Daily News

Elms College to Hold 88th Commencement Exercises on May 18

CHICOPEE — Elms College will present its 88th commencement exercises on Saturday, May 18 at 10 a.m. at the MassMutual Center in Springfield. The academic procession begins at 9:30 a.m.

The commencement speaker, healthcare entrepreneur and philanthropist William Lyons III, plans to deliver an inspirational address and will receive an honorary degree.

Lyons and his brothers founded Blackstone Medical Inc. in 1996 and built it into a true Pioneer Valley success story; the company was even named a ‘model business’ by the Romney administration for creating local jobs in the high-tech arena. By the time Blackstone Medical was acquired by Orthofix International in 2006, it was the world’s largest privately held spinal-implant company, and had introduced more than 20 instrument and implant systems throughout the U.S. and in more than 30 countries.

Prior to forming Blackstone Medical Inc., Lyons served as chairman, president, and CEO of Brimfield Precision Inc., a medical-device contract-manufacturing business. During his manufacturing career, he became a founding partner in an orthopedic development company that later merged into the Orthopedic Products Group of Johnson & Johnson. He also was a founding member of the board of directors of Exactech Inc., a public company specializing in orthopedic products. Locally, he was a founder of Mechtech of Western Massachusetts, a nonprofit machining apprenticeship training company. He continues to serve as a consultant to the medical-device-manufacturing industry and as an investor in medical-device startup companies.

As philanthropists, Lyons and his wife, Cynthia, who is the chair of the board of trustees at Elms College, are focused on supporting local educational projects, medical-research and cancer-care projects, and programs that benefit military families. They have donated to many causes in the Pioneer Valley area, including the town of Wilbraham tornado-relief fund, Mercy Medical Center’s Sister Caritas Cancer Center, and Elms College.

Honorary degrees will also be awarded to Savina Martin, co-chair of the Massachusetts Poor People’s Campaign, and Kathryn Buckley-Brawner, executive director of Catholic Charities Agency in the Diocese of Springfield, in recognition of their contributions to the world.

As a national activist on homelessness and issues affecting women who has spoken around the country on systemic racism and poverty issues, Martin has challenged politicians and policy makers to build sustainable, low-income housing and support for urban areas. A veteran and a woman of color, today she works particularly among homeless women veterans in Boston.

Buckley-Brawner has worked with Catholic Charities since 2004, and has been at the forefront of the agency’s effort to provide services and assistance to the victims of the 2011 tornado, Tropical Storm Irene, and other events. As a refugee reception and placement agency subcontracted through the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the agency has helped to resettle dozens of refugees into Western Mass.