Past Friars Leaders

2016-2017 Friars Leaders

Shakti Butler

Shakti Butler, Ph.D., is a filmmaker and the Founder & President of World Trust, a non-profit social justice organization that provides deep learning, tools and resources for people interested in tackling unconscious bias and systemic racial inequity in their workplace, community and in their lives. Dr. Butler engages audiences with participatory keynotes and workshops, often using clips from her films. Known as a catalyst for change, she is hired by organizations seeking broader support for their diversity & inclusion goals.

Shakti Butler is a multiracial African-American woman (African, Arawak Indian, and Russian-Jewish) whose work as a creative and visionary bridge builder has challenged and inspired learning for over two decades. She is the producer and director of groundbreaking documentaries including The Way Home, Mirrors of Privilege: Making Whiteness Visible, and Light in the Shadows. Her latest film Cracking the Codes: The System of Racial Inequity uses story, theater and music to illuminate the larger frame of structural/systemic racial inequity.

Dr. Butler received her doctorate from the California Institute of Integral Studies in the School of Transformative Learning and Change. She holds an MA in Guidance and Counseling from Bank Street College of New York and graduated magna cum laude from City College of New York.

Janaya Khan

Janaya Khan, known as Future in the Black Lives Matter movement, is a Black, queer, gender-nonconforming activist, staunch Afrofuturist, social-justice educator and boxer based in Toronto. As the co-founder of Black Lives Matter Toronto, they are committed to Black liberation, transformational justice and indigenous sovereignty and operate through a Black transfeminist lens. Janaya’s work is underpinned by understanding the transformational capacity of language, metaphor, and democratic discourse as a tool for change, gleaned from earning an English Honours degree at York University. Janaya’s dedication and bold approach to social justice work has created opportunities to contribute to academic and front line community dialogue. Having presented at multiple universities such as Ryerson University, the University of Toronto, York University throughout Canada, Janaya has also been traveling across the United States engaging audiences on the global impacts of the Black Lives Matter movement. They are the recipient of several awards such as the "2015 Bromley Armstrong Humanitarian Award." They have previously been featured in the Feminist Wire, RaceBaitR, and The Root and can be found shutting it down at an action near you.

Paul Farmer

Paul Farmer, physician and anthropologist, is chief strategist and co-founder of Partners In Health, Kolokotrones University Professor and chair of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and chief of the Division of Global Health Equity at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. He also serves as U.N. Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Community-based Medicine and Lessons from Haiti. Dr. Farmer has written extensively on health, human rights, and the consequences of social inequality. His most recent books are In the Company of the Poor: Conversations with Dr. Paul Farmer and Fr. Gustavo Gutiérrez, Reimagining Global Health: An Introduction, and To Repair the World: Paul Farmer Speaks to the Next Generation. He is known as "the man who would cure the world," as described in the book, Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder.

Callie Crossley

Callie Crossley is the host of Under the Radar with Callie Crossley, on WGBH. Her weekly commentaries air Mondays during Morning Edition. Crossley is also a public speaker and television and radio commentator for national and local programs, including CNN’s Reliable Sources, the PBS NewsHour and PRI’s The Takeaway. She also appears weekly on WGBH­TV’s Beat the Press, examining local and national media coverage, Basic Black, focusing on current events concerning communities of color, and Fox 25 Boston’s Morning Show. A former producer for ABC News 20/20, Ms. Crossley is a Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow, guest­ lecturing at colleges and universities about media literacy, media and politics and the intersection of race, gender and media. She has two Harvard Fellowships­­ from the Nieman Foundation for Journalism and the Institute of Politics at the John F. Kennedy School of Government. Crossley was a producer for Blackside Inc.’s “Eyes on the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Years,” which earned her an Oscar nomination, a National Emmy, and the Alfred I. DuPont­Columbia Award (Gold Baton). For Boston Public Radio, Crossley has earned the AP, Edward R. Murrow and Clarion awards.

