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Pine Manor College Recognizes Prominent Boston Pioneers: Awards Honorary Degrees to Entrepreneur Melissa James and Police Commissioner William G. Gross

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. (May 8, 2019) – Pine Manor College will be awarding honorary degrees to Entrepreneur Melissa James and Boston Police Commissioner William G. Gross at its 108th Commencement on May 19, 2019.

Diversity Entrepreneur Melissa James

A role model to many of Pine Manor College’s students, Melissa James is an entrepreneur diversity expert, thought leader, and a businesswoman dedicated to increasing diversity in the technology industry. She is the founder and C.E.O. of The Tech Connection, the largest minority-owned and woman-run recruitment firm in the Northeast, with a platform that supports the professional development of untapped talent. With a mission to help companies make meaningful connections that empower and engage diverse talent by promoting inclusive hiring best practices, The Tech Connection has a strong track record of building high-performing diverse teams for elite companies, such as Google, Teradata, the New England Venture Capital Association, HubSpot, Wayfair, Carbonite, DataXu, Vertex Pharmaceuticals and more. She is an author of a book on career advice for millennials and recipient of a number of awards for business and public leadership.

Like many of our students, James is first in her family to attend college and has been a welcome visitor to the PMC campus, speaking with and advising many of our students. Her passion for helping people reach their highest potential, and her practical programs on how to get there, echo Pine Manor College’s focus on student success. A forceful voice in accelerating our students’ pathways to careers, James developed programs that offer individualized career planning and job placement for candidates of diverse backgrounds, with the goal of increasing diversity in high-tech companies.

In announcing the award, Pine Manor College President Thomas M. O’Reilly said, “At Pine Manor College we are all about student success, and therefore, we could not have found a more passionate advocate and partner than Melissa James. She has been encouraging our students to pursue careers in technology and empowering them with their entrepreneurial pursuits. Her impact on increasing diversity representation in the workforce is immense, and we are grateful that she is a member of our Pine Manor College extended family.”

Melissa James will be awarded a Doctor of Humane Letters degree.

Boston Police Commissioner William Gross

Beyond his outstanding professional achievements, Commissioner Gross is known for his ability to foster relationships and to see the best in people. To that end, Commissioner Gross’s actions and values align with those of the caring community of Pine Manor College.

The first African American Boston Police Commissioner, Commissioner Gross has been serving the people of Boston for 36 years, beginning in 1983 when he graduated from the Boston Police Academy. He spent many years as a patrol officer, and although he was rapidly promoted, Gross has kept close connections with members of the community he serves. Noting his relentless commitment to community work – through various initiatives like the Youth Violence Strike Force and the Drug Control Unit – the College’s Board of Trustees acknowledges the impact that Commissioner Gross had on the neighborhoods of many of our Pine Manor College students, over 25% percent of whom are graduates of the Boston Public Schools.

Commissioner Gross is affiliated with groups that expand his advocacy to other parts of Massachusetts, such as the Massachusetts Major Cities Chiefs Association, the Advisory Board for the Boston Center for Youth and Families, the George Lewis Ruffin Society, and the Special Olympics of Massachusetts.

In announcing the selection, President Thomas M. O’Reilly said, “As Commissioner Gross often says, ‘Be the change you want to see.’ It gives me great pleasure to recognize Commissioner Gross, who is that very change we want to see, with an Honorary Degree from Pine Manor College. He is a person who embodies the College’s mission by his commitment to creating better communities that cherish equity and social justice. He is an inspiration to young people and to all of us.”

Commissioner Gross will be awarded a Doctor of Laws degree.

About Pine Manor College

Pine Manor College (PMC) is a small, private, four-year liberal arts college dedicated to the mission of ‘Educating with Purpose.’ The College’s student population is comprised of 85% students of color, and 84% are first in their families to attend college. The College was recently recognized by NASPA and the Center for First-generation Student Success with a ‘First Forward’ designation for its commitment to first-generation students. The College focuses on pathways to careers through internships, organizational partnerships, and academic programs. As a result, over 95% of PMC’s graduates in the past three years were either employed or pursuing post-degree programs within six months of graduation.

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Contact Efrat Zinnar-Shavit
Director of Media and Publications