News 2024: UMass Dartmouth to award compassionate and innovative leaders with Honorary Degrees during Commencement

News 2024: UMass Dartmouth to award compassionate and innovative leaders with Honorary Degrees during Commencement
UMass Dartmouth to award compassionate and innovative leaders with Honorary Degrees during Commencement

Justice Geraldine Hines, Martin Kurzweil, and Steve Pemberton to be honored during 2024 Commencement Ceremony

Justice Geraldine Hines, Martin Kurzweil, and Steve Pemberton
(left to right): Justice Geraldine Hines, Martin Kurzweil, and Steve Pemberton

As part of UMass Dartmouth’s 2024 Commencement celebrations, the University will award honorary degrees—the highest award that the University can bestow—to Justice Geraldine Hines, Martin Kurzweil, and Steve Pemberton. Kurzweil and Pemberton will be awarded with Doctor of Humane Letters degrees during the Doctoral Commencement ceremony on May 16 at 4 p.m. in the Main Campus Auditorium, and Hines will be awarded with a Doctor of Laws degree during the Law Commencement ceremony on May 17 at 3:30 p.m. in the Main Campus Auditorium.

These individuals were selected because of their exceptional impact on their professions, civic life, and higher education.  

Geraldine S. Hines, Associate Justice (Ret.), Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

Justice Geraldine S. Hines has dedicated her life to championing justice and equality through her groundbreaking legal work and active engagement in various civic and community organizations. She graduated from Tougaloo College and pursued a legal education at the University of Wisconsin Law School before beginning her career as a staff attorney at the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, where she focused on prisoner's rights litigation. Hines then practiced criminal law with the Roxbury Defenders' Committee, eventually becoming its Director. Following a fellowship at MIT concentrating on policy initiatives to combat police misconduct in communities of color, she co-counseled in Commonwealth v. Willie Sanders. Hines litigated civil rights cases related to discrimination in education at the Harvard University Center for Law and Education. Transitioning into private practice in 1982, she appeared in state and federal courts on various legal matters, maintaining her dedication to civil rights advocacy. Her illustrious career culminated in a series of judicial appointments, including her designation as an Associate Justice of the Superior Court in 2001, followed by appointments as an Associate Justice of the Appeals Court in 2013 and, a year later, to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. Justice Hines' impact extends beyond the courtroom, as she has been actively involved in various civic and community organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Lawyers Guild, and the National Conference of Black Lawyers. Hines will also speak to Law graduates during the UMass Law ceremony on May 17 at 3:30 p.m. in the Main Campus Auditorium.

Martin Kurzweil, Vice President, Educational Transformation, Ithaka S+R

Martin Kurzweil is a staunch advocate for access, equity, and innovation in higher education, especially for first-generation and low-income college students, and has dedicated much of his career to identifying factors and strategies that can improve student success at universities across the country. Kurzweil is the vice president of educational transformation at Ithaka S+R, where he leads the Educational Transformation Program, focusing on enhancing equitable postsecondary access and success through research, cross-institutional initiatives, and policy advice. With a background in education research and policy, including roles at Columbia Law School, the New York City Department of Education, and the Mellon Foundation, Martin has been instrumental in launching programs like the American Talent Initiative to increase enrollment and graduation of lower-income students at high-graduation-rate institutions. A Harvard graduate, Martin has contributed extensively to education-related literature and is the co-author of Equity and Excellence in American Higher Education, recognized with the 2006 American Educational Research Association Outstanding Book Award.

Steve Pemberton, Founder and CEO of The Lighthouse Academy

Steve Pemberton, a New Bedford native, is a distinguished senior human resources executive, human capital strategist, best-selling author, and passionate advocate for human rights. Pemberton is widely recognized for his critically acclaimed books A Chance in the World, which recounts his remarkable journey through the foster care system, and The Lighthouse Effect, which encourages individuals to use their challenges as a driving force to help others. Before joining the corporate world, Steve spent time at UMass Dartmouth as an Upward Bound student and took his first job out of college as an admissions officer at the University. Throughout his storied career, Pemberton has held HR leadership positions at companies such as and Walgreens, where he honed his ability to foster engaged communities and seek the greater good. His experiences in talent solutions have provided him with valuable insights into how domestic and international organizations manage their workforce, especially in the wake of the global pandemic. Notably, he was a candidate for the United States Senate and has received prestigious awards from the U.S. Congress and the New England Opportunity Association as well as honorary doctorates from several universities. Committed to community well-being, Pemberton serves on the boards of various organizations dedicated to education, youth empowerment, and disability inclusion. His relentless mission to guide living, learning, and leading has made him a sought-after motivational speaker and a beacon of inspiration for many.