Saint Joseph’s University Announces 2019 Honorary Degree Recipients

Women’s leadership advocate Anne Welsh McNulty, Wawa CEO Christopher Gheysens to address graduates

Monday, March 18, 2019

Saint Joseph’s University will confer honorary degrees on four influential individuals at its 2019 Commencement ceremonies on Saturday, May 18. They are:

  • Anne Welsh McNulty, an investment executive, philanthropist and advocate for women’s leadership
  • Christopher Gheysens ’05 (MBA), a retail authority who serves as president and Chief Executive Officer of Wawa, Inc.
  • Valerie V. Gay, a performing artist, civic leader, arts advocate and community builder
  • Francis H. Trainer, Jr. ’68, a business ethics pioneer and investment leader

McNulty will deliver an address to students at the undergraduate ceremony, which begins at 9 a.m. Gheysens will speak to students receiving graduate degrees during a 3 p.m. ceremony. Both ceremonies will be held on Curran Lawn on the University’s James J. Maguire ’58 campus.

McNulty is the co-founder and managing partner of JBK Partners investment management, and President of the McNulty Foundation, which supports and builds leaders who are tackling the world’s greatest challenges. She established the Foundation in 1985, with her late husband John P. McNulty ’74. Prior, McNulty was a managing director of Goldman Sachs and a senior executive of the Goldman Sachs Hedge Fund Strategies Group

In 2008, McNulty and the Foundation created the McNulty Scholars Program at SJU, a leadership and scholarship program designed to propel young women to become leaders in the STEM fields. Under her leadership, the Foundation has established several other leadership initiatives, including the $100,000 John P. McNulty Prize, given in partnership with the Aspen Institute, which recognizes the boldness and impact of entrepreneurial leaders solving the critical challenges of our time. McNulty has also created a McNulty Scholars program for women in STEM at Hunter College in New York, spurred the creation of an institute for women’s leadership at Villanova University, and has expanded the Wharton leadership program at the University of Pennsylvania which pushes the boundaries of traditional education in the fields of leadership and teamwork.

McNulty serves on several boards, including The Aspen Institute, the Wharton Board of Overseers, and the Child Mind Institute. She is a Harvard Advanced Leadership Initiative Fellow and a Stanford Distinguished Career Institute Fellow. She earned a bachelor’s degree and was the Class of 1975 valedictorian at Villanova University. She also holds an MBA from the Wharton School.

“Anne Welsh McNulty has dedicated the bulk of her professional energy to creating avenues of opportunity for bright young minds,” says SJU President Mark C. Reed, Ed.D. “Her commitment to the life-changing potential of education — and her dedication to empowering women to achieve — will shape the next generation of leaders in STEM, business, and beyond.”

Gheysens, who will speak at the ceremony for those earning graduate degrees, joined Wawa in 1997 as the company’s financial controller, rising to the role of chief financial and administrative officer, then to president in 2012 and CEO in 2013. As “Lead Goose,” Gheysens has overseen the expansion of the popular convenience chain into new markets in New Jersey, Florida and Washington, D.C. Gheysens also oversaw the development of a new urban prototype to further expansion efforts, the development and launch of the company’s first mobile app and an extensive remodeling project to make Wawa’s older stores more efficient and welcoming to customers.

A native of Vineland, New Jersey, Gheysens earned his bachelor’s degree from Villanova University in 1993 and an MBA from Saint Joseph's in 2005. He was appointed in 2013 to the Board of Directors for the National Association of Convenience Stores. He is also the chairperson of the Dean’s Advisory Council for the Villanova School of Business and serves on the WSFS Bank Board of Directors. Gheysens joined The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Foundation Board of Overseers in 2014 and has led the formation of their first Corporate Council. In 2018, he was appointed to The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Board of Trustees.

“Chris Gheysens has been an outstanding steward for Wawa, a brand whose place in the hearts of Philadelphians has deep roots,” Dr. Reed says. “His careful approach to expansion and dedication to maintaining a company culture that values customers and employees is an inspiration for how business should be done.”

Gay is an arts leader whose engagement with the Philadelphia cultural scene includes serving as executive director of Art Sanctuary, a non-profit arts and letters organization founded in North Philadelphia that showcases work by black artists and aims to create and build community and foster cultural understanding. An accomplished artist in her own right, Gay’s performing repertoire includes singing in operas, musical theater, solo concert recitals and conducting ensembles in special events across the Philadelphia region as well as nationally and internationally. In 2006, she founded Fortress Arts Academy, which provides experiential access to music for children and adults, especially those in lower economic areas. Gay has also seen success in the business world, earning the professional designation of Certified Financial Planner and serving as vice president and portfolio manager at PNC Financial Services and assistant dean of institutional advancement for the College of Education at Temple University.

“Valerie Gay’s work celebrates the power of art to bring people from diverse backgrounds together,” Dr. Reed says. “Her passion for embracing our differences, rather than letting them separate us, should serve as a guide on how we should approach each other both culturally and interpersonally.”

Trainer is the retired director of fixed income at Sanford Bernstein & Co. Trainer founded the Pedro Arrupe, S.J., Center for Business Ethics at SJU and contributed to the formation of the University’s Veterans Entrepreneurial Jumpstart Program in 2014. He is a dedicated advocate for business and medical ethics and serves on the boards of the Cranaleith Spiritual Center, a non-denominational retreat center, and several distribution companies, in addition to the Arrupe Center.

“Frank Trainer turned the lessons from the Jesuit foundations of his education into a devotion for ethical business practices,” Dr. Reed says. “In return, both the University and the Philadelphia business community at large have benefitted from his estimable example.”

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