Skip to Top NavigationSkip to Utility NavigationSkip to SearchSkip to Left NavigationSkip to Content
Mobile Menu

Speakers and Honorary Degree Recipients

(Please click on the images to download high-res versions.)

Commencement Speakers

Charles “Chuck” Pagano
(Speaker, SATURDAY, May 19)

CHARLES “CHUCK” PAGANO

Charles “Chuck” Pagano ’84, M’07 is the retired executive vice president and chief technology officer at ESPN. Pagano joined ESPN a month before it actually signed onto the air in 1979—and long before it became the global sports multimedia juggernaut it is today. Starting as a technical director, Pagano spent 35 years at ESPN, retiring in Feb. 2015 as its executive vice president and chief technology officer. He guided ESPN to become a leader in sports television technology and expanded its technological footprint across the globe.

Pagano’s contributions made ESPN the leader in marrying cutting-edge technology to unparalleled content across a variety of media platforms. He was the key driver in the creation of ESPN’s Digital Center in Bristol, Conn., one of the most technically sophisticated TV production facilities in the world. Outfitted as an all-encompassing digital resource, the building contains over 7 million feet of cable and four HDTV studios.

Pagano’s culminating effort was delivery of the Digital Center 2 facility. In this 194,000-square foot building, the sports media company is prepared to handle the next wave of technology, whether that be producing content in 8K resolution or adapting shows to be interactive with social media.

In January 2016, Pagano was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 67th Annual Technology and Engineering Emmy Awards, held in Las Vegas. He has been inducted into both the Consumer Technology Association Hall of Fame and the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame.

 Throughout the industry, Pagano became known as a collaborative partner, an early adopter of new ideas, and a leader who always recognized that technology starts with people.He is also praised for his loyalty, a trait that is clearly illustrated through his long-standing association with the University of Hartford. He received a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and a master’s degree in organizational psychology from UHart; is a former member of the University’s Board of Regents; currently serves on the College of Engineering, Technology, and Architecture’s Board of Visitors; and was presented with the University of Hartford’s Distinguished Alumni Award at the 2017 Commencement.

Active in the community, Pagano is a Commissioner for the Waterbury (Conn.) Board of Education and president of Holy Land Waterbury, whose mission is to preserve the historic city landmark that the nonprofit is named for. He previously was chairman of the Connecticut Technology Council.

Leonard Garvey Pitts Jr.
(Speaker, Sunday, May 20)

Leonard Garvey Pitts Jr.

Leonard Pitts Jr has been a columnist, a college professor, a radio producer, and a lecturerina career spanning four decades. But if you ask him to define himself, he will invariably choose one word. He is a writer—period. He writes of one of the most popular newspaper columns in the country and has written a series of critically acclaimed books, including his latest,Racism in America: Cultural Codes and Color Lines in the 21st Century, a collection of his articles.  His lifelong devotion to the art and craft of words has yielded stellar results, chief among them the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for Commentary. 

Pitts’ career is filled with prizes for literary excellence. In 1997, he took first place for commentary for newspapers with a circulation of over 300,000 in the American Association of Sunday and Feature Editors’ ninth annual writing awards competition. He is a three-time recipient of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) Salute to Excellence Award, and he was chosen NABJ’s 2008 Journalist of the Year. Pitts is a seven-time recipient of the Society of Professional Journalists’ Green Eyeshade Award.

Pitts was born and raised in Southern California. After entering college at age 15 through a special honors program. he graduated at the age of 19 from the University of Southern California with a degree in English.

Twice each week, millions of newspaper readers seek out his rich and uncommonly resonant voice. In a word, Pitts “connects” with them. Nowhere was this demonstrated more forcefully than in the response to the initial column Pitts wrote after the events of Sept. 11, 2001, unfolded, “We’ll Go Forward From This Moment,” is an angry and defiant open letter to the terrorists, which circulated the globe via the Internet. It generated upwards of 30,000 emails and has since been set to music and reprinted in poster form.

