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Greg Boyle, S.J., founder of largest gang intervention program in U.S., to deliver Loyola's 2012 commencement address

| By Nick Alexopulos

Rev. Greg Boyle, S.J., founder and chief executive officer of Homeboy Industries, the largest gang intervention program in the country, will deliver Loyola University Maryland’s 2012 Commencement Address on Saturday, May 19. He will also receive a doctor of humane letters degree, honoris causa, from Loyola during the Commencement Exercises.

More than 1,700 baccalaureate and advanced degrees will be conferred during the Exercises, which begin at 11 a.m. in Baltimore’s 1st Mariner Arena.

“Fr. Boyle’s decades of remarkable work with at-risk youth in Los Angeles and dedication to the community as a pastor, advocate, and mentor mirror the ideals and character of our University,” said Rev. Brian F. Linnane, S.J., president of Loyola. “I am confident that Fr. Boyle will inspire the class of 2012 with moving remarks that reflect his deep understanding of Loyola’s mission and identity.”

Fr. Boyle, one of eight children, was born in Los Angeles. He entered the Society of Jesus in 1972 and was ordained a priest in 1984. He received his B.A. in English from Gonzaga University, M.A. in English from Loyola Marymount University, M.Div. from the Weston School of Theology, and STM from the Jesuit School of Theology.

Fr. Boyle was appointed pastor of Dolores Mission in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles in 1986 and served there through1992. Prior to his time at Dolores Mission, he taught at Loyola High School, his alma mater, in Los Angeles, worked with Christian Base Communities in Cochabamba, Bolivia, and served as chaplain of the Islas Marias Penal Colony in Mexico and Folsom Prison.

In 1988, Fr. Boyle created the “Jobs For A Future” (JFF) program at Dolores Mission parish in an effort to address the escalating problems and unmet needs of gang-involved youth. He worked with the community to establish an elementary school, develop a day care program, and search for legitimate employment for young people. Fr. Boyle and JFF launched the Homeboy Bakery business in 1992 as a response to civil unrest in Los Angeles. The bakery’s mission was to create an environment that provided training, work experience, and an opportunity for rival gang members to work side-by-side. The success of Homeboy Bakery built the foundation for additional businesses and prompted JFF to become Homeboy Industries, an independent non-profit organization, in 2001. Today Homeboy Industries’ nonprofit economic development enterprises include Homeboy Bakery, Homeboy Silkscreen, Homeboy/Homegirl Merchandise, and Homegirl Café. Located in the heart of downtown Los Angeles, it is the largest gang intervention and re-entry program in the county and has become a national model.

An expert on gangs and intervention approaches, Fr. Boyle is a nationally renowned speaker who has given commencement addresses at numerous universities and spoken at conferences for teachers, social workers, criminal justice workers, and others about the importance of adult attention, guidance, and unconditional love in preventing youth from joining gangs. He appeared at the White House Conference on Youth in 2005 at the personal invitation of First Lady Laura Bush, and in 1998 was a member of the California delegation to President Clinton’s Summit on Children. 

His many honors and awards include membership in the California Hall of Fame, the California Peace Prize, the Civic Medal of Honor from the California Chamber of Commerce, the Irvine Leadership Award from the James Irvine Foundation, and honorary degrees from Salve Regina University, Claremont University, and Occidental College. Most recently, Fr. Boyle received the 2011 Loaves and Fishes Award for Faith in Action, presented by Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of San Francisco in recognition of his 25 years of dedication to Homeboy Industries.

His first book, Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion, received the 2010 Southern California Indie Booksellers Association Non-Fiction Book Award and was named one of the Best Books of 2010 by Publishers Weekly.

Other honors to be awarded by Loyola at this year’s Commencement Exercises will include:

  • The President’s Medal (presented to those who have demonstrated notable support of Loyola or the greater community): Rev. John M. Dennis, S.J., director, Loyola Campus Ministry.
  • Newman Medal (presented to those who have made outstanding contributions to Catholic education): Mary Pat Seurkamp, Ph.D., president, Notre Dame of Maryland University.
  • The Milch Award (recognizing superior contributions and achievement by an organization involved in service): St. Ignatius Loyola Academy in Baltimore, Md.

Additional information on Loyola’s 160th Commencement Exercises can be found at www.loyola.edu/commencement.

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