Douglas C. Perlitz, who just ten years ago received his diploma from Fairfield University, will speak to this year’s graduates on Sunday, May 19, at 10 a.m. as this year’s commencement speaker.
He will talk about his experiences in Haiti where he has established and runs a school and residence for former street children in Cap Haitien. Fairfield officials feel he is the perfect choice for this year’s graduation ceremony.
“Jesuit education encourages students to be ‘men and women for other,’ to share their God-given gifts to help those less fortunate,” said Rev. Aloysius P. Kelley, S.J., president of Fairfield University, in making the announcement. “Doug’s extraoridnary work with poor children in Haiti is an inspiration to people of all ages, but particularly to our own students who will be looking for ways to incorporate the community service they had been involved in at Fairfield into their lives as they begin their careers.”
James Fitzpatrick of Student Services agrees and describes Perlitz as “one of our own.”
“Doug has had, in a very short period of time, an amazing impact on one of the poorest countries in the world,” said Fitzpatrick. “He really personifies what a Fairfield education can do and how it can change the world.”
Doug will receive an honorary doctor of laws degree. Fairfield will also confer honorary doctor of laws degrees on Loretta Brennan Glucksman, chairman of The American Ireland Fund, and the Rev. George W. Bur, S.J., president of the Gesu School in Philadelphia; and an honorary doctor of science degree on John P. Sachs, PhD., a former trustee of Fairfield University and former president and CEO of Great Lakes Carbon Corporation.
Doug Perlitz first visited Haiti on a Campus Ministry Mission Volunteer trip during his junior year. His question to University Chaplain Paul E. Carrier, S.J., “When will some of us stay?” became prophetic when he returned to Haiti five years later to work as a pastoral minister at Sacre Coeur Hospital in Milot. The following year he founded the Pierre Toussaint School and Outreach Program for Street Children in the northeast Haiti town of Cap Haitien, with the support of Fairfield University Campus Ministry, the Knights of Malta and the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, a French Canadian order.
Presently 25 students live together in the “walled” village on the outskirts of town, that included three small houses, a dining hall, two classrooms, an administrative building, plus a basketball court and soccer field. Another 50 to 60 boys attend the “13th Street School,” in town where they have access to a free meal, showers, locker space and minor medical attention. Doug speaks Creole, the language of the Haitan people. He has enlisted a team of local Haitian aides to provide 24-hour supervision and works to reconnect as many children as possible to their families.
Doug grew up in Barrington, Ill., and taught in the Punta Gorda High School in Belize following his graduation from Fairfield. He earned a master’s degree in theology from Boston College before moving to Haiti.