2023 Commencement Speaker and Honorary Degree Recipients

Photo of Joan MikulaCommencement Speaker and Honorary Degree Recipient

Joan Mikula

Former Commissioner, Massachusetts Department of Mental Health

Over the course of her 35-year tenure with The Massachusetts Department of Mental Health — which culminated in 2015 upon being appointed Commissioner, a position she held until her retirement in 2020 — Joan influenced public policy and created pathways toward success for individuals experiencing mental health challenges. 

Joan’s legacy of commitment, creativity, passion and advocacy began in New Jersey as a teacher of students with special needs and continued in myriad locales — on the streets of Philadelphia as a probation officer working with young female offenders; within a locked residential facility in New York supporting young heroin addicts; and on Boston’s North Shore, as the head of a not-for-profit youth and family agency. Buoyed by an unwavering belief in the individual’s potential for change and growth, Joan herself grew to see mental health challenges as common threads at the heart of social injustice and that government policies and practices held the power to make a difference in the lives of individuals, families and communities.

As a leader in the fight for mental health parity, Joan witnessed sweeping change over the course of three decades. Major practice and policy changes run the gamut from shifting inpatient treatment to community care and creating a Race, Equity and Inclusion agenda. Today, her advocacy continues at a community level where she is newly active with the Newton Wellesley Hospital Heart, Health and Wellness Council and consults with the Massachusetts Association of Mental Health on the Pediatric Behavioral Health Urgent Care Project.

Photo of Michael CurryHonorary Degree Recipient

Michael Curry

President and CEO, Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers

Michael Curry, Esq. brings more than three decades of experience in civil rights advocacy, health reform and health equity to his role as President and CEO of the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers, serving over one million patients out of 300+ practice sites across the Commonwealth.  

In the early days of the pandemic, Michael was appointed by the Massachusetts Senate to the Health Equity Task Force, which he co-chaired, and by then Governor Baker to the COVID-19 Vaccine Working Group where he gained a reputation for being the equity voice in the room.  

Michael’s 25+ years of dedicated service to the NAACP culminated in 2021 when the National Board appointed him Administrator for the New England Area Conference, overseeing all branches in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont.

An Adjunct Professor at both New England Law Boston and Suffolk University’s Moakley Center and Sawyer School of Management, Michael has received widespread recognition for his leadership and advocacy, including the 2022 Trailblazer Award from the Massachusetts Black Lawyers Association and a 2022 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Massachusetts Nonprofit Network. Recent accolades include being named among Boston’s Most Influential Men of Color by Get Konnected! and Boston Magazine’s 150 Most Influential Bostonians of 2023.

After earning his BA from Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota and his JD from New England School of Law, Michael graduated from the inaugural class of the Executive Leadership Council’s Pipeline to Leadership Program. This honorary degree from William James College will be his third.

Photo of Andy PondHonorary Degree Recipient

Andy Pond

President and CEO, Justice Resource Institute (JRI)

Andy has served as the President and CEO of the Justice Resource Institute (JRI)  since 2006.  He holds master's degrees in both Social Work and Teaching.  He joined JRI in 1985 as a teacher and has been a part of the agency ever since. In the course of his varied career, he assumed roles of increasing responsibility and complexity, including many years dedicated to work with adolescents suffering from the effects of complex trauma. He has built a cohesive team of exceptionally talented leaders at JRI, whose commitment to the mission has established the agency as a leader in social justice.  

As President and CEO, he brings a wealth of experience, grounded in his training as teacher, clinician, and writer. He has integrated these skills to become an expert designer and manager of complex systems of care, aimed at assisting children and adults to meet their full potential. Under Andy's leadership JRI has experienced strong and sustained regional growth, and its national impact has increased with published research and training.  

Andy is committed to supporting and developing the next generation of leaders, through collaborative effort with colleges and universities, sister agencies, state government, and advocacy organizations. His goal is to ensure that the leadership “pipeline” is vibrant, energized, and representative of the diversity of the communities JRI serves.