Commencement Speaker

Dr. Barry Black '89 (M)

Dr. Barry Black '89 (M), the first African American to serve as chaplain of the United States Senate, will present the Commencement address and be awarded an honorary doctorate in humane letters during Salve Regina's 66th commencement on Sunday, May 15.

Elected in 2003 as the first African American Senate chaplain, Black had previously served for 27 years in the U.S. Navy, retiring as a rear admiral and as chief of Navy chaplains. He received a master's degree in human development from Salve Regina in 1989.

In addition to opening the Senate each day in prayer, Black provides counseling and spiritual care for senators, their families and staff – a combined constituency of more than 7,000 people. He also meets with senators about spiritual and moral issues, assists with research on theological and biblical questions, and facilitates discussion and reflection. The office of the chaplain is nonpartisan, nonpolitical and nonsectarian.

Black, who is the 62nd chaplain of the U.S. Senate, also conducts marriage enrichment counseling and officiates at weddings, funerals and memorial services. He initiates and participates in special and seasonal observances, leads interdenominational prayer gatherings, and cultivates relationships with local clergy and leaders of humanitarian agencies.

The Baltimore native was commissioned as a Navy chaplain in 1976, serving at duty stations across the country, including Newport, where he taught the Naval Chaplains School Advanced Course. Other stations included Norfolk, Va.; Philadelphia; Annapolis, Md.; Okinawa, Japan; San Diego; Long Beach, Calif.; Beaufort, S.C.; and Pensacola, Fla.

As rear admiral, Black's personal decorations included the Defense Meritorious Service Medal (twice), Legion of Merit Medal, Meritorious Service Medals (twice), the Navy Distinguished Service Medal, the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals (twice) and numerous unit awards, campaign and service medals.

Black is an alumnus of Oakwood College, Andrews University, North Carolina Central University, Palmer Theological Seminary and Alliant International University. He holds master's degrees in divinity, counseling and management, a doctoral degree in ministry and a Ph.D. in psychology.

Black has been selected for many outstanding achievements. Of particular note, he was chosen from 127 nominees for the 1995 NAACP Renowned Service Award for his contributions to equal opportunity and civil rights. He also received the 2002 Benjamin Elijah Mays Distinguished Leadership Award from The Morehouse School of Religion. In 2004, the Old Dominion University chapter of the NAACP conferred on him the Image Award – Reaffirming the Dream, Realizing the Vision – for military excellence.