Honored Guests Commencement 2017

The commencement speaker and honorary degree recipients for our 46th Commencement Exercises were: 

Commencement Speaker

Congressman Luis V. Gutiérrez addressed the graduating class of 2017. 

Now in his twelfth term, Congressman Gutiérrez is the senior member of the Illinois delegation in the U.S. House of Representatives.  He is an experienced legislator and energetic spokesman on behalf of his constituents in Illinois' Fourth District in the heart of Chicago, who first elected him to his seat in 1992. 

Rep. Gutiérrez is nationally recognized for his tireless leadership championing issues of particular importance to Latino and immigrant communities.  He has been at the center of every major legislative debate on immigration reform and immigration issues for more than a dozen years. 

He played an instrumental role in advocating for executive action by President Obama to provide deportation relief to certain long-term undocumented immigrants and their families.  The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that protects some immigrants brought to the U.S. as children from deportation – and a series of executive actions announced in 2014 are partly the result of Congressman Gutiérrez consistent and persistent advocacy in Washington.  But beyond advocating for these initiatives, the Congressman has worked hard in Chicago and around the country to work with immigrants to apply for these deportation protections that keep families together.


  • Dean of the Illinois Delegation in the U.S. House of Representatives;
  • Chairman, Immigration Task Force of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus;
  • Judiciary Committee | Immigration and Border Security Subcommittee;
  • Judiciary Committee | Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security Subcommittee;
  • Financial Services Committee (Leave of Absence during 113th and 114th Congresses)
  • Author or co-author of numerous bills, including immigration bills like McCain/Kennedy/Flake/Kolbe/Gutiérrez, the first bicameral, bipartisan comprehensive reform bill in 2005.

At the beginning of the 113th Congress in January 2013, Rep. Gutiérrez took a leave of absence from the House Financial Services Committee, where he was the third ranking Democrat, to take a less senior position on the Judiciary Committee.  He did this so that he could work directly on two signature issues that have defined his career: gun violence prevention and comprehensive immigration reform.

Married and both a father and grandfather, Rep. Gutiérrez was born and raised in Chicago to parents who had themselves migrated to Chicago from Puerto Rico in the early 1950s. He previously served as an Alderman in the City of Chicago and has been a teacher, a social worker and a cab driver, among other diverse experiences.

Honorary Degree Recipients

Receiving honorary degrees from Cambridge College were Adam Foss, Esquire, and Joan Wallace-Benjamin.

By shifting his focus from incarceration to transforming lives, Adam Foss is reinventing the role of the criminal prosecutor.

As Assistant District Attorney in the Juvenile Division of Suffolk County, Adam Foss has become one of Boston's leading voices for compassion in criminal justice. Recognizing that prosecutors have a unique opportunity to intervene in offenders' lives, Foss co-founded the Roxbury CHOICE Program, a collaborative effort between defendants, the court, the probation department, and the D.A. to recast probation as a transformative experience rather than a punitive process.

In addition to his work with the DA's office, Foss is the founder of the SCDAO Reading Program, a project designed to bridge the achievement gap of area elementary school students.

Adam J. Foss is an Assistant District Attorney in the Juvenile Division of the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office (SCDAO). He is on the executive board of the Massachusetts Black Lawyers Association and chair of its Community Service Committee.  He is an active member of the Massachusetts Bar Association in its House of Delegates as the chair of its Criminal Justice Section Council and he sits on the Boston Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Section Steering Committee.

  • In 2008, he graduated Cum Laude from Suffolk University Law School and in 2007 he was awarded the prestigious Book Award from the Massachusetts Black Judges Conference.  SCDAO selected Mr. Foss as the 2012 recipient of the Brian J. Honan Award recognizing excellence in the courtroom and a commitment to the communities he serves and he also received a commendation from the State House for those efforts.
  • In 2013, the Massachusetts Bar Association recognized Mr. Foss with the Access to Justice Section Council Prosecutor of the Year Award.
  • Former Governor Deval Patrick appointed Mr. Foss to his administration’s Juvenile Justice Advisory Committee. Mr. Foss also served as a panelist at the national MacArthur Foundation Models for Change Conference in Washington, DC, speaking about juvenile justice reform.  
  • In both his professional and personal capacities, Mr. Foss volunteers much of his time to the community he works in.  His latest project is creating a diversion program for first time juvenile offenders in the Suffolk County Juvenile Court.  


Joan Wallace-Benjamin joined The Home for Little Wanderers in 2003 as President and Chief Executive Officer. Under her guidance, the agency has gained prominence in the field of child and family service providers, becoming a leader in innovative programming for underserved populations and expanding its role of advocacy for all children.

Previously, Joan was President and Chief Executive Officer of The Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts for 11 years and immediately prior to joining The Home, she served as a Consultant with Whitehead Mann, a global executive recruiting firm. She has also served as Director of Operations for Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston; Deputy Director of ABCD Head Start, and a Research Analyst for ABT Associates. Joan took a short detour from The Home in 2007 when she answered Governor-Elect Deval Patrick's call to serve as Chief of Staff on his transition team and in the first months of office. Joan has brought to all of her positions a remarkable array of skills and energy that have empowered and inspired the organizations to fulfill their missions of service, research and advocacy.

Joan has received awards too numerous to list in full, but a sampling includes Massachusetts Health Council award, November 2015; being named one of Boston magazine’s 50 Most Powerful Women, February 2011; the Henry L. Shattuck Public Service City Champion Award, October 2010; Urban League Civil Rights Award, April 2007; Pinnacle Award, Achievement in Management Non-Profit from the Boston Chamber of Commerce, January 2005. In January, 2013, Joan was appointed by Governor Patrick to co-chair with Juvenile Court Judge Joan McMenemy on the Families and Children Requiring Assistance Advisory Board. Joan holds Honorary Doctorates from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst (1993); Newbury College, Chestnut Hill, MA (2005); Curry College, Milton, MA (2009); Bridgewater State University (May 2011); and New England Law, Boston (May, 2013).

Joan served on the Board of Directors of Bridgewater State University and Joan is a former Trustee of Wellesley College and member of the Board of Overseers for The Heller School for Social Policy & Management. Additionally she has been a Corporation Member of Northeastern University and a Trustee of Pine Manor College. She graduated from Wellesley College with a BA in Psychology and received her Ph.D. from the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University.