.J. (Doctor of Laws); Father Thomas J. Hagan, O.S.F.S., former Catholic chaplain at Lafayette and the founder of the humanitarian organization Hands Together (Doctor of Public Service); and Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, the Marquis de Lafayette (1757-1834), the champion of freedom and leader in the American and French revolutions for whom Lafayette College is named (Doctor of Public Service, posthumously).
EDWARD W. AHART, a member of Lafayette’s Class of 1969, is managing partner and chairman of the law firm of Schenck, Price, Smith & King LLP, Florham Park, N.J. A member of the College’s Board of Trustees since 1992, he will become chair of the board July 1, succeeding Alan R. Griffith ’64.
Ahart has served as secretary to the board and a member of the Steering Committee since 2007. A member of the Executive Committee since 2001, he has chaired the board’s Committee on Student Life and served as vice chair of the Committee on Educational Policy and as a member of the Committee on Easton.
Ahart was a member of the search committee whose efforts culminated in the election of Daniel H. Weiss as Lafayette’s 16th president. He served as chair of the All-College Task Force on Alcohol and Substance Abuse, the Subcommittee on Governance and Rules Compliance of the College’s NCAA Self-Study Committee, and the Alumni House Committee. He was a member of the board’s Special Committee on Information Technology. Before becoming a trustee, he served as president of the Lafayette Alumni Association from 1990 to 1992. He received the Joseph E. Bell ’28 Award for distinguished service to the College in 1998.
Ahart’s ties to Lafayette include two daughters, Amy ’97 and Alison ’03, and two sons-in-law, Thomas DiGiovanni ’96 and Shaw Williams ’03. His wife, Catherine Folk Ahart, is an active and enthusiastic partner and participant in service to Lafayette. Ahart and his family are the benefactors of the College’s Ahart Family Scholarship Fund. He is a sustaining member of the Marquis Society.
Ahart holds a bachelor of arts degree in Spanish from Lafayette. He earned a J.D. degree from the Cornell University Law School in 1972 and, prior to joining Schenck, Price, Smith & King a year later, served as law secretary to the Honorable Joseph P. Halpern, presiding judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division.
A partner in his law firm since 1978 and a member of its executive committee since 1980, Ahart has served as the firm’s managing partner since 1991 and has chaired its Business Law Department and Corporate Practice Group. He has earned designation by his peers as a New Jersey Super Lawyer in the areas of mergers and acquisitions and business/corporate law.
An elder of the Greenwich Presbyterian Church, Stewartsville, N.J., he is a member of the executive committee and former chair of the Morris County (N.J.) Chamber of Commerce, a member of the executive committee and past president of the Greenwich Cemetery Association, and a member of the board of governors and past president of the Morristown Club. He is a past board chair of the ARC, Warren County Chapter.
THOMAS J. HAGAN, O.S.F.S., a priest with the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, is the founder and president of Hands Together, a nonprofit organization devoted to educating, inspiring, and encouraging people to understand the importance of responding to the needs of the poor and disadvantaged.
Hagan founded Hands Together after he led a group of Lafayette students to Haiti to assist people suffering from leprosy in1985, while he was serving as the College’s Catholic chaplain. The organization grew as an outreach program to help the poor in Haiti, and by 1989 students from many other colleges and universities had participated. Hands Together was incorporated that year.
Hagan moved to Port-au-Prince in 1997, and Hands Together has since emerged as a key educational and development organization working in Haiti’s largest and poorest slum, Cite Soleil. It has built free schools where there were none and gives every student a hot meal daily. There are eight campuses, including a high school, as well as a free clinic and an elderly outreach and housing program. Hands Together is one of Cite Soleil’s largest employers, providing service-oriented jobs to hundreds of residents.
By establishing schools, orphanages, nutrition and feeding programs, medical clinics, sustainable-development projects, and partnerships with local leaders and communities, Hands Together is building a better world for thousands of suffering people in Haiti. The executive director of the organization is Doug Campbell ’86, who, as a student, accompanied Hagan on his initial trip to Haiti.
Hagan holds a bachelor of arts degree in English from Niagara University, a master of arts degree in psychology from Temple University, and a master of divinity degree from St. Charles Borromeo Seminary. He was ordained Sept. 6, 1969, at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, Philadelphia.
As Catholic chaplain at Lafayette from 1983-91, Hagan played a key role in establishing a program of community service activities that flourishes today under the auspices of the Landis Community Outreach Center. After serving at Lafayette, he was Catholic chaplain at Princeton University before moving to Haiti to work full time with Hands Together.
