Honorary Degree Citation: U.S. Sen. Peter Welch ’69

Honorary Degree Citation
College of the Holy Cross
May 26, 2023

Empathetic and outspoken leader. Dedicated community organizer. Unwavering advocate for a fair and free democracy, protecting the civil rights of every individual under the law. 

Sen. Peter Welch ‘69, for more than four decades, you have served the people of Vermont and the United States, ensuring their voices are heard and rights protected. At the state and federal levels, you have gained a reputation of amplifying the voices of the working class and stressing the importance of education in our nation’s future. Your colleagues know you as someone who collaborates across the aisle and listens as much as he speaks. 

As an undergraduate, you arrived at the College of the Holy Cross already with an interest in politics and civil rights. Your conscience led you away from campus to help others. You temporarily left Holy Cross to spend a year doing community organizing in Chicago, a city you would later return to as one of the first Robert F. Kennedy fellows when you advocated against racist housing policies in the city. You returned to Holy Cross and graduated in 1969 before enrolling at the University of California Berkeley law school. 

After graduating on the West Coast, you returned East and served as a public defender in Vermont before establishing your own law practice. In continuing to ensure the law served everyone, you ran for state senate and was elected in 1980. Five years later, your colleagues unanimously elected you to lead the chamber becoming the first Democrat in Vermont to hold the position of President Pro Tempore. 

In 2006, you began a campaign for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives and garnered national attention by refusing to run negative advertisements against your opponent. Vermont voters elected you to Congress as you became the first Democrat to represent the state in the House in more than 40 years and only the second since 1853. 

In Congress, you’ve advocated for the sustainability of the environment, the safety of children in schools, the affordability of education and the civil rights of all people regardless of their race, sexual orientation or gender identity. You served as a chief deputy whip for the House Democratic Caucus, the Energy and Commerce Committee, Oversight and Reform Committee and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

In 2022, you were elected to the United State senate. As a United States senator, your priorities and ideals remain dedicated to the less fortunate. 

That all may know of our great esteem for you and our strong support for your distinguished career as a community organizer, politician, and your advocacy for the environment and human rights, the College of the Holy Cross confers upon you this day the degree, Doctor of Laws. 

Vincent D. Rougeau, President

Ann Marie Leshkowich, Ph.D., Interim Provost and Dean of the College