Joyce Kulhawik

Joyce Kulhawik, best known as the Emmy Award-winning arts and entertainment critic for CBS-Boston (WBZ-TV 1981-2008), is currently lending her expertise as an arts critic/advocate, motivational speaker, and cancer crusader. Kulhawik is President of the Boston Theater Critics Association, a member of the Boston Society of Film Critics, and Boston Online Film Critics Association. Kulhawik has covered local and national events from Boston and Broadway to Hollywood, reporting live from the Oscars, the Emmys, and the Grammys. Nationally, Kulhawik has co-hosted syndicated movie-review programs with Roger Ebert and Leonard Maltin. She posts her arts & entertainment reviews online at

A 3X cancer survivor, Kulhawik testified before congress on the 20th anniversary of the national cancer act. For over 25 years she chaired the American Cancer Society’s largest spring fundraising campaign “Daffodil Days,” serves on the ACS advisory board, and continues to help raise millions of dollars for the ACS first “Hope Lodge” in Boston. The ACS has honored Kulhawik with its national bronze medal for her work.

The recipient of countless awards, Joyce holds an honorary doctorate in communications from her alma mater Simmons University, and has an endowed scholarship in her name at the Berklee College of Music. She also earned an M.A.T. in English/Education from the University of Vermont In 2010 Kulhawik received the N.E. Emmy’s Governor’s Award for her distinguished career, and in 2007 was an inaugural inductee into the Mass Broadcasters Hall of Fame.

2015-2016 Friars Leaders

Julia Roig

Julia Roig is President of Partners Global, a Washington-based non-governmental organization that works to resolve conflicts in fragile states by helping civic actors become leaders and peacebuilders. From modest beginnings in eastern Europe 25 years ago, Partners has grown into a network of 19 international affiliates linked by a unique philosophy and operational methodology. Julia’s leadership of Partners Global is an inspiring example of how intelligent civil society activism can help build a saner, safer world.

Anita Hill

Author of Reimaging Equality and Speaking Truth to Power, Professor of social policy, law, and women’s studies at Brandeis University. Anita Hill raised awareness nationwide on the issue of sexual harassment. Due to her efforts, Congress passed a law that allowed sexual harassment victims to seek damage awards as well as back pay and reinstatement.

Professor Hill’s commentary has been published in TIME, Newsweek, The New York Times, The Boston Globe, and Ms. Magazine. She has appeared on national television programs including Good Morning America, Meet the Press, The Today Show, The Tavis Smiley Show and Larry King Live.

Professor Hill has received numerous honorary degrees and civic awards. She has chaired the Human Rights Law Committee of the International Bar Association. In addition, she is on the Board of Governors of the Tufts Medical Center and the Board of Directors of the National Women’s Law Center and the Boston Area Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights.

Laura Ling

Over almost two decades, award-winning journalist and web and TV host, Laura Ling has dedicated herself to exposing the world to critical global issues, including slave labor in the Amazon, the drug war in Mexico, Internet censorship in China, and women’s rights in Turkey.

As the Director of Development for Discovery Digital Networks, Ling oversees the creation and production of original web series. She is also the host of Going Off Grid and Rituals With Laura Ling.

In March 2009, Ling captured the world’s attention from a different standpoint, when she was arrested and held captive in North Korea for 140 days, after attempting to report on the trafficking of North Korean women. Granted a special pardon, she returned to the U.S. and documented her experience in her 2010 memoir, Somewhere Inside: One Sister’s Captivity in North Korea and the Other’s Fight to Bring Her Home, penned with her sister, Lisa.

Ling captivates audiences with a raw and candid look inside the life of an international journalist, including the importance of exposing critical global issues, the challenges faced in various parts of the world, and what she learned in one of the world’s most recluse countries.

