“Homeboy” founder to speak at SAU graduation


Father Gregory Boyle, SJ, who has received national recognition for his work with young people and gang intervention in East Los Angeles, will deliver the 2014 St. Ambrose University spring commencement address. The ceremony will begin at 1 p.m. May 10 at the iWireless Center, 1201 River Drive, Moline, Ill.

A total of 656 diplomas — 465 bachelor’s degrees, 187 master’s degrees and four doctoral degrees — will be conferred during the ceremony for the Davenport university.

Fr. Boyle will receive an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree. A second honorary degree will be presented to Laurel Walker, the retired president and CEO of Skip-A-Long Child Development Services and Skip-A-Long Family and Community Services.

A native of Los Angeles, Fr. Boyle was ordained a Jesuit priest in 1984. He established Homeboy Industries to provide training and work experience for gang members, and the opportunity for rival gang members to work side by side. Today, Homeboy Industries has grown to include eight social enterprises that provide employment and training opportunities. It also offers help dealing with mental health, substance abuse, domestic violence and legal issues, as well as tattoo removal.


Fr. Boyle’s mission to provide employment as an alternative to the gang culture has been the subject of multiple books, films and national media reports, including appearances on National Public Radio, “60 Minutes” and “NBC Nightly News.” He is the author of the New York Times best-selling book, “Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion.”

“Father Boyle’s dedication and service to young people in gangs is an example of faith in action,” said Sister Joan Lescinski, CSJ, president of St. Ambrose. “We are honored that Fr. Boyle will be with us, and look forward to an inspiring commencement address for our graduates and their families.”

St. Ambrose is honoring Walker for helping transform Skip-A-Long from a small daycare center into a major community resource in both Iowa and Illinois.

“It is a pleasure to honor Laurel Walker’s long record of service to children and working families of the Quad Cities,” said Sr. Lescinski. “As a society we are coming to more fully understand the importance of early childhood education and its role in creating life-long learners.”

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