Honorary Degree Citation
Doctor of Laws
Presented on this eleventh day of May, 2013
Kathryn Erat, researcher, community service activist, philanthropist, woman of faith, Regis College welcomes you to our eighty-third commencement day exercises.
You graduated from the College of New Rochelle, the first women’s Catholic college in New York, in the 1950s, where the Ursulines, rooted in the spirit of Saint Angela Merici in tumultuous Renaissance Italy, inspired you and your fellow students to resolute action, confident innovation, service in the world, and faithful adaptation to new times, particularly in regard to the lives of girls and women. You majored in mathematics and, entering the workforce, you performed computer-supported mathematical analysis related to nuclear power plant designs for a U. S. Navy nuclear submarine. You spent your professional life working in research, computer analysis, system design, and programming at the Mitre Corporation and the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
For you, knowledge is practical as well as theoretical, applied as well as technological. As you applied science to medical systems and informatics, you also applied your religious faith to social commitment and the pursuit of justice. You were founding treasurer of the Shepherd Center of Cambridge-Somerville and served as community representative on the Institutional Review Board at Hebrew Senior Life Care for nine years, as well as the State Advisory Committee on Libraries and the Board of the Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services. You were a delegate to the U.N. Non-Governmental Organization Women’s Conferences in Nairobi in 1985 and in Beijing in 1995. You have been a Eucharistic Minister at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital for over twenty years.
In 2002, when you met representatives of Regis at a meeting at St. Paul’s Parish in Cambridge to discuss the Church in crisis, you immediately approached us regarding the needs of the young women Regis College educated. “I fear that the rising generations do not know enough about our Faith,” you said, adding that you wanted “to do something about that.” Later, you visited campus, participated in the Regis College Dialogues on Women, Church, and Society during the Church scandal and brought forth the idea of a “Christian immersion” program that, through visits to different parts of the world, would both educate students in aspects of Catholicism and give them experience of its historical origins, development, and challenges. In conversation with college administrators, campus ministers, and the faculty of our Religious Studies and Philosophy Department in 2007, you conceived and funded the Regis College Erat Scholars Program. As you envisioned, it immerses students in the pressing issues of faith in our world and then takes them and their faculty advisors to those places around the globe that demonstrate active engagement with what they have learned in their seminar.
Because of you, high-achieving Regis students have visited Rome, Israel, China, and Kenya. One Regis student was baptized in the Jordan River, and all experienced the difficulty of the unresolved Palestinian-Israeli question and the dislocation of Middle Eastern Christians. Because of you, Regis women and men have grappled with the difficult practice of faith in China and have seen in person the marvelous community work of the Nyumbani Orphanage in Kenya. Because of you, Regis students and faculty will soon travel to Le Puy, France, where the six founding Sisters of St. Joseph gathered around a hearth in the seventeenth century and divided a map of the city into six sections whose needs each committed to meet, thus challenging overwhelming need with empowering faith – and inspiring subsequent generations similarly to serve “the dear neighbor, without distinction” of gender, class, race or economic status. How fitting that this year, the fiftieth anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, the group will consider the role of the Church in the modern world in Geneva, the center of many United Nations and humanitarian programs, and conclude in the city of Rome enjoying the light of the new papacy of Pope Francis, a Jesuit and the first Latin-American pope.
Kathryn Erat, for your outstanding contribution as a Catholic laywoman to our campus community and to Catholic higher education, Regis College is pleased during this Year of Faith to bestow upon you, with gratitude, deep respect and affection, the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.