Holy Family University Announces 2018 Commencement Honorary Degree Recipients

GraduationHoly Family University will present four honorary degrees during its 2018 Commencement Ceremony, held on Tuesday, May 15 at the Kimmel Center. Albert Tantala Sr., President of Tantala Associates, LLC, Engineers and Architects; Pamela Rainey Lawler, Founder, Philabundance; Dennis Colgan Jr., Chairman Emeritus of Barthco International, Inc.; and Audrey Evans, MD, a pediatric oncologist and co-founder of the original Ronald McDonald House have been selected as this year’s recipients.

Tantala and Lawler will receive their honorary degrees during the graduate ceremony at 9:30 a.m. while Colgan and Evans will receive their honorary degrees during the undergraduate ceremony at 12:30 p.m.

Holy Family University proudly bestows the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, to all of our recipients. It is the highest honor that the University grants and is presented to individuals whose contributions to the public good warrant exceptional recognition.

Dennis J. Colgan Jr.

Dennis J. Colgan Jr. is Chairman Emeritus of Barthco International, Inc., a company he established in Philadelphia in 1970. Colgan led Barthco to become one of the largest privately-held international logistics companies in the U.S. at the time of its sale in 2006. In addition to Barthco, Colgan has served on several other corporate and non-profit boards, most notably as a past member of the Holy Family University Board of Trustees for 20 years, 10 years as its chair.

As chair of Holy Family’s board, he devotedly served as a strategic leader, savvy businessman, and outstanding philanthropist. Colgan’s contributions have been instrumental in chartering the course for change at Holy Family, culminating to its success today. Colgan leads by example—he encourages giving through his own generosity. In 2007, Colgan established the Gerardine Colgan Endowed Scholarship in honor of his wife. The scholarship assists students who show promise and are in need of assistance. The scholarship aims to discover, encourage, challenge, and financially assist those students who have not fully developed a vision of excellence and achievement in their own lives, but whom others recognize as having the academic potential for success.

Audrey Evans, MD

A renowned leader in pediatric oncology at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), Dr. Audrey Evans developed the Evans Staging System for neuroblastoma. This diagnostic tool assists doctors in determining how a child’s cancer will progress, resulting in a tailored treatment plan, which often spares children from chemotherapy and its difficult side effects. She has been a leader in establishing compassionate care for her patients by championing a “total care” model.

She is probably best known for co-founding the original Ronald McDonald House (RMDH) in Philadelphia in 1974—a place for families of cancer patients to stay while their loved ones undergo treatment nearby. RMDHs have served countless families in over 350 facilities worldwide for 45 years. In 1987, Dr. Evans established the Ronald McDonald Camps for children with cancer and children who have survived cancer; these camps are a joyful respite for children to relax, have fun, and be themselves. Dr. Evans’ advocacy of children also led to her co-founding the St. James School, a faith-based middle school located in the Allegheny West section of Philadelphia that serves underprivileged students in a nurturing environment.

Dr. Evans has remained a thought leader in the advancement of medical practice and treatment of neuroblastoma. She was the first to organize a gathering of global experts to share the latest discoveries. The conference—Advances in Neuroblastoma Research—facilitates dialog, cooperation, and collaboration with the goal of eradicating the world of this devastating disease.

Pamela Rainey Lawler

On Mother’s Day in 1984, Pamela Rainey Lawler loaded her station wagon with surplus perishable food from a local supermarket and delivered it to families in need. She continued to visit bakeries, restaurants, and farmers’ markets, collecting food to take to nearby shelters and soup kitchens. Seeing the scope of community hunger and knowing how much food was wasted daily, Lawler left a successful career as a corporate writer to establish Philabundance.

One of the nation’s first to successfully distribute unused perishable foods safely and efficiently, Philabundance serves as a model for other cities and food banks to access a previously untapped source for emergency food. Last year, more than 40,000 individual donors contributed 24 million pounds of food, feeding more than 90,000 people per week. Its multi-million-dollar budget underwrites an array of programming—from its core service of direct food distribution, to culinary arts training for the hard to employ, to the nation’s first non-profit supermarket. Lawler credits the success of Philabundance to its employees, legions of volunteers, food donors, and financial supporters. It is also a testament to Lawler’s expression of love, kindness, compassion, and understanding that fuels the engine that drives the outpouring of support for the organization. Her message has inspired more than 130,000 volunteers to help in the fight against hunger for more than 30 years.

Albert Tantala Sr.

Albert Tantala Sr. is President of Tantala Associates, LLC, Engineers and Architects, a family business he founded in Philadelphia in 1966. Under his leadership, the company has grown exponentially and is highly-regarded as having a level of expertise, depth and breadth of knowledge, and integrity that is unparalleled. Tantala has exemplified himself with noteworthy leadership in business and active involvement with professional societies and public and private institutions, including corporate and non-profit boards.

As the longest-serving trustee in Holy Family history, Tantala has devotedly supported the University since 1982. His professional expertise in engineering has been invaluable as Holy Family expanded its facilities, acquired additional real estate, and upgraded its infrastructure. Tantala participated generously in the University’s major fundraising events, notably the annual Scholarship Ball, at which he and his wife, Jean, received the Corporate Leadership Award for completing more than one million dollars of pro bono work for the University.