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2018 Commencement Speaker and Honorary Degree Recipients



The commencement speaker and honorary degree recipients for our 47th Commencement Exercises are as follows.

Commencement Speaker

Robert F. Rivers, Chairman and CEO, Eastern Bank

Bob Rivers is the Chairman and CEO of Eastern Bank, America’s oldest and largest mutual bank with two centuries of service to the various communities it serves. A passionate and visionary leader, Bob is driven by the belief that you can build a strong business by doing good and helping people prosper. During Bob’s tenure, Eastern has built upon its long legacy of community service and philanthropy by developing a robust advocacy platform in support of various social justice and sustainability issues. Named after the late Senator Robert F. Kennedy, Bob is considered Greater Boston’s leading advocate for increased diversity and inclusion within the private sector. He has been personally recognized for his work in championing social justice and sustainability issues by The Boston Globe, Boston Business Journal, The Partnership, Get Konnected!, Color Magazine, the Massachusetts Immigration & Refugee Advocacy (MIRA), Asian American Civic Association (AACA), Association for Latino Professionals For America (ALPFA), El Planeta, the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition, The Theater Offensive and The Ad Club.

Bob has been a leading advocate for advancing the cause of gender equity. He has testified before Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development on two bills to encourage pay equity and more women on boards of directors in Massachusetts; was an early signatory to the 100% Talent Compact, pledging to eliminate the gender pay gap, and the first male member of the City of Boston’s Women’s Workforce Commission.

In 2018, fueled by Bob’s commitment to gender equality, Eastern Bank committed $1.8 million directed to programs that focus on advancing women. Bob, as an advocate, has noted that the #MeToo movement has brought to the forefront the horrific realities of sexual harassment and assault that remains prevalent in many workplaces. Driven by Bob’s leadership and strong concerns about income inequality, Eastern Bank established a new $10 million Foundation for Business Equity and forged partnerships with the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce and The Boston Foundation in order to help address racial income and wealth disparities in Boston by scaling minority-owned businesses to provide more jobs with life-sustaining wages while facilitating more diverse business leadership.

Bob has demonstrated the significance and influence that a for-profit company can have on advancing and supporting issues of social justice, equity, diversity and inclusion.  He has set a model for other companies that you can do good in business and do well simultaneously: that the two are intertwined. Bob continues to be a leading corporate voice in the recognition for advancing the causes of underserved communities.

Mr. Rivers is a graduate of Stonehill College in North Easton, Mass and earned a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Rochester in Rochester, NY.

Honorary Degree Recipient

Yvonne Garcia, Global Head of Client Solutions and Program Management Office, State Street Corporation

Yvonne Garcia is a Global Corporate Leader, a National Civic Leader and an impactful change agent. As the Global Head of Client Solutions and PMO at State Street Corporation, Yvonne develops solutions for Fortune 100 companies in the financial sector by delivering superior service to clients and deploying cutting-edge technology and operational processes, and delivering complex consulting engagements for existing and potential State Street clients. 

As an active leader of local and national communities, Yvonne serves as the Chairwoman for the largest Latino Professional Organization in the country, ALPFA.  As a result of her vision and leadership, Yvonne has tripled ALPFA’s membership, to a record high of 80,000 members. Yvonne also serves as the Chair of the Hispanic Scholarship Fund for Boston. She is the co-founding Chair of Milagros para Niños, an initiative at Children’s Hospital in Boston, which has raised more than $8.2 million in funds for Hispanic children who can’t afford medical care. In addition, Yvonne serves on the Board of Trustees for Tufts Medical Center in Massachusetts and is a Member of the Corporation for Partners Healthcare.

Honors and recognition:

  • A recipient of Boston Business Journal’s 40-under-40 Award for 2008 
  • Selected as a Top 25 Women for Hispanic Business Magazine for 2009
  • Selected as the Top 5 Latina Executives in the Country by Latina Style Magazine for 2012
  • Selected as Top 22 Most Influential Women in Massachusetts by the Boston Business Journal for 2015
  • Named one of the Top 12 Leaders in Finance in the country by Latino Leaders Magazine last year
  • Featured in Fortune Magazine as #26 of the Top 50 Most Powerful Latinas in the United States this year

Yvonne holds an MBA from Boston University in Finance and Marketing and a BA from SUNY Albany. She is also a graduate of the ARMY R.O.T.C. program at Siena College in Loudonville, NY and holds a Certificate in Economics and Culture from La Sorbonne in Paris, France.


Honorary Degree Recipient

Karen Holmes Ward, WCVB Director of Public Affairs and Community Services, CityLine, WCVB-TV

Holmes Ward is also host and executive producer of CityLine, WCVB’s award-winning weekly magazine program which addresses the accomplishments, concerns and issues facing people of color living in Boston and its suburbs.CityLine has been a recipient of the Associated Press Massachusetts/Rhode Island Best Public Affairs Program and numerous Emmy nominations. Holmes Ward also oversees WCVB’s public service and community outreach efforts, acting as liaison between the station and dozens of WCVB’s nonprofit partners.   

A graduate of Boston University’s School of Public Communications, Holmes Ward has received numerous awards for her work in the community.

Select honors and recognition:

  • National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Silver Circle Award for Lifetime Achievement
  • Boston Jaycees Ten Outstanding Young Leaders Award
  • National Association of Black Journalists Region I Journalist of the Year
  • Big Sister of Greater Boston Achievement Award
  • Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts President’s Award
  • Women of Courage and Conviction Award from the Greater Boston Section National Council of Negro Women, Inc.