Philadelphia University + Thomas Jefferson University

2019 Honorary Degree Recipients

Information regarding the Honorary Degree recipients for the 2019 Commencement is below. Please choose your ceremony from the list and expand to see the details.

May 10, 2019 10:30 am - Mann Center for Performing Arts

Undergraduate Ceremony

  • College of Architecture and the Built Environment
  • Jefferson College of Health Professions
  • Jefferson College of Humanities & Sciences
  • Jefferson College of Life Sciences
  • Jefferson College of Rehabilitation Sciences
  • Jefferson School of Continuing & Professional Studies
  • Kanbar College of Design, Engineering, and Commerce

Honorary Degree Recipient: 
Elise Roy MS, JD

Elise Roy, MS, JD

Elise Roy, MS, JD, is a human-centered inclusive design strategist. Deaf from the age of 10, Elise has implemented design thinking from early on in life, needing to adapt her environment and its tools to serve her extraordinary abilities. In 2016, she established Elise Roy & Associates, which she founded to help companies analyze problems and create solutions from the vantage point of people with disabilities.

Ms. Roy has over 15 years of experience working with the disability community with a diverse career path. Her professional accomplishments include serving as a lawyer who worked on the United Nations Disability Convention, a marketing manager for the 2008 election campaign, and an industrial and user experience designer. In addition, she has served on the International Disability Rights Treaty at the United Nations, the first such human rights treaty to be passed in the 21st century and acted as a fellow for the Human Rights Campaign in Washington, DC.

Ms. Roy received the highly prestigious Georgetown University Women's Law and Public Policy Fellowship, with alumni and board members that included Supreme Court Justice Ruth Ginsburg. As an internationally recognized thought leader, Ms. Roy has given talks all over the world including Microsoft, the United Nations, NASA and the Smithsonian’s Cooper Hewitt Design Museum. Her TEDx talk, “When We Design for Disability, We All Benefit,” has over 1.2 million views.

Ms. Roy earned her BA in Psychology from Brown University, graduating with honors. She received her JD from Northeastern School of Law and a Masters of Social Design from Maryland Institute College of Art.

May 21, 2019 10:00 am - Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts

Graduate Ceremony

  • College of Architecture and the Built Environment
  • Jefferson College of Pharmacy
  • Jefferson College of Population Health
  • Jefferson College of Rehabilitation Sciences

Honorary Degree Recipient:
Robin Smith, MD, MBA

Robin L. Smith, MD, MBA

Robin L. Smith, MD, MBA, is a global thought leader in regenerative medicine. From 2006 – 2015, she served as CEO of the NeoStem family of companies. During her tenure, Dr. Smith raised over $200 million, completing six acquisitions and one divestiture. Under her leadership, the company won an array of industry awards and business recognition, including eleventh place nationally on Deloitte’s Technology Fast 500 list.

Dr. Smith is widely recognized for her leadership in health care and has received many awards for her work. Most recently, she received the Regenerative Medicine Foundation (RMF) 2019 Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Action Award for International Diplomacy and the 2018 HEALinc Future Health Humanitarian Award. She is known for her work as a female entrepreneur and received the Business Intelligence Group’s Woman of the Year Award in 2018 and the 2018 Gold Stevie® Award for Woman of the Year – Government of Non-Profit.

Dr. Smith was appointed as clinical associate professor, department of medicine at the Rutgers New Jersey Medical School in 2017. She has coauthored two books: Cells Are the New Cure (2017) and The Healing Cell: How the Greatest Revolution in Medical History Is Changing Your Life (2013). She maintained a regular column for the Huffington Post for six years.

In 2007, Dr. Smith founded the Stem for Life Foundation (SFLF) where she forged a historic, first-of-its-kind partnership with the Vatican to create high-profile initiatives that help catalyze interest and development of cellular therapies that could ultimately reduce human suffering on a global scale. Dr. Smith has served as chairman of the board and president of the SFLF since its inception and has been expanding its mission further under the Cura brand.

