PC Welcomes Steve Pemberton

by The Cowl Editor on April 4, 2019


Author and Philanthropist to Speak at 2019 Commencement

by Taylor Godfrey ’19 and Abigail Czerniecki ’19

Editor and Associate Editor-in-Chief

Photo courtesy of Providence College

Steve Pemberton has been announced as the 2019 Providence College Commencement speaker. Pemberton is a human rights advocate and currently serves as Chief Human Resources Officer at software company, Workhuman. Formerly the Vice President and the first Chief Diversity Officer for Walgreen’s, Pemberton speaks from his troubled childhood to advocate for human rights today. 

The committee to select the Commencement speaker chose Pemberton after watching hours of video of his previous speaking engagements. Pemberton was elected for his engaging manner of speaking and the strong interest towards student success that he has demonstrated over the years. It is especially crucial the Commencement speaker is able to captivate that the audience and the graduates after several speeches by the president, honorary degree recipients, and degree announcements. The role of the Commencement speaker is to inspire and offer advice to the graduates and the committee believes Pemberton will deliver.

Pemberton’s story is one of facing and overcoming adversity. After being put into foster care at the age of three, Pemberton suffered hardships such as abusive foster families, but despite this adversity, he was able to earn both his undergraduate and master’s degrees from Boston College.

In 2012, he published a best-selling memoir, A Chance in the World: An Orphan Boy, A Mysterious Past, and How He Found a Place Called Home, about his childhood experiences and how they made him who he is today. A Chance in the World was also made into a film, directed by Mark Vadik, that was released in May 2018.

The title of Pemberton’s book, and the subsequent film, was inspired by one of his old babysitter’s diary entries. His babysitter had written that the little boy, Pemberton, “didn’t have a chance in the world.” Pemberton used his hardships, such as this one, as a means to excel in academics and his adult years.

A Chance in the World is also the name of the foundation Pemberton runs with his wife, Tonya. Aimed at giving more kids the opportunity to get an education and reach their goals, the foundation supports schools and charitable organizations, as well as offers the Steve Pemberton Scholarship to deserving students at Nativity Preparatory School in New Bedford, Massachusetts. 

Pemberton discusses in his memoir the “lighthouses” he had throughout his difficult journey from his adolescent and teenage years. These “lighthouses,” Pemberton describes in his book, are those who showed him small acts of kindness, such as his neighbors or his teachers. It was those who showed him love and taught him kindness that influenced his future successes.  

He has been awarded the Trumpet Award, created to recognize black humanitarians who have succeeded against tremendous odds, as well as the U.S. Congress’s Horizon Award for individuals from the public sector who have changed the lives of young Americans.

Pemberton is also an accomplished speaker, delivering addresses at many different corporations and nonprofits. He has given keynote addresses and Commencement speeches at numerous colleges and universities, including Boston College, DePaul University, Mount Ida College, and Northwestern University. 

In his 2016 Commencement speech at Mount Ida College, Pemberton mentioned how he will likely be forgotten by the graduates gathered before him, but that he hoped they would allow him to jump into their family photos after the ceremony. This is a spirit that Steven Maurano, associate vice president of public affairs, community & government relations, noted Pemberton is eager to bring to the PC Commencement. He added that Pemberton hopes he will be able to go out among the community and the students before the ceremonies, emphasizing his dedication to the communities of which he is a part.

Pemberton will receive an honorary degree from the College for his participation in this year’s Commencement exercises. 

In addition to Pemberton, five other honorary degree recipients will be recognized at Commencement: Sister Larraine Lauter, an Ursuline nun whose 40 years of service include work as a teacher, pastoral minister, environmentalist, and advocate for minority communities; Marta Martinez ’79, the executive director of Latino Arts RI, manager of La Galería del Pueblo Cultural Center in Central Falls, artist-in-residence at Trinity Repertory Theatre; Marifrances McGinn, PC’s first female vice president and formerly the College’s in-house legal counsel for 20 years; Dr. Steven Mecca ’64 and ’66 G (posthumously), a PC physics professor who also served as vice president of academic affairs and president of the Faculty Senate during his time at PC; and John Murphy, Sr., CEO of Beara Capital, LLC and founder of the Dr. Kenneth R. Walker ’57 & ‘83Hon. Scholarship at PC.

The Commencement ceremony will take place on Sunday, May 19 at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in downtown Providence.

Veritas: The Core of The Cowl

by Katherine Torok on April 4, 2019

Editor's Column

Bittersweetly, this edition of The Cowl is our third-to-last of the year. As I prepare to move out of the position which I have held all year and pass the torch on to the next Cowl Editor-in-Chief, I have been thinking about the importance of a free press and the importance, especially, of student newspapers like The Cowl.

