Rev. Gregory Boyle, SJ, who has received national recognition for his work with young people and gang intervention in East Los Angeles, will deliver the 2014 St. Ambrose University spring commencement address.
Fr. Boyle will receive an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree. A second honorary degree will be presented to Laurel Walker, the retired president and CEO of Skip-A-Long Child Development Services and Skip-A-Long Family and Community Services. The St. Ambrose commencement ceremony will begin at 1 p.m. on Saturday, May 10, at the i Wireless Center, 1201 River Drive, Moline, Ill.
A native of Los Angeles, Fr. Boyle was ordained a Jesuit priest in 1984. In 1992, he created Homeboy Industries, a parish-led effort that is recognized as the largest gang intervention and re-entry program in the country. It began with a bakery across the street from the Dolores Mission Church, and today includes a silkscreen shop, a merchandising operation and a café, and trains more than 300 former gang members each year. It also offers mental health, substance abuse, domestic violence and legal services, as well as tattoo removal.
Boyle's mission to provide employment as an alternative to the gang culture has been the subject of multiple books, films and national media reports, including appearances on National Public Radio, "60 Minutes" and "NBC Nightly News." He is the author of New York Times best-selling book, "Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion."
Recognized as a national expert on gang intervention, Boyle is a member of the National Gang Center Advisory Board and the U.S. Attorney General's National Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence. In 2005 he participated in a White House Conference on Youth at the personal invitation of former First Lady Laura Bush. Boyle received the California Peace Prize, the Irvine Leadership Award and Lifetime Achievement Award from the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
"Fr. Boyle's dedication and service to young people in gangs is an example of faith in action," said Sister Joan Lescinski, CSJ, president of St. Ambrose. "We are honored that Fr. Boyle will be with us, and look forward to an inspiring commencement address for our graduates and their families."
For more than three decades, Walker worked to help transform Skip-A-Long from a small daycare center into a major community resource in both Iowa and Illinois.
"It is a pleasure to honor Laurel Walker's long record of service to children and working families of the Quad Cities," said Lescinski. "As a society we are coming to more fully understand the importance of early childhood education and its role in creating life-long learners."