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Father Barron to be Featured Speaker at Ninety-Fifth Commencement

Rev. Robert Barron, creator and host of the Catholicism documentary series and founder of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries, will present the Commencement Address at Providence College’s Ninety-fifth Commencement Exercises on Sunday, May 19.

The ceremony will take place at 11 a.m. at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence.

Father Barron, who will receive an honorary doctorate in religious education, will be one of five honorary degree recipients. The others are Michael A. Ruane ’71, former chairman of the PC Board of Trustees; Vito D. Buonomano, D.D.S. ’53 & ’76G  and his wife, Louise J. Buonomano, R.N. ’76G, longtime benefactors and volunteers at the College and in the community; and Paul J. Birmingham, who attended PC and is the founder of the Catholic Schools Foundation that serves the Archdiocese of Boston.

Father Barron is rector-president of Mundelein Seminary University of St. Mary of the Lake, the major seminary and school of theology for the Archdiocese of Chicago. An author, speaker, and theologian, he founded Word on Fire Catholic Ministries, a global media ministry that uses the tools of new media to draw people to the Church.

He is an on-air contributor and analyst for NBC News in New York and a commentator for the Chicago Tribune, FOX News, CNN, EWTN, Our Sunday Visitor, The Catholic Herald in London, and Catholic News Agency. He has written many books, including Eucharist (Orbis Books, 2008), Word on Fire: Proclaiming the Power of Christ (The Crossroad Publishing Co., 2008), and The Priority of Christ: Toward a Postliberal Catholicism (Brazos Press, 2007). His book Thomas Aquinas: Spiritual Master (The Crossroad Publishing Co., 1996) was awarded a first prize for spirituality by the Catholic Press Association. 

In addition, he has written essays and DVD programs, and his articles on theology and the spiritual life appear in online and print journals.

Father Barron was ordained a priest in 1986 and was appointed to the theological faculty of Mundelein Seminary in 1992. He has been a visiting professor at the University of Notre Dame and at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome. He was twice a scholar-in-residence at the Pontifical North American College at the Vatican.

Father Barron holds a master’s degree in philosophy from The Catholic University of America and a doctorate in sacred theology from the Institut Catholique de Paris.  

The Catholicism series, which Father Barron created with producer Michael Leonard ’70 & ’00 Hon. and director Matt Leonard ’93, received a Christopher Award for excellence. It has aired on PBS and EWTN and has been shown by parishes and universities throughout the world.  

Father Barron and Word on Fire will release a new documentary, Catholicism: The New Evangelization, this year. 


Michael A. Ruane '71


Michael A. Ruane ’71 will receive a doctorate in business administration.

Ruane stepped down in October as chairman of the PC Board of Trustees, a position he held since 2002. Ruane and his wife, Elizabeth, provided the leadership gift for the new Ruane Center for the Humanities, the College’s signature academic building under construction on campus.

Ruane is the owner, chairman, and managing partner of TA Associates Realty, a company he founded in Boston in 1982 that has become one of the largest real estate investment advisory firms in the nation.

He is a limited partner in Media Communications, a money manager investing in communications companies; chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Advent Realty Funds, one of the largest private real estate investment trusts; and chairman of J-PAC LLC and Medipharm Manufacturing Group.

Ruane, who received a bachelor’s degree in economics from PC, holds an MBA in finance from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. He also has a master’s degree in taxation and is a certified public accountant. He has lectured at Harvard Business School. In 1997, the Boston University Graduate School of Management presented Ruane with an entrepreneurial award.

Among his many contributions to PC, Ruane has donated to the Ruane Atrium of the Concannon Fitness Center, supported the women’s ice hockey team, and established an endowed chair in the Providence College School of Business.

The Ruanes are the parents of two sons and a daughter.


Vito D. Buonomano '53 & '76G and Louise J. Buonomano '76G


Vito D. Buonomano, D.D.S. ’53 & ’76G will receive an honorary doctorate in public service and Louise J. Buonomano, R.N. ’76G will receive an honorary doctorate in education.

A dentist and dental consultant for more than four decades, Vito Buonomano earned a degree in biology from PC. He received his doctorate from the Baltimore College of Dental Surgery in 1957 and attended the post-doctorate program at the Boston University Graduate School of Dentistry from 1976-1978. 

Buonomano also received an MBA from PC and studied at the Brown University Graduate School of Engineering. He is a licensed real estate broker and has written articles for professional journals on dentistry, real estate, and financial matters. 

Louise Buonomano, who graduated from Rhode Island College in 1971, became a registered nurse after studying at St. Agnes School of Nursing in Baltimore. She earned a master’s degree in education from PC in 1976 and a doctorate in health education from Boston University in 1979.

She is a retired assistant professor of education at Rhode Island College, where she had taught since 1989. During her career, she has worked as a practicing nurse, a nursing school instructor, a teacher, and a professor of special education. She has written numerous articles for professional publications.

In addition to their support for the College, which has included contributing to the Concannon Fitness Center and endowing a scholarship, the Buonomanos are supporters of St. Mary’s Home for Children in North Providence. 

The Buonomanos have five children.  

Paul J. Birmingham


Paul J. Birmingham will receive an honorary doctorate in humanitarian service.

Birmingham entered Providence College as a member of the Class of 1963 but left in 1961 to marry and begin a family. Though he did not complete his degree, he always has been considered a class member by his classmates.

In 1983, recognizing that private philanthropy was needed to support Catholic education in Boston, Birmingham founded the St. Anthony Fund, later renamed the Catholic Schools Foundation. Since its inception, the foundation has raised more than $100 million to support Catholic education in the Archdiocese of Boston.  

More recently, Birmingham challenged the foundation to reach out to immigrant Hispanics in the archdiocese by funding the Hispanic Recruitment Initiative, making Catholic education possible for an under-served population.

His family foundation, The Birmingham Foundation, supports Catholic causes, including the new Pope John Paul II High School in Hyannis, Mass.

An avid golfer and bicyclist, Birmingham was severely injured six years ago in a head-first fall that left him wheelchair bound. He has battled back with rehabilitation and physical therapy with the goal of walking again.

He has worked in real estate in Florida and on Cape Cod, where he resides with his wife, Pamela. They are the parents of three sons.

—Vicki-Ann Downing

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