Commencement Speaker & Honorary Degree Recipients

2014 Commencement Speaker
Kate Pew Wolters



Kate Pew Wolters '78
Commencement Speaker

Community Philanthropist, Co-Chair, Kent County First Steps Program


Kate Pew Wolters is a tireless community advocate recognized nationally for her support of environmental programs, the arts and people with disabilities. Recognizing her deep concern for the disadvantaged, President Clinton appointed Wolters to the National Council on Disability in 1994, with reconfirmation by the U.S. Senate in 1996. Kate earned a BA in Sociology from Aquinas College and a Master’s degree in Social Work from Michigan State University


Kate is an Aquinas College Trustee Emerita and has served as Chair of the College’s Board of Trustees. Currently, she sits on the board of several organizations including the Progressive Education Fund, the Michigan Protection & Advocacy Services, and the Mary & Robert Pew Public Education Fund, a foundation established by her parents to address public education in Palm Beach County, Florida. She also chairs the Steelcase Foundation and is president of the Kate and Richard Wolters Foundation that makes grants to nonprofit organizations with an emphasis in the arts, education, human services and people with disabilities. She was appointed to the Grand Valley State University Board of Trustees in 2004.


Her work in the community has been recognized with a variety of awards including an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Aquinas College in 1999 and the Aquinas College Reflection Award in 2004. Kate was co-honored with her father, Robert Pew, with the Aquinas Norman J. Hruby Emeritus Award in 2010. She has also received the Distinguished Alumni Award from Michigan State University, the Women of Achievement and Courage Award from the Michigan Women's Foundation, and, most recently, the Slykhouse Lifetime Achievement Award from the Economic Club of Grand Rapids.

2014 Honorary Degree Recipients
Rev. Msgr. William H. Duncan



Rev. Msgr. William H. Duncan
Vicar General, Roman Catholic Diocese of Grand Rapids
Honorary Doctor of Divinity


Monsignor William H. Duncan has served as the Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia for the Diocese of Grand Rapids since 2002 and as the pastor of St. Sebastian Church since 2007. He received a Bachelor of Science from Bucknell University in 1976, a Master of Hospital Administration from Duke University in 1978, and a Master of Divinity from Saint Mary Seminary and University, Baltimore in 1990.  Responding to the call of Christ, Monsignor was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Grand Rapids by Most Reverend Robert J. Rose on May 19, 1990. He later earned a licentiate in canon law (J.C.L) in 2002, at the Catholic University of America. In 2011, Pope Benedict XVI conferred the Papal Honor of Prelate of Honor to His Holiness upon Monsignor Duncan.


Throughout his time at the diocese, as both a pastor and an administrator, Monsignor Duncan has exhibited many qualities of a natural and gifted leader.  He is well-known throughout the Grand Rapids community, serving on ecumenical committees and various executive boards, including Saint Mary’s Hospital and Aquinas College.  In this spirit, Monsignor Duncan has a longstanding connection to the Aquinas community through service as an adjunct professor and as past chair of the College’s Board of Trustees. He continues to provide guidance to the Aquinas leadership team and serves as a liaison between the school and Most Reverend David Walkowiak, bishop of the Diocese of Grand Rapids.

Susan Jandernoa



Susan Jandernoa
Community Volunteer
Honorary Doctor of Education


Sue Jandernoa, an advocate for the health, education, and well-being of children, has been a dedicated member of the Grand Rapids community for decades.  Having taught for thirty years in East Grand Rapids Public Schools, Sue fostered a genuine concern for children and their welfare. After retiring from teaching in 2004, she has continued her dedicated service through various forms of volunteer engagement. 


Sue has served on the Board of Directors for the Make a Wish Foundation of Michigan, First Steps of Kent County, Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital Foundation, Children’s Leadership Council of Michigan, University of Michigan Dean of Education’s Advisory Board, Ele’s Place Grand Rapids, Meijer Gardens, and was recently appointed to the Health Endowment Fund Board by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder.  In addition, Sue’s dedication to the Catholic faith has led to leadership roles in the Diocese of Grand Rapids, serving in various capacities to raise awareness of the Church’s work in the community.


Recognizing her unique contributions to Grand Rapids, Aquinas College awarded Sue and her husband, Mike Jandernoa, the Aquinas Norman J. Hruby Emeritus Award in 2011. Sue has received many other awards throughout the years, including Catholic Central High School’s Service Award, Catholic Social Services Distinguished Service Award, the Arthritis Foundation’s Community Service Award, and induction to the Catholic Central High School’s Hall of Fame in 1998.