Eboo Patel

Eboo Patel is a leading voice in the movement for interfaith cooperation and the Founder and President of Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC), a national nonprofit working to make interfaith cooperation a social norm. He is the author of Acts of Faith, Sacred Ground and the forthcoming Interfaith Leadership. Named by U.S.News & World Report as one of America’s Best Leaders of 2009, Eboo served on President Obama’s Inaugural Faith Council. He is a regular contributor to the public conversation around religion in America and a frequent speaker on the topic of religious pluralism. He holds a doctorate in the sociology of religion from Oxford University, where he studied on a Rhodes scholarship. For over fifteen years, Eboo has worked with governments, social sector organizations, and college and university campuses to help realize a future where religion is a bridge of cooperation rather than a barrier of division.

Michael Patrick MacDonald

Michael Patrick MacDonald grew up in South Boston’s Old Colony housing project. After losing four siblings and seeing his generation decimated by poverty, crime, and addiction, he became a leading Boston activist, helping launch many antiviolence initiatives, including gun-buyback programs. He continues to work for social change nationally, collaborating with survivor families and young people.

MacDonald won the American Book Award in 2000. His national bestseller, All Souls, and his follow-up, Easter Rising: A Memoir of Roots and Rebellion have been adopted by university curriculums across the country. MacDonald has written numerous essays for the Boston Globe Op-Ed Page and has completed the screenplay of All Souls for director Ron Shelton. He is currently Author-in-Residence at Northeastern University. He lives in Brooklyn, NY.

Carol Steinberg

Attorney for 35 years, specializing in personal injury, toxic torts, and disability employment cases; eight year member of the Massachusetts Architectural Access Board that has made buildings accessible since 1968; president of the board of the Disability Law Center and member of Board for 12 years (I'm term-limited out in September), and a long-time member of the Massachusetts Multiple Sclerosis Society’s government relations committee which advocates for legislation that helps people with disabilities.

Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes

Jessica Kensky, a native Californian, and Patrick Downes, a native Cantabrigian, met on Capitol Hill in Washington in 2006 after graduating from the University of Arizona and Boston College, respectively. Jess soon moved to Baltimore where she received a nursing degree at Johns Hopkins and then worked in the medical center's oncology department. Patrick returned to Boston to finish a doctorate in clinical psychology.

After a few years in a long-distance relationship, Jess moved to Boston and continued her oncology nursing at Massachusetts General Hospital. Jess & Patrick were both injured during the Boston Marathon bombing; Jess losing both of her legs below the knee and Patrick losing one leg below the knee, among other injuries.

Jess and Patrick have spent the last year at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland after receiving special permission from the Secretary of Defense. In addition to working toward their own recoveries, the couple has devoted themselves to advocating for Wounded Warriors and people with disabilities. They have a home in Cambridge that they will return to after their rehabilitation at Walter Reed.

Will Lautzenheiser

Will Lautzenheiser was a filmmaker and professor of film production and screenwriting before a group A strep infection struck him in the fall of 2011, leaving him a quadrilateral amputee. The challenges, frustrations, and absurdities of this situation sent him in a new direction, arming him with material to perform stand-up and sketch comedy... or, rather, disarming him into doing sit-down comedy (at least in accessible venues). In the fall of 2014, he underwent experimental transplant surgery, receiving bilateral upper extremities from a donor. He is still in the rehab process for his new arms.

2014-2015 Friars Leaders


Synthia SAINT JAMES is a world renowned multicultural visual artist, an award winning author and or illustrator of 17 children's books, and author of 3 poetry books, a book of affirmations, a cookbook, a play, and the autobiographical book titled Living My Dream: An Artistic Approach to Marketing. She is also a popular speaker, educator and architectural designer who has garnered numerous awards. SAINT JAMES also serves as a Global Ambassador for Susan G. Komen for the Cure's "Circle of Promise." She is most celebrated for designing the first Kwanzaa Stamp for the United States Postal Service in 1997, for which she received a History Maker Award, and for the international cover art for Terry McMillan's book Waiting to Exhale

2013-2014 Friars Leaders

Abigail Disney

Abigail Disney's longtime passion for women's issues and peace-building culminated in her first film, the acclaimed Pray the Devil Back to Hell. Abigail produced the groundbreaking PBS mini-series Women, War & Peace, the most comprehensive global media initiative ever mounted on the role of women in peace and conflict. She is currently at work on a film that highlights the key role of women in the Arab Awakening. She founded the Daphne Foundation, Peace is Loud and co-founded, along with 2011 Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee, the Gbowee Peace Foundation, USA.