Dr. Smith has extensive experience serving in executive and board level capacities for several medical enterprises and health care-based entities. She previously served on the board of trustees of the NYU Langone Medical Center and is the past chairman of the board of directors for the New York University Hospital for Joint Diseases, BioXcel Corporation and Signal Genetics.

Dr. Smith received her MD from the Yale University School of Medicine and an MBA from the Wharton School of Business. As a business leader, entrepreneur, doctor and philanthropist, Dr. Smith is uniquely positioned to lead the global health care industry into personalized medicine using cellular therapy and predictive analytics.

May 21, 2019 2:30 pm - Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts

Graduate Ceremony

  • Jefferson College of Health Professions
  • Jefferson School of Continuing & Professional Studies
  • Kanbar College of Design, Engineering, and Commerce

Honorary Degree Recipient:
Derreck Kayongo

Derreck Kayongo

Derreck Kayongo is a successful entrepreneur and human rights innovator. Once a refugee, he immigrated to America to pursue his education, later embarking on an incredible journey to becoming a CEO. Mr. Kayongo currently serves as the CEO of the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta, Georgia. He is best known as Founder of the Global Soap Project and a 2011 CNN Hero.

Global Soap is a life-changing international aid organization that collects and reprocesses discarded soap and distributes it to vulnerable populations worldwide. Drawing on his experiences as a refugee in Kenya, Mr. Kayongo knew that in-crisis communities were typically without any soap at all. In order to fight against hygiene-related disease, the top killer of children in many at-risk communities, Global Soap has given millions of bars of soap to refugees and people affected by natural disasters in over thirty countries around the world.

An intriguing speaker, Mr. Kayongo has travelled all over the world sharing his knowledge and experiences. In 2014, he joined the elite TED Talk speakers in Charleston, South Carolina. He has also participated in hundreds of interviews all over the globe, including CNN, the Christiana Amanpour Show, and BBC’s Focus on Africa. In addition, former president, Jimmy Carter, selected Mr. Kayongo to interview him as part of the National Archive’s Amending America Initiative.

Mr. Kayongo is a graduate of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

May 22, 2019 10:00 am - Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts

Graduate Ceremony

  • Jefferson College of Life Sciences
  • Sidney Kimmel Medical College

Honorary Degree Recipients: 
Walter Ricciardi, MD, MPH, MSc & John Sculley

Walter Ricciardi, MD, MPH, MSc

Walter Ricciardi, MD, MPH, MSc, is a renowned public health leader in Italy, currently serving as the Head of Department of Woman and Child Health, Director of Public Health, and Deputy Head of the Faculty of Medicine at Fondazione Policlinico Universitario Agostino Gemelli IRCCS - Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Rome.

Dr. Ricciardi is prominently involved in academia and currently manages several undergraduate and postgraduate teaching activities including a Master of Science program and International Courses in Epidemiology. He is the Founding Editor of the Italian Journal of Public Health, as well as the editor of the European Journal of Public Health and the Oxford Handbook of Public Health Practice. Throughout his career, Dr. Ricciardi has contributed over 300 academic papers, primarily in the fields of epidemiology, health services research and public health genomics.

Dr. Ricciardi is widely recognized for his leadership in health care and has extensive experience serving in a variety of executive and board level positions. In May 2018 he has been elected President of the World Federation of Public Health Associations (WFPHA) by the General Assembly of the WFPHA.

In November 2017, he was appointed Italian Representative in the Executive Board of World Health Organization (WHO) and was appointed “Commendatore” of the Italian Republic by Decree of the President of the Republic. Dr. Ricciardi has previously served as president for the Italian National Institute of Health (Istituto Superiore di Sanità) and the European Public Health Association.

Internationally, Dr. Ricciardi is a member of the European Commission expert panel on “Investing in Health” (EXPH) and the National Board of Medical Examiners of the United States of America. He was the first non-English curator of the Oxford Handbook of Public Health Practice as well as the first non-US member of the US National Board of Medical Examiners. From 2010 to 2014, he served as president of the European Association of Public Health.

Dr. Ricciardi received his MD in 1986 from the University of Naples, later receiving his MPH from the same institution.


