U.S. Rep. Dean, Human Rights Activist Prendergast to Receive Honorary Degrees at Commencement

By Caitlin Burns | April 28, 2020

Prendergast and Congresswoman Dean headshots

Arcadia is excited to present honorary doctoral degrees to U.S. Representative Madeleine Dean (PA-4th) and human rights activist John Prendergast at the University’s 2020 Commencement ceremonies, planned for Sept. 26. Representative Dean will receive an Honorary Doctor of Laws, while Mr. Prendergast will receive an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters. Both Representative Dean and Mr. Prendergast have been part of the Arcadia University community for years, and they have dedicated their professional lives to addressing injustice and inequality locally, nationally, and internationally.

While COVID-19 disrupted plans for the University’s time-honored Commencement traditions, Arcadia remains committed to celebrating the accomplishments, successes, and resiliency of the Class of 2020. The University will confer degrees during an online celebration scheduled for May, and hopes to celebrate with an in-person event on Haber Green on Saturday, Sept. 26, pending federal, state, and health guidelines. More information is available at www.arcadia.edu/Commencement. 

Congresswoman Dean
In 2018, Congresswoman Madeleine Dean was elected to represent Pennsylvania’s 4th District, which includes Montgomery and Bucks Counties. In Washington, Dean serves on the powerful Judiciary and Financial Services Committees, championing progressive priorities like public education, combating addiction, equal rights, access to healthcare, protecting the environment, ethics, criminal justice reform, and gun violence prevention, among other issues.

After studying politics and public service at the University of Pennsylvania’s Fels Institute of Government, in 2011 Dean ran for and served as Abington Township commissioner before winning a special election to the Pennsylvania State House the following year. From 2012 to 2018, she served as a state representative for Pennsylvania’s 153rd District, where she was an outspoken champion of public education, healthcare access, environmental protection, equal rights, ethics, criminal justice reform, combating addiction, and ending gun violence. Following the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in 2012, Dean founded and co-chaired PA-SAFE Caucus, an active coalition of legislators and advocates dedicated to ending gun violence. She also worked closely with local officials to bring home millions of dollars in infrastructure projects that promote safer, greener, more livable communities. 

Born and raised in Glenside, Pa., Dean graduated from La Salle University and earned a law degree at Widener University. Following graduation, Dean practiced law with the Philadelphia Trial Lawyers and went on to open a three-woman law firm in Glenside. She also was a member of the English faculty at La Salle and has contributed pieces to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News, Patriot-News, and other publications. 

John Prendergast is a human rights and anti-corruption activist as well as a New York Times best-selling author who has focused on peace in Africa for nearly 40 years. He co-founded, with George Clooney, The Sentry, an investigative initiative chasing the assets of African war criminals and their international collaborators, and whose Board of Directors includes Clooney, Don Cheadle, Matt Damon, and Brad Pitt. 

Prendergast is also founder of the Enough Project, a policy organization aimed at countering genocide and crimes against humanity. Under the Enough Project umbrella, Prendergast has helped create a number of initiatives and campaigns, including the Darfur Dream Team Sister Schools Program, the Raise Hope for Congo Campaign, and Sudan Now campaign. 

Prendergast has worked for the White House, the State Department, two members of Congress, the National Intelligence Council, UNICEF, Human Rights Watch, the International Crisis Group, and the U.S. Institute of Peace.  He was part of the mediation team that negotiated the end to the Ethiopia-Eritrea war, supported President Nelson Mandela’s mediation in the Burundi peace process, and contributed to other peace processes in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola, Sudan, and Somalia.  

Prendergast has received several awards for his humanitarian work, including the United Nations Correspondents Association Global Citizen of the World Award; the Lyndon Baines Johnson Moral Courage Award; the U.S. Department of State Distinguished Service Award; and the Center for African Peace and Conflict Resolution Award. He is the author or co-author of 11 books and is or has been a visiting professor at several colleges and universities, including Stanford University, Yale Law School, Columbia University, Duke University, and American University in Cairo.