Distinguished alumna, Susan Kiely ’70, CEO and Founder of the Women With a Cause Foundation, will deliver the keynote address at Gwynedd Mercy University’s 65th Commencement Ceremony on May 10, 2014. The spring event will also mark a historic milestone as Gwynedd Mercy University’s first Commencement Ceremony as a formally recognized university.
Susan Kiely, an ordained minister, has dedicated her life’s work to the service of others. Through her entrepreneurial, philanthropic and humanitarian spirit, she has accumulated a distinguished resume of international, community and professional achievements throughout her career.
“On behalf of the University community, I am thrilled and honored that Susan has accepted my invitation to be our Commencement Speaker,” said Gwynedd Mercy University President Kathleen Owens, Ph.D. “Her life's work clearly reflects the core values that were the foundation of her undergraduate education. I know our graduates will be inspired by her many personal and professional accomplishments.”
In 2005, while attending a World Vision AIDS Day breakfast, Kiely was inspired to form Women With a Cause (WWAC), a foundation focused on the education and skill training of women around the world. Founded in 2006, WWAC has worked to bring economic stability to women living in extreme poverty in India, Ethiopia, Ghana, and Thailand by teaching sewing and business skills that will help women to overcome poverty, develop confidence and provide a better life for their families.
Through a partnership with Operation Mercy Charitable Company, WWAC opened two sewing centers in India to provide income for poverty stricken Dalits (Untouchables) and lower caste women and their families, helped fund a modern school for children in Hyderabad, India, created micro-loans for women entrepreneurs, and enabled dozens of women from the United States to travel to India to teach sewing skills to impoverished women.
Since its founding, WWAC has educated over 800 Indian women in the area of self-empowerment through financial education and micro-lending techniques, established a computer training center in Ethiopia, and created awareness of Third World conditions for women through events such as International Women’s Day and workshops.
Three years ago, Women With a Cause began partnerships with Denver colleges and universities. Through these partnerships at Regis University, Community College of Denver, Metropolitan State University and University of Colorado, Denver-based homeless and/or low income single mothers are given the opportunity to obtain a degree which will prepare them for careers as registered nurses or dental hygienists, as well as, careers in the field of hospitality.
In addition, as a graduate of the Denver Seminary with a master’s degree in youth and family ministry, Kiely has also given generously of her time to counseling programs, homeless shelters, and as board member and volunteer for several community organizations. A resident of Denver, Co., Kiely is a sustaining member of the Junior League of Denver and supports local nonprofit organizations such as Volunteers of America, the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, AWARE (Alzheimer), Share Our Strength, The Guild of the Children’s Diabetes Foundation, Cancer League, Girl Scouts of Colorado and the Bonfils Blood Center. For six years, Rev. Kiely has volunteered as a chaplain at Sunset Park Senior Center, which serves 800 indigent senior citizens. She has also served on the Denver City and County’s Commission on Aging.
She has received many national awards for her charitable work including Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities, the National Charity League Lifetime Achievement Award, Volunteers of America American Spirit Award, the United Way International Leadership Award, the Denver Broncos Quarterback Award, the Saavy Award, the Heart of Gold Award and the Icosa International Award. She has been named a Girl Scout Woman of Distinction and Excelsior Youth Center’s Triumphant Woman for 2013. Recently, Kiely was also named one of Colorado’s most influential women. Ms. Kiely and her husband of over 44 years, Leo, also shared the distinction of being honored with the University of Denver International Bridge Builders Award in 2010.
In 1970, Kiely graduated from Gwynedd Mercy University with a bachelor’s degree in education and began teaching in the inner city of Philadelphia. She was honored by Gwynedd Mercy University in 2010 with the Distinguished Alumni Award and inducted with her husband into the University’s Founders Society in 2011.
Susan and her husband Leo, retired chief executive officer of MillerCoors, have two grown children, four grandchildren, and split their time between their homes in Denver, Co. and Hermosa Beach, Ca.
Commencement is scheduled to begin on May 10 at 11:30 a.m., and will be held adjacent to Loyola Hall, rain or shine.