Richard E. Neal, Doctor of Humane Letters

Richard E. Neal – Congressman, mayor, former member of the Mount Holyoke College Board of Trustees–you represent what is possible when passion for the public good meets politics.

Born in Worcester, Massachusetts, into a family of Irish immigrants, you learned early on that life is not always fair. When both of your parents died at a young age, you and your sisters went to live with your grandmother and aunt in Springfield. You attended Holyoke Community College, graduated from American International College with a degree in political science, and earned a master’s degree in public administration for the University of Hartford’s Barney School of Business. Your long career in public service began when you served as an assistant to the Springfield mayor, as a city councilor, as president of the city council, and then as mayor from 1984 to 1989. During your tenure as mayor, Springfield flourished with $400 million dollars in development and investment, and a budget surplus.

In 1988, voters elected you to the United States House of Representatives, where your work has centered on taxation, trade, health care, and—of course—your passion for Ireland. For over three decades, you have been resolute in working to bring reconciliation and prosperity to Northern Ireland. Leaders have called you one of the most consequential American figures to help restore peace to that strife-torn country: your work has required patience, trust, and wisdom. As a member of the House Ways and Means committee, you have fought for banking reform, fair trade policy, and simplifying the tax code. Among your many accomplishments are helping to write the Affordable Health Care for America Act, sponsoring legislation to prevent American businesses from moving offshore to avoid paying taxes, and preserving and protecting Medicare and Social Security—a cause close to the heart of Frances Perkins, first woman United States secretary of labor, and a Mount Holyoke alumna, class of 1902.

Mount Holyoke College owes you a special debt of gratitude. South Hadley is part of your Congressional district and we have been beneficiaries of your commitment to education. As a member of the College’s Board of Trustees for two successive terms from 2005 to 2015, you worked hard to bring celebrated speakers to campus, such as Irish Presidents Mary Robinson and Mary McAleese, and from Northern Ireland, Nobel Peace Prize winner John Hume. In addition, you have been an enthusiastic advocate for building our community boathouse; have hosted our students as interns in your Washington, DC, office; and have lectured at Mount Holyoke many times on Irish politics and US presidential campaigns.

For your dedication to improving the lives of your constituents, to promoting economic fairness, and to working for peace in Northern Ireland, and for your unwavering belief that we must always remember where we come from, Mount Holyoke is proud to bestow upon you the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa.