Honorary Degree Recipients
Charles R. Johnson
Robert I. Unanue
Photo by Michael Stahl Portraits
Mary Alice Williams
Dr. Charles Johnson is an award-winning writer, academic, artist and philosopher, with a career spanning five decades as one of the preeminent voices of his generation.
Presenting his messages to the world through fiction, nonfiction, screenplays and drawings, Johnson’s career began as an artist in the early 1970’s, with over 1,000 of his drawings appearing in national publications and later compiled in the 2002 book “Humor Me: An Anthology of Humor by Writers of Color”. Johnson himself also published two collections of his drawings, “Black Humor” (1970), a collection of racial satire, and “Half-Past Nation Time” (1972).
As an author, Johnson has published numerous works of fiction, including the 1990 book “Middle Passage”, which won the distinguished U.S. National Book Award for Fiction. The honor made Johnson the first African-American man since Ralph Ellison in 1953 to receive the award. His first work of fiction, “Faith and the Good Thing”, was published in 1974, and was followed by books including “Oxherding Tale” (1982), and “Dreamer” (1998). He has also published a young adult book titled “Bending Time: The Adventures of Emery Jones, Boy Science Wonder”, which he co-authored with his daughter, Elisheba. Also a writer of short stories, he has published three collections of original works, including “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” (1986), “Soulcatcher and Other Stories (2001), and “Dr. King’s Refrigerator and Other Bedtime Stories (2005).
Dr. Johnson has also published several works in the nonfiction realm, beginning with “Black Men Speaking”, a book he co-authored with John McCluskey Jr., in 1997. Since, he has published “Africans in America” (co-written with Patricia Smith) in 1998, “Turning the Wheel: Essays on Buddhism and Writing” in 2003 and “Taming the Ox: Buddhist Stories, and Reflections on Politics, Race, Culture, and Spiritual Practice” in 2014. He also co-authored the 2000 book “King: The Photobiography of Martin Luther King Jr.” with Bob Adelman.
Also an accomplished screenplay writer, Johnson has written over 20 screenplays during his career, including “Booker”, a story about the childhood of Booker T. Washington that received a Writers Guild Award for being the “outstanding script in 1985 in the category of Television Children’s Shows”. In addition, he created, hosted and co-produced “Charlie’s Pad”, a PBS how-to-draw series from 1970-1980 and served as one of two writer-producers on the PBS Series “Up and Coming” in 1981.
In 2003, the Charles Johnson Society was inaugurated at the American Literature Association, a literary Society devoted to scholarly papers and articles on Johnson’s work and the genre of philosophical fiction in general. Several literary studies of his work have been published, including “Charles Johnson’s Spiritual Imagination” by Jonathan Little (1997), “Charles Johnson’s Novels: Writing the American Palimpsest” by Rudolph P. Byrd (2005) and most recently “The Words and Wisdom of Charles Johnson” by Dzanc Books (2015).
Earning a Ph.D. in philosophy from SUNY-Stony Brook in 1988, Johnson was also the recipient of an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award for Literature in 2002, and a Governor’s Award for Literature in 1989. A Professor Emeritus at the University of Washington, he currently sponsors the Marie Clair Davis Award in Creative Writing at Evanston (Il.) Township High School and the Charles Johnson Student Fiction Award, a national contest held at his alma mater, Southern Illinois University.
The departing Chair of the Bloomfield College Board of Trustees, Martin McKerrow leaves an indelible legacy at the institution after a 15-year tenure as a member of the Board.
Spending the majority of his professional career in the financial services industry, McKerrow retired in 2006 after spending 22 years at Neuberger Berman. Serving as both a partner and managing director, he focused his energies on business development, client communication and risk management. Also a co-manager of the firm’s fixed income asset management activities, McKerrow served as Executive Director of the firm’s joint venture with international bank BNP Paribas, and headed the Client Service department.
Assuming the role of Chair of Bloomfield’s Board of Trustees in 2004, McKerrow has overseen a period of tremendous physical expansion on the institution’s 11-acre campus. During his tenure, the College has completed several projects to enhance student living spaces, headlined by the new Franklin Street Residence Hall, which was completed in August 2014 and has revitalized downtown Bloomfield Center. The College also refurbished the 225 Liberty Street Residence Hall into a suite-style apartment living area, and has acquired a nearby nursing home that will be repurposed into a student housing space.
The institution has also made numerous improvements to the learning and service environments provided to students, including the building of new science laboratories, the acquisition and redevelopment of the school’s Social and Behavioral Sciences building and the rebuilding of academic spaces including Jarvie Hall, Knox Hall and Voorhees Hall. The College will also break ground on a new state-of-the-art home for its award-winning Division of Creative Arts & Technology in May 2015, the latest project in the institution’s comprehensive 10-year Campus Master Plan.
