Deval Patrick

Deval Patrick on stage receiving his honorary degree with Ohad Elhelo, Provost Lisa Lynch and President Ron Liebowitz

Left to Right: Ohad Elhelo ’16, MAief’17, Deval Patrick, Provost Lisa Lynch, P’17, President Ron Liebowitz

Deval Patrick served two terms as the 71st governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, from 2007 to 2015. He is the first African-American to be elected to that position.

Patrick is currently a managing director at Bain Capital Double Impact, which pursues investments that deliver both a competitive financial return and a significant positive social impact.

He also serves as chair of the advisory board for Our Generation Speaks, an innovative fellowship program that, in partnership with Brandeis and MassChallenge, helps young Israeli and Palestinian leaders start sustainable ventures that can create jobs, build bridges and nurture hope in their communities.

Raised by a single mother on the South Side of Chicago, Patrick came to Massachusetts at age 14 when he earned a scholarship to Milton Academy. After graduating from Harvard College and Harvard Law School, he clerked for a federal appellate judge, then launched a career as an attorney and a business executive, becoming partner at two Boston law firms, and a senior executive at Texaco and Coca-Cola.  

In 1994, President Bill Clinton appointed Patrick to the nation’s top civil-rights post, assistant attorney general for civil rights in the U.S. Department of Justice. During his tenure, Patrick led a sweeping investigation of an outbreak of arsons at predominately black churches throughout the South. Until the probe into 9/11, it was the largest investigation ever mounted by the U.S. government.

In his first bid for public office, Patrick, a Democrat, was elected governor of Massachusetts. At the State House, he oversaw the expansion of affordable health care to more than 98 percent of the Commonwealth’s residents, launched initiatives stimulating clean energy and biotechnology, won a national Race

to the Top grant, and steered Massachusetts from a recession to a 25-year high in employment.  

He is the author of the books “A Reason to Believe: Lessons From an Improbable Life” (2011) and “Faith in the Dream: A Call to the Nation to Reclaim American Values” (2012).

Honorary Degree Citation

As the title of your memoir eloquently observes, yours has been an “improbable” life. Born on Chicago’s South Side, raised by a single mother who struggled to make ends meet, you won a scholarship to Milton Academy, then went on to graduate from Harvard College and Harvard Law School. You have been both a partner at prestigious law firms and a senior executive at Texaco and Coca-Cola. President Bill Clinton appointed you to the nation’s highest civil-rights post, even though years earlier — when he was the Arkansas governor and you were an attorney at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund — you sued him in a voting-rights case. And, in perhaps the most improbable twist of all, you won your very first bid for public office, becoming the first African-American to serve as governor of Massachusetts. Throughout these unlikely turns, one thread is constant: You appeal to our better angels, urging us to do what we can to help others and build a stronger community. This advocacy continues at Our Generation Speaks, a leadership program whose advisory board you chair, which partners with Brandeis and MassChallenge to bring young Israeli and Palestinian leaders together to jump-start ventures that will uplift their neighbors back home. For all that you have accomplished, we are pleased to recognize you with Brandeis University’s highest honor.