JOAN LUNDEN, an award-winning television journalist and best-selling author, is the host of Lifetime Television’s Health Corner, a weekly series educating women on issues such as improving health, childcare, nutrition, and medicine. She also is the host of DirecTV’s Hometown Heroes, which highlights extraordinary civilians whose stories impact lives across the country.
Lunden was co-host of ABC’s Good Morning America from 1980-97. The longest-running host ever on early-morning television, she reported from 26 countries, covering four presidents, five Olympic Games, and two royal weddings. In 2007, she hosted the CW Network program America’s Invisible Children, which won an Emmy for Outstanding Television Special.
Lunden has served as a national spokesperson for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the American Lung Association’s campaign on the dangers of smoking and pregnancy, and the American Red Cross. She is currently a spokesperson for the “First Steps to a Healthy Smile” program of Oral B and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
The mother of seven children, she is a vocal advocate for good parenting. She was honored as Mother of the Year by the National Mothers’ Day Committee and as Career Mother of the Year by the National Institute of Infant Services. She and her husband recently launched a child-safety product, Kinderkord, which is designed to help parents and children stay connected when among crowds in public spaces.
Lunden’s books include Growing Up Healthy: Protecting Your Child From Diseases Now Through Adulthood; Wake-Up Calls: Making the Most Out of Every Day; A Bend in the Road Is Not the End of the Road; Joan Lunden’s Healthy Living; Joan Lunden’s Healthy Cooking; Mother’s Minutes; Your Newborn Baby: Everything You Need to Know; and Good Morning, I’m Joan Lunden.
A skilled horsewoman, she created Camp Reveille, a retreat for women to energize their spirits, create goals, and learn how to achieve healthier balance in their lives. Her latest venture is an online personal health-record system called PassportMD, which allows users to manage their family’s health.
Lunden holds a bachelor of arts degree from California State University, Sacramento. She also studied at the Universidad de Las Américas in Mexico City.
MARIE JOSEPH PAUL YVES ROCH GILBERT DU MOTIER, MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE (1757-1834), was a renowned statesman who boldly championed the cause of freedom and individual rights throughout his life. A French aristocrat and a military leader in both the American and French revolutions, Lafayette was beloved on both continents. During his 1824 triumphal Farewell Tour of America, which concluded 185 years ago, the Marquis was greeted with expressions of great esteem everywhere. Easton lawyer James Madison Porter was so impressed upon meeting him in Philadelphia that he proposed the town’s new college be named Lafayette as “a testimony of respect for his talents, virtues, and signal services . . . in the great cause of freedom.”
Born into a family with illustrious ancestors on both sides, it seemed likely that Lafayette would have a conventional aristocratic, military career. Instead, he took a different direction, joining the Freemasons in 1775 and two years later, at age 20, buying a ship and sailing to America to volunteer for service in General George Washington’s army. A revolutionary from an early age, he adopted the motto “cur non?” (why not?) for his coat of arms. He wrote in a letter to his wife during the voyage, “The welfare of America is intimately connected with the happiness of all mankind; she will become the respectable and safe asylum of virtue, integrity, tolerance, equality, and a peaceful liberty.”
As principal author of the “Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen” (1789), he helped propel the French Revolution. In the final decade of his life, he took part in France’s 1830 revolution and also voiced support for revolutions in Greece, Poland, Italy, and South America. An ardent supporter of emancipation and a member of anti-slavery societies in France and America, Lafayette also lobbied for the restoration of civil rights to French Protestants and was instrumental in ensuring that religious freedom be granted to Protestants, Jews, and other non-Catholics. A friend to Native Americans, he also endorsed the views of leading women writers and reformers of his day.
On June 30, 1832, a month after the first students matriculated at Lafayette College, five of them—members of the Franklin Literary Society—wrote to Lafayette that they had made him an honorary member to pay “a feeble though sincere tribute of regard to a man who has proved his own and our country’s benefactor, and whose enlarged philanthropy as with a mantle of blessedness would cover the whole family of man.”
When Lafayette visited Congress in 1824, Speaker of the House Henry Clay delivered an address citing the deep respect and admiration held for him due to his “consistency of character . . . ever true to your old principles, firm and erect, cheering and animating, with your well-known voice, the votaries of liberty, its faithful and fearless champion, ready to shed the last drop of blood, which here, you so freely and nobly spilt in the same holy cause.” But it was not until 178 years later, on August 7, 2002, that Congress made him an honorary citizen of the United States.