For casual readers, The Cowl may not seem like an important part of campus. Students might pick it up if they see a stand, check to see if their friends are on the Roving Photography page, or if the Listomania is funny this week, and put it back down. And while I may be speaking from a rather biased point of view—seeing the work that my staff puts in every week and the passion and love that goes into each and every issue—I do not think I am remiss in emphasizing the importance of press in our society and, the microcosm of society that we are, on campus.

In the politically polarized society in which we live, it may seem like the media does more harm than good. And some sites, especially the ones that lean significantly to one political side or another and clearly have an agenda behind their writing, may only add fuel to the societal fire. But imagine the world without a free press. Imagine what politicians and other people in power would do without the press to report on and critique their activities. Imagine how uninformed the public would be without access to a free press.

While The Cowl may not be a media giant like the New York Times or the BBC that can sustain 24 hour, international news cycles, student newspapers play a role on college campuses as well. They offer a space for students to share their opinions, to hone their writing and photography skills, and to amplify their voices. From reporting on school dances and panels to writing editorials to reporting and photographing sports games, The Cowl is a place for students to decide what they want to write and what they would want to read.

The Cowl is an over 80-year long tradition at PC and one with which I am proud to have played a part. The Cowl will continue to serve as a voice for students in the community and to search for and report truth both during my last few weeks and, I am confident, going forward. Veritas is not only a pillar of PC, but it is also at the core of what we do on this publication and of our place in this community.

Providence College: Our Slice of the World

by The Cowl Editor on March 7, 2019

Editor's Column

As we move past midterms and  into spring break, as sad as it is to say for many seniors like myself, our time at Providence College is coming to a close.  We have seen a lot of change in our four years, from the huge physical changes on campus to this past class year being the largest and most diverse in the history of the College. While there have been huge changes and improvements on campus, there is still work to be done to make PC the best that it can be.

This week, The Cowl features articles on how people at PC now are actively working to make campus a better place. Many clubs across campus, including Board of Programmers, PC Democrats, Student Congress, and more, are co-sponsoring events to celebrate International Women’s Day this week. These events not only recognize important women on campus, but raise awareness and create discussion about issues that women face both at PC and beyond. Events like this are a good start, but as the campus climate surveys have revealed, there is still much work to be done to ensure that every woman on campus feels safe and respected.

The news section features a story on the measures PC has taken to be more environmentally friendly. The campus has worked to conserve energy and to use more sustainable sources of energy, such as solar farms. However, there is still no option to compost on campus and little incentive for students to recycle or conserve energy on a regular basis. Again, progress has been made, but there is still more to do.

In the past year, there have been marches for sexual assault survivors, conversations opened up on the community Dialogue Inclusion Democracy wall in Feinstein Academic Center, forums held about privilege and race relations, events held for the Trans Day of Remembrance, and SHEPARD’s “No H8” photoshoot to remind people to be accepting of others, to name a few. People on this campus are passionate about issues that face the members of our community and they are willing to work to make campus a more inclusive and accepting place.

All of these events are good starts and are doing important work, but none of them are the end of the line. For both the current members of the community as well as the future Friars that will come after us, we must continue to put in the effort. PC may not be the entire world, but for four years, it is our slice of the world, and it is up to us to make it the best that we can.

Working Towards ‘Friar Family’

by The Cowl Editor on February 14, 2019

Editor's Column

The phrase heard most often on the Providence College campus is probably “Friar Family.” Friar Family means that all students, staff, and faculty are supposed to be welcome and accepted in the community on this campus. And with Spotlight Providence, the first accepted students event for the class of 2023, happening this weekend, the Friar Family will soon be growing and changing.

With last year’s freshman class being the most diverse class of students yet, it is clear that the Friar Family is changing and will continue to change. Just like a traditional family, there will be disagreements and difficulties. But the wonderful thing about the Friar Family is the many different ideas and experiences that each member brings to campus, even if that means there will be arguments and disagreements. Throughout life we will all be in situations with people who do not share our opinions and college is a time when we can work on having these difficult discussions and on learning to have them respectfully.

It is not and never will be enough to continue to say “Friar Family” without understanding what must go into that idea. Families are never easy. They are made up of many different people with different ideas. Some may seem entirely unconnected except by genetics. Some may not be connected by genetics at all. But the concept of a ‘family’ represents something enduring. The PC community is not just a group of people, but a family of people. And as anyone who has had an awkward family holiday dinner can tell you, avoiding difficult topics for the sake of ‘family’ is not a strategy that ends well. Work must be done to ensure that the “Friar Family” truly does mean family to everyone.

What is strange this year is that as I show PC off to these new members of the Friar Family, this is the first class of students that I will welcome to the College and yet, will never share the campus with. While I will still consider myself part of the PC community, the other members of the class of 2019 and I will soon no longer be involved in the discussions that happen on campus.

