More than 140 students are expected to participate in St. Mary-of-the-Woods College’s 168th Commencement Ceremony on Saturday.
During the ceremony, Marlene EchoHawk, Ph.D., a graduate of St. Mary-of-the-Woods College and an advocate for Indian behavioral health and adolescents, will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from the College, and she will deliver the 2009 commencement address. During the ceremony, SMWC will also recognize Mary Pat Kelly, Ph.D., an author and filmmaker, as the College’s 2009 Distinguished Alumna award recipient.
EchoHawk, who obtained a bachelor of science degree from SMWC in biology in 1953, has committed herself to helping improve the overall health care of American Indian and Alaska Native individuals, families, villages, communities and tribes.
Born in Pawnee, Okla., EchoHawk is an enrolled member of the Otoe-Missouria Tribe in northern Oklahoma.
Growing up, her native language was spoken in the home, but English was also spoken when necessary.
She graduated high school at age 15 and went on to study at The Woods.
In 1962, she took a job at the Veterans Affairs Hospital in Oklahoma City, and she worked in the biochemistry laboratory from 1962 to 1973. She returned to graduate school in 1969 and obtained a doctorate in clinical psychology from Oklahoma State University in 1976.
After serving as an independent consultant for various universities and American Indian and Alaska Native tribes, she decided to settle down into private practice in 1983. She focused her attention and skills on helping newborn through adolescent children.
In 1986, she joined the Indian Health Service Mental Health Program and served as staff psychologist in Chinle Comprehensive Health Facility in Chinle, Ariz., on the Navajo Reservation. In 1989, she became the Mental Health Branch Chief in the IHS Aberdeen Area Office in Aberdeen, S.D., where she provided oversight to 17 tribal mental health programs in 14 states. And, in 1993, she was recruited to be the deputy chief of the IHS Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Program Branch at Headquarters central office. From 1999 to 2009, she worked at IHS Headquarters in Rockville Md., in the Behavioral Health Program. She recently retired from that facility, where she last served as a health science administrator.
SMWC’s 2009 Distinguished Alumna award recipient, Mary Pat Kelly, graduated from SMWC in 1967 with a bachelor’s degree in English and theatre. She also holds a doctorate from the City University of New York.
Kelly, who recently embarked on a national book tour for her newly published novel “Galway Bay,” has told various stories connected to Ireland. Her award-winning PBS documentaries and accompanying books include “To Live for Ireland,” a portrait of Nobel Peace Prize winner John Hume and the political party he led; “Home Away from Home: The Yanks in Ireland,” a history of U.S. forces in Northern Ireland during World War II; and “Proudly We Served: The Men of the USS Mason,” a portrayal of the only African-American sailors to take a World War II warship into combat, whose first foreign port was Belfast. She wrote and directed the dramatic feature film “Proud,” starring Ossie Davis and Stephen Rea, based on the USS Mason story.
She has also written two books about Martin Scorsese, “Martin Scorsese: The First Decade” and “Martin Scorsese: A Journey.” During interviews, she often talks about how she was introduced to Scorsese during her time at SMWC.
“I met Martin Scorsese through an article on the table of Sister Mary Olive’s ‘Green Room’ in 1966,” Kelly said. “Sister Marie Denise encouraged me when I proposed comparing his student film ‘It’s Not Just You, Murray’ to James Joyce’s story ‘Grace’ as a topic for my senior thesis. I wrote to him. He sent me his film. I can still see Sister Marie Denise and me threading up a rickety old 16 mm projector and watching his movie. We laughed so hard and both knew we were seeing the early work of a genius. After I left the Sisters of Providence, I went to New York University Film School and worked with Scorsese and later wrote about him.”
Kelly worked in Hollywood as a screenwriter for Paramount and Columbia Pictures and in New York City as an associate producer with “Good Morning America” and “Saturday Night Live,” and wrote the book and lyrics for the musical “Abby’s Song.” She has also written “Good to Go: The Rescue of Scott O’Grady from Bosnia,” a novel, “Special Intentions,” and she is a frequent contributor to Irish America Magazine.
For more information on the ceremonies, contact Lynn Hughes at LHughes@smwc.edu or (812) 535-5212.