Fairfield University will host three speakers for its 62nd commencement exercises Sunday, May 20.
Joseph P. Russoniello, a member of the Jesuit university's Class of 1963 who went on to become a federal prosecutor, will deliver the undergraduate address. While serving as the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of California, he prosecuted Larry Layton of the Peoples Temple for his part in the murder of U.S. Rep. Leo Ryan in Jonestown, Guyana, and tried several other high-profile criminal and civil cases. His office prosecuted the Hitachi and Mitsubishi corporations for their theft of IBM secrets; Jerry Whitworth and James D. Harper Jr. in separate espionage cases, and dozens of white collar crime cases.
Russoniello, also a former special agent with the FBI, was re-appointed in 2007 as U.S. attorney for the Northern District of California by President George W. Bush, and served in that post until 2010. In between, he served as dean of the San Francisco Law School.
Fairfield residents Bob and Suzanne Wright, co-founders of Autism Speaks, will be the keynote speakers for the 2012 graduate commencement exercises.
Bob Wright, the former vice chairman of General Electric and chief executive officer of NBC and NBC Universal, and Suzanne Wright founded the nonprofit organization seven years ago after their grandson was diagnosed on the autism spectrum. The agency is focused on funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism, according to a university news release. It also works to increase awareness of autism spectrum disorders and advocate for the needs of individuals with autism and their families.
Their son Chris graduated from Fairfield College Preparatory School. At the university's Dolan School of Business, a chair is dedicated to Bob Wright, a graduate of the College of Holy Cross and the University of Virginia School of Law. The couple has lived in Fairfield for almost 30 years.
In addition to the speakers, honorary degrees will be bestowed on: Jane E. Ferreira, president and chief executive officer of Bridgeport's Mercy Learning Center; and the Rev. Richard J. Clifford, S.J., an author, Old Testament scholar and founding dean of the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry. Other recipients will include Fairfield alumnus Dr. Joseph Timpone, a medical researcher and infectious diseases specialist at Georgetown University Medical Center, and Sister Clare Fitzgerald, founding director of Fairfield's American Studies Program.