It will be up to the current and new students to continue to make the Friar Family on campus a family for everyone. It is important work, and if we are dedicated to the Dominican values of love and truth on which this school was founded, it is work that matters to each and every one of us.

In Memoriam: Dr. Kenneth R Walker

by The Cowl Editor on February 7, 2019


Dr. Walker speaking at the annual reception in honor of his scholarship fund in April 2018.

by Taylor Godfrey ’19


This week, the Providence College community is mourning the death of Dr. Kenneth R. Walker, Sr. ’57 & ’83Hon. who passed away on Jan. 30. 

An East Providence native, Walker was an integral part of the PC community, graduating in 1957 with a degree in education and going on to work in urban education for the rest of his life. 

Walker worked in the East Providence school system before becoming a professor at both Rhode Island College and Johnson and Wales University. He also served on the Rhode Island Parole Board. 

At PC, Walker served on the Providence President’s Council and was both a Big East men’s basketball referee and a mentor to the Friars’ men’s basketball team. 

Walker was an important and esteemed member of the PC alumni community, receiving an honorary doctorate of social science degree in 1983 and the National Alumni Association’s Exemplary Citizenship Award in 1993. 

Walker’s legacy continues to be honored through the Kenneth Walker ’57 Family Scholarship fund, established in 2008 by John Murphy. The fund offers scholarships for African-American students majoring in education at PC. 

Services for Walker were held on Wednesday, February 6 at the Faith Christian Center in Seekonk. Donations can be made to the Kenneth Walker ’57 Family Scholarship Fund in his memory. 

The entire PC community sends its condolences to Walker’s family. He will be remembered as a dedicated member of the PC community as well as a light in so many lives throughout Rhode Island.

Building a ‘Beloved Community’ at PC

by The Cowl Editor on January 31, 2019

Editor's Column

“If we say we are on the road to a beloved community,” Rev. Nontombi Naomi Tutu repeated again and again when she spoke at the second Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Convocation last week. Referencing one of Rev. King’s ideas that was the theme of the entire week, Tutu’s keynote speech emphasized “if” as the crucial part of the question. Because building a “beloved community” is about more than just saying the words. It is a goal which we must constantly work towards and one to which we can never be satisfied we have achieved.

King’s original idea of the beloved community was of a community of people committed to peace, justice, love, and trust for all. It was an ideal that could only be met if every member in the community was striving for these things. This is what Tutu urged the entire Providence College community to do. If we want to truly work towards a “beloved community,” every member of this community must be committed to doing the work. “Something is called for from us,” Tutu said, we are called “to make choices, maybe choices nobody else notices we are called to make,” but we must make them anyway. 

Tutu’s words remind us that it is not about the things we do when others can see us, but about the difficult choices we are called to make when no one is watching us. It is in the hard conversations that we must have with people that we care about. It is in the way that we must be committed to building this ‘beloved community’ even if it might be easier for us not to be. It is in the way that we must always question the things we think we know and strive to see and understand the other side, as mutual understanding is the only way to build bridges towards mutual peace and love. 

Tutu’s sentiments, inspired by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. could not have come at a better time. As the country faces huge challenges and seems more divided and polarized every day, it can be easy to become discouraged, to lose sight of the beloved community. It may be uncomfortable, it may be difficult, it may be such a fight that, as Tutu said, we can only live this struggle for five minutes every day. But we must make that effort, even if it is only for five minutes, because as Rev. Nontombi Naomi Tutu reminded us, this beloved community is and always will be worth the struggle.

Achievable Goals: the Key to a Happy and Healthy 2019

by The Cowl Editor on January 17, 2019

Editor's Column

As we head into the spring semester, it is hard to believe that it is already 2019. 

For many people, the new year comes with New Year’s resolutions. Ranging from vowing to go to the gym more or promising ourselves not to leave all of our homework until the night before it is due, most of these resolutions fizzle out before the first month of the year is even over. 

It is really hard and frankly unfair to ourselves to decide that just because the world has flipped to a new year on the calendar, that it will all of a sudden be easy to change our entire lifestyle.

Instead, this year we should focus on smaller goals, on making our everyday lives better a little bit at a time. It is unrealistic to go from never going to the gym to spending hours there every day. 

Instead, a better goal might be to try a fitness class or to choose one day a week to go for a run with a friend or a roommate. Scheduling in an hour or two to be at the library on the weekends to get work done would be more fruitful than sitting there for hours on weekday nights with books open and glazed eyes. 

Change never happens quickly or spontaneously and it is not fair to any of us to expect that changing from one year to the next will make it so.

Resolutions, no matter how well-planned, should never get in the way of caring for ourselves. 

This year, we should all make sure to plan activities with friends or make some downtime to relax and watch some Netflix. 

Any resolutions we may make about bettering our health or our academics are not worth it if they come at the cost of our mental wellbeing. “New year, new me” may make for a fun Instagram caption, but a better attitude towards the new year would be making sure to care for our entire selves and to set smaller, more personal and achievable goals. 

