NBA champion, civil rights advocate, and author Bill Russell advised 1,672 graduating students to go out and help create a civil society in his commencement address on Sunday, May 20, 2007, at the TD Banknorth Garden.

Suffolk University’s Centennial Commencement brought together students from the Law School, College of Arts and Sciences, and Sawyer Business School.

Russell told the graduates: "Kindness is an act of strength ... and a society that is kind is a civil society.

"I have as much regard for Suffolk University as I have for any school on the planet, because this school, not only gave you lessons, but tried to impart a philosophy, a philosophy on how to be a good citizen. Now, your work is just beginning. And again, I repeat to you, do not be afraid.

"I also ask you to take the responsibility of trying to make this society all that it can be. And each of you are one of the instruments of change. And so I thank you for being here today, because it makes me think that some of the things that we have done in the past have made this possible. ..."

The following honorary degrees were awarded:

Bill Russell, Doctor of Humane Letters.
•Attorney John J. Gardner, 'JD 31, Charmoy, Stolzberg & Holian, LLP, Doctor of Laws.
•Margot Stern Strom, president and executive director of Facing History and Ourselves, Doctor of Humane Letters.
•The Hon. Peter T. Zarella, JD '75, justice of the Supreme Court of Connecticut, Doctor of Laws.