Speakers, Degree Recipients, and Honorees

Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony Speaker

Anthony G. Katagas

Anthony Katagas is one of the most prolific producers working in American independent film. Winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture for his role in producing 12 Years a Slave, he has produced nearly 35 films in the last twelve years.

Along with his Oscar, Katagas’ awards include a BAFTA, Golden Globe, Broadcast Critics’ Choice, Independent Spirit and the coveted Darryl F. Zanuck PGA award for Best Picture. Additionally, his films have garnered nominations or awards from the DGA, SAG, National Board of Review, Gotham Awards, New York Film Critics, and Los Angeles Film Critics and appeared on the prestigious AFI list for achievement in film.

A 1992 graduate of Western New England University, Katagas earned a degree in Government and was an accomplished lacrosse player. He went on to study acting, photography, and screenwriting at New York University and in 1999 started Keep Your Head Productions, geared towards producing independent films in his hometown, New York City.

Katagas has worked with award-winning filmmakers including John Hillcoat, Steve McQueen, Wes Craven, Lasse Hallstrom, and Sofia Coppola. He has produced films including Andrew Dominik’s Killing Them Softly starring Brad Pitt; Justin Zackham’s The Big Wedding starring Robert DeNiro, Robin Williams, Susan Sarandon, and Diane Keaton; and James Gray’s The Immigrant starring Joaquin Phoenix, Jeremy Renner, and Marion Cotillard.

A native of Long Island, Katagas lives in Manhattan with his wife and daughters.

Doctoral, Law, Pharmacy and Master's Commencement Ceremony Speaker

Gale D. Candaras

candaras2jpgGale Candaras served as a Democrat in the Massachusetts Senate and House of Representatives for nearly two decades.

After working in a volunteer capacity in town government for several years, Candaras was elected as State Representative for the 12th Hampden District, the largest district in the state, in 1997. In 2007 she was elected to the Massachusetts State Senate, where she served the First Hampden and Hampshire District until stepping down in January 2015. During her distinguished tenure in the Massachusetts Senate, she chaired the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies and was vice chair of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary.

While serving in state government, Candaras was instrumental in helping to rewrite the state’s alimony laws as well as passing tough drunk driving and anti-drag racing legislation. She continually worked to ensure Western Massachusetts towns received more equitable funding from Boston. She was also a strong advocate for private higher education.

An attorney, Candaras is licensed to practice law in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York. She has practiced family and business law in Hartford and Springfield as well as working for Goldman Sachs in New York City.

Candaras graduated magna cum laude from Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey, and in 1983 received her Juris Doctor from the Western New England College School of Law.

A native of Brooklyn, NY, Candaras resides with her husband and Professor of Law Arthur Wolf in Wilbraham, MA. They have one grown son.