Loyola University Chicago



Sister Jean, three others to receive honorary degrees


Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt, BVM, has been a fixture at the University for decades. Over the years, she has inspired countless Loyolans with her faithful life and unfailing energy. (Photo: Natalie Battaglia)

This year, Loyola has the honor of bestowing four deserving recipients with honorary degrees.

A beloved campus figure for decades at Loyola, Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt, BVM, will receive her honorary degree May 13 at the College of Arts & Sciences morning Commencement ceremony. Loyola is conferring this degree to Sister Jean in response and gratitude toward her lifetime of devotion to the Loyola community and the countless others that she has touched during her faithful life.

Sister Jean, 96, has been at the Lake Shore Campus since 1961 and has served in a number of capacities since then. Not only can she be found chatting with students in the Damen Student Center, but she also serves as the chaplain of the Water Tower Campus and the men’s basketball team.

Sister Jean has lived in the residence halls, implementing programs such as SMILE (Students Moving Into the Lives of the Elderly) and prayer groups. She is a truly beloved figure at Loyola who has inspired thousands of students with her unfailing energy, faith, and warmth.

Also receiving honorary degrees are these three recipients, who will speak at Commencement:

Mary Ann Hynes (BA ‘90) is general counsel for the Archdiocese of Chicago, as well as a champion of professional women in law and other leadership positions. During her career, Hynes has focused on expanding opportunities for women and championing the cause of diversity in the legal profession. Since 2002, she has been the director of the Dr. Scholl Foundation, a private grant-making foundation that provides financial assistance to charitable organizations. Hynes will receive her honorary degree May 13.

Bill Plante (BS ‘ 59) is an Emmy Award–winning reporter who has been with CBS News for more than 50 years, covering every presidential campaign from 1968 to 2016. Plante is the senior White House correspondent, and his reports are seen regularly on CBS This Morning and CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley. Plante served for nine years on the Loyola Board of Trustees and has returned frequently as a guest speaker at the University. Plante will receive his honorary degree May 12.

Dr. Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa went from being a migrant worker from Mexico to graduating cum laude with a medical degree from Harvard. In 2011, he co-founded Mission:BRAIN, a nonprofit organization providing neurosurgical resources to patients, caregivers, and health care providers in underserved areas. Today, he performs 250 brain surgeries a year and is a professor at Johns Hopkins University. Quiñones-Hinojosa will receive his honorary degree May 13.

What do all those different colors and gowns mean?


The custom of wearing academic gowns, hoods, and caps dates back to about the 12th century, when most scholars belonged to a religious order.

Long gowns and hoods were standard dress for medieval clergy, who often studied and taught in cold buildings. The style and coloring of the robe, hood, and, sometimes, skull cap denoted an edu­cated individual. From the end of the 16th century to the present, members of the clergy, law profes­sionals, and academics have worn robes.

Sometime in the 14th century, English univer­sities began to use the dress to distinguish levels of education. Modeled on the English system, the American Academic Costume Code was estab­lished in 1895 by a commission of delegates from the Ivy League and New York universities.

The Costume Code calls for three types of gowns: doctoral, master’s, and bachelor’s. The doc­toral gown is the most elaborate, with front-facing velvet and three velvet bars on each of the full, bil­lowing sleeves. The velvet can be black, PhD blue, or the academic color to which the degree corre­sponds. The master’s gown is distinctive for its ex­tremely long, closed sleeves, the arms protruding through a slit at the elbow. The bachelor’s gown is the simplest of the three, a plain gown with long, pointed sleeves.

Doctoral and master’s degrees are also indicat­ed by a hood, distinctive in shape, size, and color. The doctor’s hood is easily recognizable, with wide velvet edging that indicates the degree earned and full exposure of the lining. The master’s hood is the same length as the doctor’s hood but does not fully expose the lining, and the velvet edging is not as wide. For both hoods, the lining indicates the col­ors of the institution conferring the degree.

Mortarboards, the distinctive four-pointed caps, are worn by academics at all levels. In recent years, doctors have taken to wearing a soft velvet tam instead.

The significance of insignia

The following is a brief list of common colors used by the Academic Costume Code to denote field of study:

Arts White
Business administration Drab
Communication Maroon
Education Light blue
Law Purple
Medicine Green
Nursing Apricot
Pastoral Studies Red
Philosophy PhD Dark Blue
Science Yellow gold
Social work Citron
Theology Scarlet