Canisius College Commencement
BUFFALO, NY – Canisius College commencement for the Classes of 2020 and 2021 will be held as hybrid events to include fully-virtual graduation ceremonies and multiple in-person “Graduation Walks.” Influential leaders in government, banking, philanthropy and humanitarian efforts will address graduates and receive honorary degrees.
The Hon. Eugene M. Fahey, a judge of the New York Court of Appeals, will serve as the virtual commencement speaker for the Canisius graduate Classes of 2020 and 2021. Rev. Peter Neeley, S.J., director of high school and university educational programs for the Kino Border Initiative, will provide the virtual commencement address for the undergraduate Classes of 2020 and 2021.
Judge Fahey was nominated by Governor Andrew Cuomo and unanimously confirmed by the New York State Senate as one of 10 judges from Western New York to sit on the preeminent state court in the nation.
As a sitting judge, he has published approximately 150 legal opinions. He has lectured on various topics ranging from the insanity defense, the Nuremberg trials, appellate practice, expert witnesses and negotiation of tort cases.
Born in Buffalo, Judge Fahey earned a bachelor’s degree in political science, a master’s degree in European history and a juris doctor degree - all from the State University of New York at Buffalo. He clerked in the Court of Claims in Buffalo and then became a trial lawyer in private practice, specializing in negligence defense and appeals.
Judge Fahey was first elected to public office in 1978 as a member of the Buffalo Common Council representing the University District. His track record of public service has been marked by remarkable achievements ever since. He served two terms on the Buffalo Common Council, becoming Council Member at-Large representing the entire city during both terms.
Following his private practice, Judge Fahey was elected to Buffalo City Court where he presided over approximately 3,500 cases per year. Judge Fahey was then elected to the State Supreme Court and oversaw a diverse range of civil and criminal cases in Erie County and throughout the Eighth Judicial District.
Judge Fahey was designated an additional justice of the Appellate Division by New York Governor George E. Pataki. He served in that capacity until he was designated as an associate justice of the Appellate Division. After Judge Fahey’s re-election, he was re-designated as an associate justice of the Appellate Division by Governor Cuomo, followed by his appointment to the New York Court of Appeals.
Throughout his career, Judge Fahey has always found time to give back, supporting a variety of community organizations including Deaf Adult Services of Western New York Inc., Buffalo Neighborhood Housing Services and Fillmore-Leroy Area Residents Inc., among others.
Judge Fahey announced plans to retire at the end of 2021 when he reaches the court’s mandatory retirement age.
For decades, Father Neeley has made his way across the U.S.-Mexico line, from Nogales, AZ to Nogales, Sonora and back at least once a week through the Kino Border Initiative. A binational border initiative founded by Jesuits in 2009, the Kino Border Initiative ministers to migrants newly deported from the U.S and fosters solidarity through humanitarian assistance, education, research and advocacy.
His is a cross-border ministry in a region characterized as “one of the most contentious…among non-warring nations.” Still, Father Neeley is undeterred in his efforts to provide a voice for those often at the center of a national discourse.
Better known as ‘Padre’ in this region of the country, Father Neeley is charged with escorting students - including Canisius College students – on their educational journey at the border. At the heart of his work is a resolve to restore humanity to the immigration conversation, which Father Neeley advocates is more complex than what is often portrayed by statistics and news stories.
With him as their guide, students’ understanding of the Jesuit mission, to be men and women for and with others, is profoundly deepened as they traverse the extreme conditions of a migrant trail along a remote portion of the Sonoran desert; engage in respectful dialogue with the men and women from U.S. Border Patrol, tasked with enforcing immigration law; and visit El Comedor, a sanctuary for the thousands of migrants deported from the U.S.
It is through these experiences, charitably fostered by Father Neeley, that young people realize a bigger law, a greater law - God’s law - of love and compassion. Through these encounters, they are reminded that we all share the same communion table.
Father Neeley’s ministry to raise awareness of our most marginalized began more than four decades ago, when he studied and worked throughout Mexico and Central America. During the 1980s, he led human rights delegations to Nicaragua and El Salvador. He spent a year in El Salvador examining the effects of fundamentalism on the Catholic and Protestant Christian communities. By the 1990s, Father Neeley became involved with at-risk Latino youth and immigrant families through his full-time pastoral work in East Los Angeles and Hollywood. He later ministered for the Jesuit Refugee Service’s Los Angeles Detention Project prior to joining the Kino Border Initiative.
Judge Fahey and Father Neeley will receive honorary degrees from Canisius. Also receiving honorary degrees:
- David G. Bellavia, awarded the Medal of Honor in 2019 in recognition of his courageous service during the Battle of Fallujah in Operation Iraqi Freedom;
- Shelley C. Drake, Western New York regional president of M&T Bank and president of the M&T Charitable Foundation;
- Angelo M. Fatta ’66, PhD, civic leader, business leader and philanthropist;
- George W. Scott ’80, president of the Colored Musicians Club in Buffalo.
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One of 27 Jesuit universities in the nation, Canisius is the premier private university in Western New York. Canisius prepares leaders – intelligent, caring, faithful individuals – able to pursue and promote excellence in their professions, their communities and their service to humanity.