Martin and his wife, Toni, have enjoyed over 45 years together. They have two married sons and five wonderful grandchildren. They travel frequently, attempting to include a new destination while returning to their favorite haunts, including Paris. In retirement, McKerrow is active in several not-for-profits while devoting his free time to his family and competitive sailing. He divides his time between New York and Nantucket.
In addition to Bloomfield College, he serves on the Board of the Nantucket Shellfish Association, is President of Nantucket Community Sailing, is a member of the Vestry of St. Paul’s Church in Nantucket, and is a Governor of the Nantucket Yacht Club. He earned his B.A. from Kenyon College and his M.B.A. from Columbia University Graduate School of Business.
Prior to being named President of Goya Foods in 2004, Robert “Bob” Unanue held several key positions at the company both in the United States and abroad. At a young age, Bob worked in GOYA’s production line, packing olives and olive oil in Brooklyn, NY. He also worked the printing press and even drove delivery trucks in the early stages of his career. While at college Bob studied accounting at Merrimack College in North Andover, Massachusetts, as well as at the University of Seville where he was instrumental in establishing GOYA’s foothold in Spain. Today, the Seville unit of GOYA is a significant olive exporter to the United States.
Upon completing his education, Bob joined GOYA as a buyer and implemented four new bean packing lines. After this assignment, he relocated to GOYA de Puerto Rico as Purchasing Director in 1980. In 1983, Bob advanced to Vice President and General Manager of the company and was instrumental in establishing a steel cutting factory (Island Coil Corp.) as well as lithography (Island Litho Corp.) for Goya’s can making facility (Island Can Corp.).
In 1990, Bob returned to GOYA Foods Inc. in New Jersey as Vice-President of Operations. During this period, he introduced a new production line of Ready Cooked Rice and managed GOYA’s 11 warehouses in the United States. In 1997, Bob was appointed President of GOYA Foods in California. In 1999, he was named President of GOYA, Florida where he was responsible for the Miami and Tampa facilities as well as exporting GOYA’s products.
Bob sits on the Board of Directors of the Maestro Cares Foundation and New Jersey City University. He is also an active member of the American Cancer Society CEO’s Against Cancer. He has six children and four grandchildren.
Mary Alice Williams is a highly acclaimed broadcast journalist with a wealth of experience in the field. Her investigative work on such topics as foreign policy, ethics, technology and health have made her a respected authority and recognized voice for public information.
Currently the host of NJTV News (the network’s weeknight news broadcast), Williams assumed the role in July 2014, continuing her decorated career by making a full-time return to public television.
As one of the primary architects behind the design of CNN, the first worldwide television network, Williams oversaw the construction of CNN’s New York Bureau at the World Trade Center prior to the launch of Cable News Network (CNN) in 1980 and served as the channel’s principal anchor and Vice President in charge of the New York Bureau until 1989.
She also contributed to CNN’s award-winning program lineup and played a major role in the network’s development and globalization. She was a critical member of CNN’s political anchor team and oversaw the planning and operation of the network’s second-largest bureau with responsibility for seven hours of original programming per day. In 1982, Williams was appointed Vice President, becoming one of the highest-ranking female executives in American television.
After her tenure at CNN, Williams was an anchor on the NBC News team that won a national Emmy Award for its coverage of the fall of communism. During her stint with NBC from 1989–1993, she also anchored programs including “Sunday Today”, “NBC News Special Reports”, “Yesterday Today & Tomorrow” and NBC’s extended coverage of “Desert Storm: War in the Gulf”. Williams was also a frequent anchor and correspondent for “NBC Nightly News”, “Sunrise” and “The Today Show”.
In the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks, she wrote and hosted a three-hour PBS special “Reaching Out to Heal”. She also hosted a companion program to Bill Moyers’ “On Our Own Terms”, about death and dying, which aired in Fall 2000 on PBS. As host of Hallmark’s weekly “True North” program on personal ethics, Williams earned the 2001 Gracie Allen Award and the 2001 Donald McGannon Ethics in Media Award.
Her 90-minute PBS special on alcoholism and addiction, “Within Reach”, along with her work as a PBS contributing correspondent and anchor on “Religion & Ethics Newsweekly” have established Williams as a recognized commentator and reporter on broad issues of ethics. One of the highest rated documentaries ever broadcast on Lifetime Television, “Picture What Women Do”, about women, work and the American family was written and hosted by Williams, winning the 1995 Exceptional Merit Media Award given by the National Women’s Political Caucus.
A published author, Williams adapted her weekly interview program for the Hallmark Channel about strategies for overcoming life’s toughest challenges into a book, “Quiet Triumphs”, published by Harper Collins.
Williams has received fourteen honorary doctorates for her outstanding contributions to journalism and television. Born in Minneapolis, she chose to raise her family in New Jersey, where she still resides.