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Pulitzer Prize-Nominated Sister to Speak at Mount Commencement

April 22, 2009 -- Mount Saint Mary’s University celebrates commencement 2009 on May 11 with speaker Sister Helen Prejean, CSJ, the Roman Catholic nun who gained acclaim for penning the Pulitzer Prize-nominated book-turned-movie "Dead Man Walking."

Prejean continues her global campaign to abolish the death penalty, and has been a chief supporter of the Catholic Church's vigorous opposition to state executions. Prejean divides her time between campaigning against the death penalty and counseling individual death row prisoners.

"Sister Helen is a courageous and inspirational role model for our students," says Mount President Jacqueline Powers Doud. "Her rich storytelling illuminates the issues surrounding the death penalty in America."

Prejean has served on the board of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. She is a member of Amnesty International, and honorary chair of the Moratorium Campaign, a group gathering signatures for a worldwide moratorium on the death penalty.

In 1997, Prejean was awarded the Carondelet Medal, the Mount's highest honor. She also received the Distinguished Service Award from the National Council of Catholic Women in 1999, and the Vision 2000 Courage Award from Catholic Charities U.S.A.

As the founder of Survive, a victim's advocacy group in New Orleans, she continues to counsel not only inmates on death row, but families of murder victims, as well. She is working on a new book, "River of Fire: My Spiritual Journey to Death Row." The Mount will award the honorary degree Doctor of Humane Letters to Prejean for her years of service to abolish the death penalty, her passion for social justice, and her tireless work to defend the rights of the innocent and to preserve respect and dignity for everyone.

In addition, the College will award its highest honor, the Carondelet Medal, to Joan A. Payden of Santa Monica, president and chief executive officer of Payden & Rygel, and to Susan Stark Meyer '78 of Torrance, a 17-year faculty member in the Mount's nursing department.

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