May 16, 2016

Spring 2016 Commencement speakers

Left to right: Ramona Parker, Haben Girma and Mary Mackbee

St. Catherine University will award nearly 1,000 degrees this week at three Commencement ceremonies. This spring’s notable speakers include:

College for Women, May 22, 2 p.m.: Haben Girma

Haben Girma, J.D., is the first deaf-blind graduate of Harvard Law School and a staff attorney for Disability Rights Advocates, a nonprofit law firm dedicated to protect the rights of people with disabilities.

In 2015, she helped achieve a landmark legal victory in the National Federation of the Blind v. Scribd case, which rules that Scribd’s digital content must include accessibility features. That same year, in July, she introduced President Obama at a White House ceremony to mark the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Girma received her B.A. magna cum laude in sociology/Anthropology in 2010 from Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Ore., where she was Neely Scholar and member of Phi Beta Kappa. While at Harvard, she interned with the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Girma was recognized as one of “21 Most Impressive Students” at Harvard. In 2013, the White House honored her as a Champion of Change for her advocacy on behalf of students with disabilities.

Graduate College, May 21, 2:30 p.m.: Mary Morrell Mackbee

Mary Mackbee has served as the principal of Central High School in Saint Paul — Minnesota’s oldest public high school — for the past 23 years. She was the first woman appointed as a high school assistant principal in Saint Paul Public Schools, and soon after was the first African-American woman appointed as a high school principal.

Believing that a representative and integrated staff is the key element in any school with high expectations for all students, she set about hiring more minority staff especially in the academic areas. In 1998, the U.S. Department of Education recognized Central as a National Blue Ribbon School for excellence and equity.

Mackbee received her B.A. in social science from Xvaier University of Louisiana and M.A. in educational administration from the University of Minnesota.

She has received numerous honors and awards throughout her career, including the Burger King Minnesota Principal of the Year, Limited 30 Black Women’s Network Community Service Award and the H.E.R.B.I.E Award, for exemplifying the traits inspired by its namesake, Olympic U.S. Hockey coach Herb Brooks.

College for Adult and Applied Learning, May 21, 11 a.m.: Ramona Ann Parker

Ramona Parker, Ed.M., Ph.D., R.N., is associate professor and assistant dean of medical and interprofessional education at the University of the Incarnate Word.

She earned her B.S. in nursing from the University of Texas Health Science at San Antonio and a M.S. in Nursing from the University of the Incarnate Word. She has taught in higher education since 2004, receiving her doctorate in 2007 from the University of Texas at Austin, with a specialty in parent-child nursing, and Master of Education from the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign in 2012.

At the University of the Incarnate Word, she served in several leadership positions including Director of the Robert J. Jr. and Helen C. Kleberg Center for Innovative Research and Clinical Learning. Parker is currently the Faculty Senate president.

Parker, whose mother was a 1966 nursing graduate of St. Kate's, was inducted into the National Academies of Practice in 2014 and the Phi Delta Kappa, Inc. Gamma Tau Chapter’s Educators Hall of Fame in 2011. Active in her community, she served as president of Delta Alpha at Large Chapter of Sigma Theta Tau International and treasurer of San Antonio Ladies of the Talent Tenth.

For more Commencement information, visit St. Kate's Office of Student Affairs.