2012-2013 Friars Leaders

Jill Iscol

As leader-in-residence, Jill Iscol, author of Hearts on Fire: Twelve Stories of Today's Visionaries Igniting Idealism into Action, gave a lecture entitled "Hearts on Fire: Turning Your Idealism into Action." Iscol shared personal messages of hope intended to instruct and inspire the audience.

2011-2012 Friars Leaders

Robin Holder

Holder has been sought after as a panelist, lecturer, and consultant by a variety of cultural and educational institutions, such as Pratt Institute, New York State Council on the Arts, The Center for Arts Education and Parsons School of Design. Ms. Holder has completed several large scale site specific public art projects for The New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the Connecticut State Arts Commission and New Jersey Transit. Her work has been presented in numerous institutions including: The Parish Gallery, Washington DC; The Woodruff Arts Center, Atlanta; The Stella Jones Gallery, New Orleans; The International Print Center, New York City; Hammonds House Museum, Atlanta and Kent State University, Ohio. She was awarded an Individual Visual Artist Grant by The Brooklyn Arts Council to create Behind Each Window a Voice, a series of works inspired by oral histories of residents in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

2010-2011 Friars Leaders

Bette Uhrmacher

Bette Uhrmacher was a Judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey for more than 15 years. Seven of those years were served in the Civil Division, where she recently managed the medical malpractice calendar, as well as a complex civil calendar. Judge Uhrmacher has handled a broad spectrum of civil cases as well as handling some probate and general equity matters. For four years, Judge Uhrmacher was Presiding Judge of the Criminal Division. Prior to joining the bench, Judge Uhrmacher served as the Chief of the Civil Division of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of New Jersey. Additionally, she was Attorney-in-Charge of the Trenton U.S. Attorney's Office, and appointed to a Senior Litigation Counsel position. She also served an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia. Throughout her career, Judge Uhrmacher has been active in Teaching and Continuing Legal Education programs. She then served as Chair, Haydn Proctor Inn of Court, Monmouth County and is teaching Trial Presentation at Rutgers Law School–Newark. Currently she is engaged in an ADR private practice. Judge Uhrmacher received a J.D. from the University of Texas at Austin and a B.S. from Simmons.

2009-2010 Friars Leaders

Rhonda L. Seegal

Rhonda L. Seegal is Treasurer of Xerox Corporation, Norwalk, Connecticut. She is also a Corporate Vice President. Seegal oversees the capital structure of the corporation, including developing worldwide funding strategies and serving as the primary interface to the capital markets and credit rating agencies. Seegal joined Xerox in 2003 from Avaya Inc., where she was Vice President and Treasurer since 2000. Prior to Avaya, Seegal served as Deputy Treasurer of General Electric Co. from 1996-2000, and was responsible for developing financing for GE's industrial businesses. Seegal earned her M.B.A. from the Harvard Business School in 1979, and a B.A. in Communications and Spanish from Simmons in 1972.

2008-2009 Friars Leaders

Pauline Chen

Award-winning physician and author, Dr. Pauline Chen completed her general surgery training at Yale University and specializes in liver and kidney transplants and the treatment of cancer. She is the recipient of numerous awards including the UCLA Outstanding Physician of the Year Award in 1999 and the George Longstreth Humanness Award at Yale University. Chen is passionate about improving healthcare, with a particular focus on end-of-life patient care. She is author of Final Exam: A Surgeon's Reflections on Morality, a book that focuses on palliative patient care and the way surgeons handle the death of a patient.

