University of St. Francis celebrates spring with commencement

The University of St. Francis (USF) will celebrate spring with two commencement ceremonies on May 3 at its Joliet campus.

The day will begin with 199 master’s degree graduates from 24 states plus Vancouver and Ontario, Canada and Chile, along with two doctor of nursing practice (DNP) students from New York and Arizona, receiving their diplomas at the 9 a.m. commencement ceremony.

The morning commencement address will be delivered by the Rev. Judy Cummings. A USF alumna with a bachelor of science degree in Health Arts, Cummings is senior pastor of the historic New Covenant Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Nashville, Tenn., where she is the first woman pastor in the church’s 151-year history.

Cummings is a, acclaimed preacher, teacher, revivalist, retreat, and conference speaker. She holds degrees from Tennessee State University School of Nursing; the University of St. Francis; the master of Divinity degree from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; and has earned the doctor of Ministry degree in Preaching and Church Leadership from Asbury Theological Seminary. Her dissertation, “The Stained Glass Ceiling in Black Baptist Churches: The Continuing Paradox of Liberation” has already contributed to the study of the role and function of clergywomen, particularly in the Black Church. Cummings has publications with the African American Lectionary and other theological journals and papers.

An advocate for justice, Cummings works diligently in the community serving on various community boards and organizations. She is president of the Interdenominational Ministers Fellowship, an active member of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc.; a charter member of the National Council of Negro Women Middle Tennessee Section; board member of Renewal House; board member of Operation Andrew Group; and a member of the 2012-2013 Leadership Nashville Class. She is the immediate past director of the Nashville Chapter of the National Consortium of Black Women in Ministry and the immediate past president of Women in Numbers, a non-partisan political organization, which seeks to help women get elected to public office. She served 12 years as a commissioner with the Metropolitan Planning Commission. Cummings has received numerous awards and recognitions.

Diplomas for bachelor of arts, business administration, education, nursing, sciences and social work degrees will be awarded at the afternoon commencement, beginning at 1 p.m. Some 259 students from 17 states plus Lithuania will receive diplomas.

Joliet native and USF alumnus Craig Herkert II will give the afternoon commencement address to bachelor degree recipients.

An expert in supermarket and discount retail, Herkert is a consultant to clients worldwide. He was previously chief executive officer and president of SUPERVALU, a leader in the grocery retailing industry. With a three-decade career in the industry, Herkert got his start as a teenager, bagging groceries at Jewel-Osco in Chicago. He stayed with the company, building a successful career that took him from store operations to a number of executive roles across merchandising, marketing, procurement and president of Acme Markets in Philadelphia. Herkert left the Albertsons organization in 2000 for his nine-year tenure with Wal-Mart, where he ultimately held the position of executive vice president, chief executive officer and president of the Americas. In 2009, Herkert returned to his roots at SUPERVALU, which, in 2006, had acquired key retail properties of Albertsons, Inc., including Jewel-Osco, where his career began.

Along with a business degree from USF, Herkert earned an MBA at Northern Illinois University. He received the USF Presidential Alumnus of the Year Award in 2011.

Now living in Orono, Minn., Herkert has served as a member of the following boards: Skylark Opera (2014); SUPERVALU (2009-2012); Consumer Goods Forum (2010-2012); and the Food Marketing Institute (2009-2012).

Both commencement ceremonies will be in the university’s Sullivan Recreation Center. Tickets are required to attend.

The public is invited to the Baccalaureate Mass at 4 p.m. on Sunday, April 27 in St Joseph Chapel, Motherhouse.

The University of St. Francis, at 500 Wilcox St. in Joliet, serves 3,400 students nationwide, offering undergraduate, graduate and doctoral programs in arts and science, business, education, nursing, health care and social work. For information, call (800) 735-7500 or visit

Media Inquiries:
Nancy Pohlman, Executive Director of Community Relations
(815) 740-3379 |