Canisius University Commencement 2024

April 21, 2024

Buffalo, NY - Hon. Brian M. Higgins will deliver the commencement address to Canisius University’s 2024 undergraduate and graduate classes during ceremonies on Saturday, May 18, 2024, in the Koessler Athletic Center. Ceremonies for the School of Arts & Sciences begin at 10:00 a.m., followed by ceremonies for the School of Education & Human Services and Richard J. Wehle School of Business at 1:30 p.m. Canisius will confer 385 undergraduate and 332 graduate degrees upon members of the Class of 2024.  

Higgins is president and chief operating officer for Shea’s Performing Arts Center. At Shea’s, Higgins aims to position the three-theatre campus to sustain and grow its century-long tradition of delivering exceptional experiences and top performances to theatre goers. His work includes elevating Shea’s Buffalo by upgrading patron amenities and preserving the institution’s historic character, building on the theatre’s foundational standing as a magical place. 

During his nearly 20-year tenure in Congress, Higgins maintained a focus on targeted initiatives that addressed the needs and leveraged the strengths unique to the Western New York community. A member of the Congressional Arts Caucus and author of federal Historic Tax Credit legislation, Higgins has long recognized the social and economic value of investments in preservation and culture.  

His leadership in securing a $279 million federal relicensing settlement has made redevelopment of Buffalo’s waterfront possible. Cancer research and infrastructure projects saw a major boost in federal investments through his work on the House of Representatives Budget and Ways and Means Committees, and as a member of the Foreign Affairs and Homeland Security Committees, he participated in high level international discussions.

Before serving in Congress, Higgins was elected to the Buffalo Common Council and later the New York State Assembly. He holds an undergraduate degree from Buffalo State University and earned a master of public administration degree from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.  

Also receiving honorary degrees are Mary McLean Wilson, a Life Trustee of the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation and Buffalo Bills safety Damar R. Hamlin. 

Mary Wilson serves as one of three Life Trustees appointed to guide the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation, a grantmaking organization established by her late husband Ralph Wilson. The Foundation, which began its grantmaking in 2015, is committed to improving the quality of life in its two regions by concentrating on Ralph Wilson’s hometown of Southeast Michigan and Western New York, the home of his beloved Buffalo Bills, the team he founded in 1959.

Mary has been an outspoken champion for the city of Buffalo ever since Ralph Wilson first brought her to the city in 1990 for the Bills’ home opener game.

During Ralph Wilson’s ownership of the Buffalo Bills, Mary worked to establish the Western New York Girls in Sports program in 2006, run by the United Way of Buffalo and Erie County and supported by the Foundation.

Mary has always had a passion for sports participation. She holds a degree in physical education from Trinity University, and after graduating she taught physical education and coached tennis. She is a former board member of the USTA Tennis Foundation and played in the Wimbledon Championships in 1976. Mary is also a past president of the National Senior Women’s Tennis Association, playing in many international events and becoming ranked number one in the 60 and over category.

Mary is a generous supporter of Canisius University as she oversees the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Sports Scholarship Fund established at the school by her husband in 1995. She visits the campus each year to award scholarships to five student-athletes who are participating in or interested in sports and athletics.

Over the years, the couple’s generosity through the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation has impacted the community in many ways, from arts and culture to community health and wellness. The Foundation has invested multi-millions to support the Girl Scouts of WNY, AKG Art Museum, Burchfield-Penney Art Center, Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, Hospice of WNY, Oishei Children’s Hospital, SPCA Serving Erie County and FeedMore WNY, among many others.

Damar Hamlin played college football at the University of Pittsburgh and was selected by the Bills in the sixth round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Hamlin spent most of his rookie season as a backup before becoming a starter in 2022.

A true champion both on and off the field, Hamlin has left an indelible mark through his remarkable journey of resilience and philanthropy. He inspired people around the country and the world when he suffered cardiac arrest after making a tackle during a Monday Night Football game against Cincinnati in 2023. Hamlin not only recovered from his injury and returned to the team but he also leveraged the experience to help others.

In 2023, Hamlin launched the CPR Tour, a groundbreaking initiative through his Chasing M's Foundation. This tour has equipped more than 1,200 individuals with life-saving skills, provided 170 AEDs to communities in need and catalyzed legislative change in 12 states.

In addition, Hamlin established the Heroes Scholarship in Cincinnati, honoring the medical professionals pivotal to his recovery.

More information about Canisius commencement ceremonies is available here

Canisius was founded in 1870 in Buffalo, NY, and is one of 27 Jesuit colleges and universities in the U.S. Consistently ranked among the top institutions in the Northeast, Canisius offers undergraduate, graduate and pre-professional programs distinguished by close student-faculty collaboration, mentoring and an emphasis on ethical, purpose-driven leadership.