2007-2008 Friars Leaders

Denise di Novi

Denise Di Novi is considered one of Hollywood’s top producers and has been instrumental in bringing to the screen the work of several of today’s most imaginative filmmakers. Di Novi began her career in journalism, rising from Copy Editor at the National Observer to Staff Writer for Canada AM in Toronto. Her writing skills and extensive experience with the media prompted her segue into the film industry, where she began as a Unit Publicist. Di Novi counts among her producing credits such diverse motion pictures as HeathersLittle Women and a number of films during her producing association with Tim Burton, including Edward ScissorhandsBatman ReturnsTim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas,Ed Wood and James and the Giant Peach.

Tina Packer

Tina Packer the artistic director and founder of Shakespeare & Company, and is one of the country's foremost experts on Shakespeare and theatre arts. She is the recipient of more than 18 awards, honors, and fellowships including the 2001 Elliot Norton Award for Continued Excellence in Theatre. She also received Guggenheim and Bunting Fellowships for her own performance piece exploring Shakespeare's women, "Women of Will: Parts I, II and III." She is the author of Tales from Shakespeare, which won a Parents' Choice Award, andPower Plays: Shakespeare's Lessons in Leadership and Management.

2005-2006 Friars Leaders

Evelyn Murphy

Evelyn Murphy is President of The WAGE Project, Inc., a national organization to end wage discrimination against working women, and Resident Scholar in the Women’s Studies Research Center at Brandeis University, where she has researched and authored a book on women’s wages entitled Getting Even: Why Women Don’t Get Paid Like Men and What To Do About It, published by Simon & Schuster in October 2005. She is a corporate director of SBLI USA Mutual Life Insurance Company and Citizens Energy Corporation.

In her civic role, she serves as a founding director of The Commonwealth Institute, a trustee of Regis College, Honorary Chair of the Lost Coin Women’s Fund, Inc., a director of The Polaris Project, and a visitor of Boston University’s School of Public Health. In the late 1970s, she served as Massachusetts Secretary of Environmental Affairs with responsibility for the state’s environmental policy. After an unsuccessful campaign for Lt. Governor in 1982, she was appointed the state's Secretary of Economic Affairs from 1983-1985. In 1986, Evelyn Murphy was elected Lt. Governor and became the first woman in the state’s 210 year history to hold constitutional office.

2004-2005 Friars Leaders

Trudy Coxe

Ms. Coxe is the Chief Executive Officer of the Preservation Society of Newport County, the largest cultural organization in Rhode Island protecting and preserving that area’s architectural heritage, which includes the famous Newport mansions. Her positions in government include five years as the Massachusetts Secretary of Environmental Affairs and 11 years as Executive Director of Rhode Island’s Save the Bay. She has been honored for her environmental work and serves on many non-profit boards including the Appalachian Mountain Club and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. She also has the experience of running for Congress in Rhode Island.

2003-2004 Friars Leaders

Flori Roberts

After appearing in several Broadway productions, Flori changed careers, embraced entrepreneurship, and formed her own fashion consulting firm. In 1965 she became a pioneer of niche marketing by co-founding Flori Roberts Cosmetics for the African-American Woman, with her husband Dr. Craig Roberts. They continued to set trends and standards in the beauty industry by developing Dermablend Corrective Cosmetics, for people with serious to small skin flaws. The company was later sold and Flori continued as an authority in camouflage make-up. Flori Roberts has also been influential in developing mentoring programs for entrepreneurial women and has become an activist in helping women advance to positions of leadership in business, as well as philanthropy. She is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University.

2001-2002 Friars Leaders

Paula A. Sneed

Paula Sneed graduated Simmons in 1969 and currently sits on the Simmons Board of Trustees. She was the Group Vice President at Kraft Foods North America and President of E-Commerce and Marketing Services.