UPenn Presents Sister Mary an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters
On Monday, May 18, 2020, Sister Mary Scullion, co-founder and executive director of Project HOME received an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from the University of Pennsylvania.
This honorary Doctorate is one of several types of honorary degrees. Universities choose to confer the degree to individuals who have distinguished themselves, usually in areas related to the humanities or for contributions to society in general. Other 2020 honorees included Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, Anthony M. Kennedy, American historian, and author Jill Lepore, and Nobel Prize winner Gregg L. Semenza.
For over four decades, Sister Mary has deeply engaged in service and advocacy for those experiencing homelessness and mental health issues. She and co-founder Joan Dawson-McConnon have developed Project HOME into a nationally recognized organization, noted for providing supportive housing, employment, education, and health care to enable chronically homeless and low-income persons to break the cycle of homelessness and poverty. Since 1989, Project HOME has grown from an emergency winter shelter to a comprehensive solution to homelessness with 900 housing units and several businesses providing employment to formerly homeless persons.
Sister Mary’s work began in 1976, having joined the Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy in 1972 when entering college. In 1985, she co-founded Women of Hope to provide permanent residences and support for homeless mentally ill women. Three years later, she established the Outreach Coordination Center, the nation’s first program to more systemically assist homeless persons with special needs in finding housing and shelter. Project HOME’s Stephen Klein Wellness Center, opened in 2015, is a model for integrated health, behavioral and wellness services. A state-of-the-art technology center now offers after-school enrichment, a college access program, and adult educational and occupational programming.
Sister Mary is also a powerful voice on political issues affecting those experiencing homelessness and mental health issues. Her advocacy has resulted in the right of homeless persons to vote as well as a landmark federal court decision that affects the fair housing rights of persons with disabilities.
A graduate of Saint Joseph’s University, Sister Mary earned her Master of Social Work from Temple University. Philadelphia Inquirer selected her as its 2011 Citizen of the Year. In 2009, Time named her one of the World’s Most Influential People. Sister Mary has received the Philadelphia Award, the University of Notre Dame’s Laetare Medal, and the Eisenhower Fellowship’s Distinguished Alumnus Award. She serves on the Board of The Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation and as a Saint Joseph’s University Trustee, and she was a member of the City of Philadelphia’s Board of Ethics.