Fisher’s Commencement to Honor Class of 2021, Prolific Members of the Campus Community

April 19, 2021

More than 1,000 students will graduate from St. John Fisher College during its 67th Commencement celebration, which features a series of in-person School-based ceremonies from Thursday, May 6 through Saturday, May 8.

Jack DePeters ’73 (left) and Dr. Arlette Miller Smith (right)

Two special members of the campus community—past Board of Trustees chairman and alumnus Jack DePeters ’73 and Dr. Arlette Miller Smith, a longtime professor in the School of Arts and Sciences and Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. School of Education—will be honored alongside the Class of 2021.

During the School of Business ceremony at 5 p.m. on Friday, May 7, DePeters will receive an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, recognizing his dedication and commitment to the College as a member of the Board of Trustees for the last 14 years, including a term as chair of the Board.

After 52 accomplished years of service to Wegmans Food Markets, DePeters retired from the company in 2019. He began his career at Wegmans in 1966 and after earning a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Fisher in 1973, rose from part-time to full-time employee, and held positions of night manager, front end manager, store manager, and grocery buyer. He spent his final two decades with Wegmans as senior vice president of store operations.

An engaged member of the Rochester community, DePeters is a former member of the United Way Board of Directors and continues to promote United Way causes. 

DePeters and his wife, Donna, have been longtime supporters of the College. They served as donors to the Hermance Family Chapel of St. Basil the Great, are founding members of the Spire Society, and continually volunteer at the College. In fall 2020, Fisher announced the creation of the DePeters Family Center for Innovation and Teaching Excellence thanks to a $1 million gift from the DePeters. In honor of his retirement, Wegmans matched the $1 million gift, helping to launch a Center that will provide the Fisher community with collaborative leadership for the design and delivery of innovative teaching and learning activities both on- and off-campus.

During the School of Arts and Sciences ceremony at 9 a.m. on Saturday, May 8, Miller Smith will receive a President’s Medal in recognition of her vast contributions to the Fisher community. Miller Smith retired from Fisher in spring 2020 after a more than 20-year career at the College.

During her tenure at Fisher, Miller Smith taught and mentored hundreds of students at the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral level. She began in the dual position of creating formal diversity initiatives for the College while also serving as a half-time English professor. She was appointed dean of the Office of Multicultural Affairs and Diversity Programs and in collaboration with Dr. Doug Howard, launched the African American Studies minor at Fisher. As a member of the faculty, she continually brought engaging, thought-provoking programming related to issues of social justice, racism, and equality to campus each year. In fall 2019, she served on the committee that brought the National Association of African American Studies and Affiliates regional conference to Fisher and Nazareth College.

The founder and executive director of AKOMA, Rochester’s African American Women’s Gospel Choir, Miller Smith is a stalwart leader within the arts community. Among her many community engagements, most recently, she was a member of the Frederick Douglass Bicentennial Commemoration Committee. In spring 2021, she was appointed to the Fairport Central School District’s Board of Education, serving out the term of a former board member. A Fairport resident since 1988, Miller Smith and her husband, Art—also a Fisher employee—raised their two children in the district.

In recognition of her contributions to the Rochester community, Miller Smith was included in the 2020 Women of Excellence awards, given by the Rochester Business Journal, and was a finalist for the 2020 ATHENA International Awards, given by the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce and its Women’s Council affiliate.

For more information about the ceremonies, including a full schedule of events, visit the College’s Commencement website.