Political Analyst Mark Shields is 2013 Commencement Speaker

By: Buff Lindau

mark shields
*photo from Shields bio on

Mark Shields, called "frequently the most trenchant, fair-minded, and thoughtful" political analyst around, and the wittiest, will be the 2013 Commencement Speaker at the 106th commencement exercises of Saint Michael's College on May 12 at 10 a.m. in the college's Ross Sports Center in Vermont.

Mr. Shields will be awarded an honorary degree at the ceremonies, and some 470 students will be awarded bachelor's degrees and 43 will be present to receive master's degrees at the ceremonies, to be attended by some 4,000 family members and friends of the students. Music, flowers, bagpipes, and speeches will mark the occasion.

Saint Michael's College will confer honorary doctor of humane letters degrees on four individuals including Mark Shields and Alice Boutin, the first "first lady" of Saint Michael's College, wife of the late Saint Michael's President Bernard Boutin; Patrick Robins, a 1961 graduate of Saint Michael’s, Burlington community leader and founder of Symquest Group, and Father Daniel Riley, ofm, a campus minister at St. Bonaventure University, and man regarded by some as "a living saint."

Mark Shields

A graduate of Notre Dame University who served as an enlisted man in the United States Marine Corps, Mr. Shields has a storied career in the American political scene. He began writing a column for the Washington Post in 1979, which is now syndicated by Creators Syndicate. Since 1988, he has been a political analyst and commentator for "The PBS NewsHour" where he matches wits with David Brooks of the New York Times in the storied Brooks-Shields dialogue. For 17 years he was moderator and panelist on CNN's Capital Gang, and he is now a regular panelist on "Inside Washington" the weekly public affairs show on ABC and PBS.

Mr. Shields is described as providing insights that are "first-hand and up-to-the minute, drawn from four decades of knowing, covering and savoring the country and its politics."

A native of Weymouth, MA, Mr. Shields began working in Washington in 1965 for Wisconsin Senator William Proxmire. In 1968, he went to work for Senator Robert F. Kennedy's presidential campaign. Over 11 years he helped manage campaigns in 38 states. In addition to attending 17 national party conventions, and working on or covering the last 11 presidential elections, Mr. Shields has taught American politics and the press at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton school, at Georgetown University's Graduate School of Public Policy, and was a fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy Institute of Politics. He is the author of the highly praised book, On the Campaign Trail, an account of the 1984 presidential campaign.

In a syndicated column of January 19, 2013, titled "Only a Fool or a Fraud Could Sentimentalize War's Cruel Reality," Mark Shields wrote about the diminishing number of senators who have served in the military, and commented on the recent nomination of Senator Chuck Hagel to be Secretary of Defense, writing, "Like fellow Vietnam combat veterans Colin Powell and former Marine Corps Commandant Jim Jones - both of whom back his nomination to be defense secretary - and unlike the think-tank commandos who have carefully avoided any personal risk of real-life service, Chuck Hagel reluctantly sees war only as a last resort and for the cruel reality it is. Which indeed is a strong recommendation for a U.S. secretary of defense in 2013."

Honorary degree recipients:

Alice Boutin, Saint Michael’s first 'first lady.' Mrs. Boutin, the wife of Bernard Boutin, the first lay president of Saint Michael’s College, who served from 1969 to 1974, was a beloved first lady who welcomed faculty into her home with gracious dinners, and served the college with great affection. Five of her children graduated from Saint Michael’s. She is said to often feel as though she is a Saint Michael’s graduate herself.

Father Daniel Riley, ofm, is a founding member of Mt. Irenaeus, Franciscan Mountain Retreat, where he and his brothers live an open and contemplative life in the foothills of the Allegany mountains.  There, they have created a haven for men and women seeking peace in the strength of community and with the benefits of reflection in solitude.  Previously, he was a campus minister at St. Bonaventure University and Director of Vocation Ministry for Holy Name Province, Order of Friars Minor.  A man of deep faith and commitment to Catholic higher education, Father Dan is a renowned spiritual guide for young people.  He has partnered with the Edmundite priests of Saint Michael’s to organize retreats for young people and priests on campus and at Enders Island.

Patrick Robins, chairman of the board of Symquest Group, and long-time civic leader in Burlington where he resides. He was also president of McAuliffe's, the predecessor to Symquest. Mr. Robins graduated from Saint Michael's in 1961 with a degree in English and earned an MBA from Dartmouth in 1964. He served on the Saint Michael's Board of Trustees, 1992-95 and 1998-99. President of the Downtown Burlington Development Association, Mr. Robins led the development of the Church Street Marketplace and chaired the Marketplace Commission. He has been a champion of Burlington City Arts and the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts, as part of his ongoing, life-time campaigns to enrich the business and cultural life of the Burlington, VT. He serves on a number of other boards as well.

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