Notre Dame honors two locals: Rev. Gregory Boyle, architect Martha Welborne

| June 1, 2017 | 0 Comments

LAETARE MEDAL AWARDEE Rev. Gregory J. Boyle, S.J., speaks at the University of Notre Dame 2017 Commencement. Photo by Barbara Johnson / Univ. of Notre Dame.

Angelenos Rev. Gregory J. Boyle, S.J. and architect Martha L. Welborne, FAIA were on the platform alongside United States Vice President Mike Pence at the University of Notre Dame’s graduation ceremonies last month.

Pence received an honorary doctor of laws degree. Although many U. S. presidents have spoken at Notre Dame commencements, Pence is the first vice president to deliver the commencement address there.

Welborne received an honorary doctor of fine arts degree, and Fr. Boyle received the 2017 Laetare Medal, the oldest and most prestigious honor given to American Catholics. Notre Dame President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C. officiated.

Rev. Boyle of Homeboy

In addition to the school valedictorian and the vice president, Windsor Square native Rev. Boyle was a featured speaker at the 172nd commencement ceremony May 21.

Fr. Boyle is the founder and executive director of Homeboy Industries in downtown Los Angeles. Homeboy is considered the world’s largest gang intervention and re-entry program in possibly what is the world’s gang capital.

Boyle, often called “Father G,” was ordained a Jesuit priest in 1984, and he was set to head a student program at Santa Clara University when a trip to Bolivia, where he met the poorest people in the region, changed his course.

“The poor are trustworthy guides,” he said, and “… as luck would have it, [the Los Angeles Archdiocese] needed a pastor at Dolores Mission, which was the poorest parish in the city.”

So, Fr. Boyle, who grew up on Norton Ave. and attended local Catholic schools, ended up in Boyle Heights.

Jobs for a Future

Dolores Mission was set between two large housing projects in an area home to eight warring gangs when Boyle arrived as the youngest pastor in the history of the archdiocese.

He set up a Jobs for a Future program and sent “homies” to felon-friendly employers around town. With funding from Hollywood producer Ray Stark, Boyle set up Homeboy Bakery at an abandoned bakery next door to the mission.

The story did not yet have its Hollywood ending, at least not at first. The pastor and his enterprises received death threats and hate mail from citizens opposed to the gang-rehabilitation effort. Then the bakery burned down.

Eventually, the bakery was rebuilt near Chinatown, and today the enterprise also includes a silkscreen and embroidery operation, Homegirl Café, a catering business and a farm-to-table restaurant. The Homeboy Diner is in City Hall.

Fr. Boyle speaks

Fr. Boyle’s passionate address to the audience of approximately 24,000 family members, friends, faculty, and graduates in the famous Notre Dame football stadium may have been the best-received speech of the day. Fr. Boyle told the graduating students about communities’ “ability to stand in awe at what the poor have to carry rather than stand in judgment at how they carry it.” His remarks at Notre Dame are at

Martha L. Welborne

NOTRE DAME presents honorary Doctor of Fine Arts hood to Martha L. Welborne, FAIA. Photo by Matt Cashore / Univ. of Notre Dame.

The other, still current Windsor Square resident recognized at the 2017 Notre Dame Commencement was Martha Lampkin Welborne, FAIA, who received an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree from her undergraduate alma mater.

A Notre Dame graduate with a bachelor’s degree in architecture, Welborne is the senior vice president for corporate real estate and global facilities with The Walt Disney Co.

Previously, she was the chief planning officer for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, where she helped develop the long-range future of local transportation. Before that, she was managing director of the Grand Avenue Committee, overseeing a $3 billion project to revitalize downtown Los Angeles, including the creation of Grand Park.

After Notre Dame, Welborne earned master’s degrees in architecture and city planning from MIT, was a Loeb Fellow at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, and was an associate partner with Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, as well as a principal of Sasaki Associates in Boston.

At the Sunday morning ceremony in the stadium, Welborne was one of seven honorary degree recipients, including the vice president. There were 3,171 degrees conferred by Notre Dame this year. That afternoon, Welborne was the featured speaker at the School of Architecture’s smaller graduation ceremony held on the steps of that school’s classical 1917 building, Bond Hall, for the undergraduate and graduate architecture degree recipients and their parents, families and friends.

Forty years ago

In her remarks, Welborne recounted some of the people and events of 40 years ago, when she was an undergraduate working late nights in the architecture studios of Bond Hall. She spoke of 1975, the year she graduated:

“Gerald Ford was president because Richard Nixon had just resigned after the Watergate scandal; the last American troops pulled out of Vietnam months before we graduated; personal computers had not been invented, nor had the cell phone; personal calculators, if you remember them, were brand new, but none of us had them; we used slide rules, I’m serious,” she said. “At Notre Dame in 1975, women had just been admitted as undergraduates three years prior, in 1972, and there were only 300 of us out of 8,000 undergraduates,” she added. “Ara Parseghian was the football coach; Joe Theismann was the quarterback; and Rudy was actually here then as a student, not as a movie star,” said Welborne.

Her three key pieces of advice to the graduates to help them launch their careers were to: “be open to the unexpected and unimagined; find and follow your passion; and flow in your own river,” referring to a story she shared with her listeners.

Very proud of her speech and accomplishments and her most recent honor is her husband, John H. Welborne, publisher of the Larchmont Chronicle.

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