This way, 2019 can truly be the best year for all of us.

In Memoriam: Fr. Thomas J. Ertle, O.P.

by The Cowl Editor on November 29, 2018


Reverend Thomas Ertle O.P.

by Taylor Godfrey ’19


The Providence College community mourns the loss of Rev. Thomas Jordan Ertle, O.P., who passed away on Friday, November 23 at his home in New Jersey. 

Father Ertle graduated from PC with a Bachelor’s Degree in 1953 before joining the Dominican order in 1956. He received a Master’s Degree from PC in 1978 and the next year he became the College chaplain, serving in both that position as well as others in campus ministry until 1984. 

He returned to the College in 1998, serving until his health began to decline in 2015. 

He received multiple awards from PC, including the PC Alumni Association’s Bishop Harkins Award in 1991 and the PC School of Continuing Education Spirit of Giving Award in 2004. 

Father Ertle was an important member of the PC community and beyond. Fluent in American Sign Language, he worked with the deaf community in Providence and he served as a source of guidance and faith on campus. 

His wake was held in the Chapel of Our Lady of the Rosary in the Aquinas Priory on Wednesday, November 28, and his funeral mass was held in St. Dominic Chapel today. He will be laid to rest on the PC campus in the Dominican Friars’ Cemetery. 

Father Ertle will be greatly missed by the PC community both on and off campus.

Engaging in Campus Dialogue

by The Cowl Editor on November 29, 2018

Editor's Column

by Taylor Godfrey ’19


During the past  couple weeks, several  meaningful  conversations have taken place on campus.

In the past few issues of The Cowl alone, we’ve published articles on the Campus Climate Survey Forum, the emails sent from Father Sicard, O.P., about the clergy sexual abuse crisis, and the new Community Dialogue Inclusion and Democracy (D.I.D.) wall that has been installed in Feinstein to facilitate discussions around difficult topics such as free speech and inclusion.

It is vitally important that all of these discussions happen on campus, but they will only work if people show up willing to share their ideas and to be open to other points of view.

The Thursday before Thanksgiving break, I went to the Campus Climate Survey Forum held by the Title IX office to discuss the results of the survey about sexual assault on campus.

The students who attended the discussion made some excellent points about the survey, what the results mean for PC, and how we will have to address them moving forward.

However, there were very few students there in the first place, meaning that they could not benefit from the discussion taking place and their voices were not a part of the dialogue at all.

In the polarized country we live in today, it can be very easy to put yourself in a bubble and never listen to ideas that differ from your own. With curated social media feeds and the ever solidifying lines between political parties and groups, people can become too comfortable surrounding themselves with opinions and ideas that reflect their own. It is too easy to simply not show up to difficult conversations where that echo chamber will be broken.

But these conversations can only gain the power for change if there are many voices involved.

Every person on this campus is an important member of the community and their opinions deserve to be heard just as much as anyone else’s.

However, they only gain the opportunity to be heard when everyone shows up to and engages in these important discussions. Silence will accomplish nothing.

Improving our campus community is a project in which we all must be involved. It is not going to be simple and it is not going to be comfortable, but it is the way forward and it will only work if we all agree to talk and work together, regardless of our differences.

Staying Politically Active Post-Election

by The Cowl Editor on November 8, 2018

Editor's Column

by Taylor Godfrey ’19


Like many Americans, I spent Tuesday night in front of my television, attempting to do homework but really just watching the screen as the results of the midterm elections poured in. It was a long night for anyone watching, but by the time this issue of The Cowl hits stands, the acceptance and concession speeches will all have been read, the “I voted” stickers will have been peeled off, the dust will have settled over the 2018 midterm elections, and it will seem as though there is nothing left to do.

Election season is an emotional and stressful time for the country. In our polarized political climate, tensions have been running high for months and many might feel a creeping apathy now that the fervor to get out and vote is over.

But being politically conscious and active is not limited to the short time every two years when our nation goes to the polls.

The issues which the two parties were campaigning for votes do not just go away. Now that the polls have closed, it is still on us to make the changes we want to see. It is not too late.

New people may be in power, but the issues remain the same, and newly elected officials must be called upon to fix them. The time may be over to make your voice heard by filling in a little circle on a ballot, but your voice is still important and it has not lost any strength.

Whether your voice is loudest organizing marches, calling your representatives, or writing editorial columns in your student newspaper, there is still plenty to do.

And this work should continue on Providence College’s campus as well. Every semester there are Student Congress elections, but beyond that there are many ways  to advocate for yourself and others on campus.

From getting involved with clubs and organizing events to simply speaking up for yourself and others and there is plenty of opportunities to be politically active on campus. The elections may be over, but the real work has just begun.