Leahys to Receive Honorary Degrees from Champlain College

Marcelle Leahy, registered nurse and humanitarian, will address Champlain College on-campus undergraduates during the 10 AM Commencement ceremony. She and her husband, former Senator Patrick J. Leahy (D-VT), will receive honorary degrees from Champlain: a Doctor of Public Service, Honoris Causa.

Watch Marcelle Leahy’s commencement address to the Champlain College on-campus undergraduate Class of 2024.

Marcelle Leahy has served medical organizations in Vermont and across the nation. She has held board positions for the Vermont Nursing Initiatives and the Visiting Nurses Association among others, and currently serves on the board of the Cancer Research and Prevention Foundation. 

As a melanoma survivor, Marcelle Leahy has long been recognized for her commitment to promoting the early detection of skin cancer. She has spent her life advocating for Vermonters alongside former Senator Patrick J. Leahy, championing initiatives to improve access to healthcare, economic opportunity, justice, and equal rights and has been applauded for her ability to bring people together across political boundaries. 

As a former honorary chair of the Vermont National Guard Family Readiness and Support Program, she offered leadership and inspiration to a cadre of volunteers helping National Guard member families before, during, and following deployment.

Marcelle Leahy

Senator Patrick J. Leahy is the longest-serving U.S. Senator in Vermont history and the third longest-serving U.S. Senator in American history. Sen. Leahy represented Vermont over eight terms in the Senate and retired in January 2023 after 48 years of service. He served as President Pro Tempore of the Senate twice, from 2012-2015 and from 2021-2023. He chaired three major committees—Appropriations, Judiciary, and Agriculture—during a tenure that began in 1975. Prior to becoming a Senator, he served multiple terms as State’s Attorney, beginning in 1966.

Sen. Leahy’s legacy in the Senate is defined largely by his support for agriculture, environmental protection, technology, and healthcare – much of which benefited Vermont directly. His introduction of small-state minimums in budget bills effectively appropriated billions of dollars of additional funding to his home state. 

Sen. Leahy has long been regarded as the Senate’s foremost leader on human rights issues in U.S. foreign policy. Some of his crowning achievements include The Leahy Law, which bars U.S. foreign aid support to units of foreign militaries that violate the rights of their citizens. He was the lead author of legislation banning the export of anti-personnel landmines which was the impetus for an international treaty to ban them. He established the Leahy War Victims Fund which is used by USAID throughout the world to help civilians maimed by landmines and other weapons of war. 

Sen. Leahy was a longtime advocate for improving relations with Cuba and Vietnam, working with Democratic and Republican administrations to change the Cold War policies towards Cuba as well as restore diplomatic relations and support post-war legacy programs in Vietnam.

Former Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-VT)

As a chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, he brought many ‘born-in-Vermont’ ideas into nationwide policy and programs. Leahy has long been recognized as the ‘father’ of the national organic standards and labeling program, and he was a leader in the work to create and fund the Farm to School program. During his time in the Senate, he secured annual funding for Lake Champlain, supported the Vermont dairy industry, and added more than 140 acres to the Green Mountain National Forest. 

An avid and accomplished photographer, Leahy also has appeared in major motion pictures featuring his favorite superhero, Batman. Sen. Leahy currently holds an appointment as President’s Distinguished Fellow at the University of Vermont. 

Sen. Leahy was born and raised in Montpelier, Vermont where his parents operated a printing press business. He is a 1961 graduate of St. Michael’s College in Colchester, and of the Georgetown University Law Center (1964).

The Leahys have been married for nearly 60 years. Together, they raised three children in both Vermont and Washington, and have throughout maintained the Leahy family home, a tree farm in Middlesex, Vermont. 

You can watch a livestream of Marcelle Leahy’s speech and the conferring of the Leahys’ honorary degrees at commencement.champlain.edu during the 10 AM ceremony on Saturday, May 11.

More 2024 On-Campus Undergraduates
On-Campus Undergraduate 2024 Commencement Livestream
Class of 2024 Candidates for On-Campus Undergraduate Degrees
2024 Commencement Program: 10 AM Ceremony