In 2008, Pitts wrote a series of columns titled “I am a Man” to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He also writes an occasional series called “What Works?” about programs across the country that show results in improving the lives of black children.

Author Tavis Smiley called Pitts “the most insightful and inspiring columnist of his generation.” He is the author of three novels and several works of nonfiction.

Other Honorary Degree Recipients

Linda J. Kelly
(saturday, May 19)

Linda J. Kelly

Linda J. Kelly will be awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters during the graduate commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 19, 2018.

Kelly served as president of the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving from 2005 until her retirement in 2017. During her tenure, the foundation, which is among the oldest and largest community foundations in the country, reached a record of nearly $1 billion in assets; set grant-making records; expanded outreach to communities of color; and collaborated with businesses, public policy leaders, and local and national nonprofits to improve equity, access, and opportunity for residents. She was the first female and first person of color to lead the organization since its establishment in 1925.

Prior to the foundation, Kelly was a commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Public Utility Control (now Public Utilities Regulatory Authority), the agency charged with regulating Connecticut-based utility companies. There she participated in international regulatory meetings and served in leadership positions with local and national committees. Her work on gas pipeline safety led to an appointment by the U.S. Secretary of Transportation to chair a federal advisory committee on safety standards, and election to the board of directors of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners. She also served on Connecticut’s Public Defender Services Commission.

Kelly completed a 20-year banking career as senior vice president and general counsel of Shawmut Bank Connecticut and assistant secretary and regulatory counsel of its holding company, Shawmut National Corporation. Earlier, she served as Connecticut’s deputy commissioner of banking.

Kelly’s longstanding commitment to diversity, inclusion, and healthy communities is reflected by decades of volunteer and board service with nonprofit organizations, addressing education, affordable housing, voter registrations, the arts, healthcare, youth employment, families of the incarcerated, and community development. She has also served on the board of directors of the Connecticut Bar Foundation, University of Connecticut Law School Foundation, Connecticut Council for Philanthropy, and MetroHartford Alliance.

A Hartford resident and native of North Carolina, Kelly received her bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina–Greensboro and her juris doctor from the University of Connecticut School of Law.

Walter Harrison
(sunday, may 20)

Walter Harrison

Walter Harrison will be awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters during the undergraduate commencement ceremony on Sunday, May 20.

Walter Harrison is president emeritus of the University of Hartford, where from 1998 until 2017, he oversaw a period of growth, vitality, and transformation of the University. He retired in June, 2017.

As the University’s longest-serving president, his tenure covered a period of dramatic improvement in the University’s financial stability; growth in the University’s endowment, which almost tripled during his presidency; and the construction or renovation of 17 University buildings. Most importantly, he oversaw significant growth in the undergraduate and graduate student population, new professional programs in architecture and health sciences, and improvement in the quality of the University’s academic offerings. The University’s libraries are named for him to recognize his devotion to the life of the mind.

Harrison has held volunteer leadership positions in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), serving on the NCAA Division I Board of Directors, as chair of the NCAA Executive Committee, and as chair of the Division I Presidents’ Advisory Committee. As chair of the NCAA

Committee on Academic Performance, the NCAA strengthened its commitment to the academic success of student-athletes, and improved the graduation rate significantly in all sports. In recognition of his leadership and advocacy for intercollegiate athletics, he was honored with the prestigious NCAA President’s Gerald R. Ford Award in 2014.

Harrison is also devoted to the greater Hartford community. Under his leadership, the University began its active commitment to the Blue Hills and Upper Albany neighborhoods of the city, opening the Mort and Irma Handel Performing Arts Center—home to the dance and theatre divisions of the University’s Hartt School—there, and building two nationally recognized magnet schools on campus. He continues to serve on not-for-profit boards in Hartford.

Harrison received his bachelor’s degree from Trinity College, his master’s in English from the University of Michigan, and his doctorate in English from the University of California, Davis. He served as an officer in the United States Air Force, reaching the rank of captain, from 1969 to 1972.