John Sculley

John Sculley is a polymath with deep domain expertise in consumer brand building, machine learning, high-tech platform-based smart process automation, and adapting technology innovation to the complex and regulated domain of the health care industry.

A master marketer, Mr. Sculley built his reputation as CEO of the Pepsi-Cola Company with the launch of “The Pepsi Challenge.” He later became the CEO of Apple, working alongside Steve Jobs to launch the first Macintosh personal computer with the now famous “1984” Super Bowl television commercial.

After serving as the CEO of Apple for a decade, Mr. Sculley pursued a new career in mentorship. He mentored many aspiring entrepreneurs who were building their own transformative companies and was on the founding team of Hotwire.com, MetroPCS, and the first business-to-business platform company, Intralinks. In addition, he co-founded Zeta Global, the largest independent marketing platform company.

12 years ago, Mr. Sculley again decided to make a major change in his professional career by starting to pursue a more noble cause. He want to bring breakthrough, platform-based disruptive health technologies to help revolutionize the US $3.6 trillion health care industry. He was on the founding team of Rally Health, the most successful consumer engagement health-tech company at the time, later sold to United Healthcare.

Mr. Sculley remains active in the healthcare industry and currently serves as a member of the founding team of the first platform-based PBM health disrupter, RxAdvance. He is also a founding board member and vice-chairman of Celularity, a platform-based immune oncology and regenerative medicine biotech company. John serves on the board of Kaleido, a microbiome bioscience company that completed their IPO in Q1, as well as a senior advisor to L Catterton Partners, the world’s largest and most successful consumer only, private equity firm.

Mr. Sculley is a frequent guest on CNBC and lectures around the world at various high technology universities and healthcare conferences. He earned a BA from Brown University and later received his MBA from the Wharton School of Business.

May 22, 2019 2:30 pm - Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts

Undergraduate & Graduate Ceremony

  • Jefferson College of Nursing

Honorary Degree Recipient: 
Carol Ammon, BSN, MBA

HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco

Carol Ammon, BSN, MBA, is the founder of Endo Pharmaceuticals Inc., a specialty pharmaceutical company with market leadership in pain management. Started in 1997, the company focuses on research, development and sales, and marketing of branded and generic pharmaceuticals used primarily to treat and manage pain. Carol served as CEO of the company from its inception through 2005.

Ms. Ammon has extensive experience in the pharmaceutical industry. Prior to starting Endo Pharmaceuticals, she spent 23 years as an associate scientist at the E.I. Dupont de Nemours and Company. During her time at Dupont, she served in positions of increasing responsibility across research and development, finance, manufacturing, and sales and marketing.

A true leader in her industry, Ms. Ammon has served in a variety of executive level positions throughout her career. In 1993, she was appointed President of the Generic Pharmaceutical Business Unit of the DuPont Merck Pharmaceutical Company. In 1996, she was named president of the US Pharmaceutical Division of DuPont Merck.

Recognized for her impressive leadership in pharmaceuticals, Carol has received numerous honors throughout her career. In 2005, she received the Paradigm Award, the Philadelphia region’s most prestigious award for business people. She was named CEO of the Year by the Eastern Technology Council in 2004, as well as the Greater Philadelphia Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year in the Health Sciences category in 2003. Under her leadership, Endo Pharmaceuticals was the Eastern Technology Council’s Company of the Year in 2003.

Ms. Ammon is highly involved in academia and currently serves as a Trustee for the University of Delaware and a director and Vice President of the Hagley Museum. She served as the Chairman of the University of Arkansas Multiple Myeloma Advisory Board until September 2018 and is a Director on the board of Katefarms, a privately held medical nutrition company. She is a former member of the Harvard Business School Healthcare Advisory Board and past Chairman of the Board for Christiana Care Healthcare System.

Ms. Ammon earned a BA in Biology from Central Connecticut State University and an MBA from Adelphi University. She received her BSN in nursing from the Thomas Jefferson College of Nursing in 2017 and holds honorary doctorates from Central Connecticut State College, Adelphi University and the University of Delaware.