News Story

March 12, 2019

Retired US Navy Captain to Serve as La Roche College’s 54th Commencement Speaker

Cynthia B. Piccirilli PITTSBURGH, Mar. 12, 2019 – La Roche University is pleased to announce Cynthia B. Piccirilli ’79, M.D. as its 54th commencement speaker. Dr. Piccirilli is a retired captain in the United States Navy, former head of neurosurgery at the Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, and an inaugural member of La Roche’s Distinguished Alumni Circle.

“It was such an unexpected surprise and great honor to be asked to join the La Roche community to celebrate with the graduating class of 2019,” Dr. Piccirilli said. “The University has grown in so many ways since I graduated 40 years ago. It’s a coming home for me, and I look forward to meeting the next generation of La Roche graduates who are ready to bring light to the world.”

Dr. Piccirilli will deliver the commencement address and receive an Honorary Doctorate of Public Service at La Roche’s graduation ceremony at 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 11 in the Kerr Fitness & Sports Center.

“Dr. Piccirilli’s commitment to service and unwavering success make her an exemplary role model for our students and graduates,” Sister Candace Introcaso, CDP, Ph.D., president of La Roche, said. “She continues to personify the long-established mission of La Roche to be a lifelong learner, to achieve success in a chosen career, and to promote justice and peace in a constantly changing global society. We are pleased to present Dr. Piccirilli with an honorary degree.” 

Five years after graduating summa cum laude from La Roche University in 1979, Dr. Piccirilli became a commissioned officer in the United States Navy and graduated with a doctor of medicine degree from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Edward F. Herbert School of Medicine. She completed her surgical internship in general surgery followed by residency training in neurosurgery at National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. She graduated in 1995, becoming the first woman to complete training in a military neurosurgery program. 

Following residency, she was stationed as a staff neurosurgeon at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth. She served in a variety of roles including: Department Chair of Neurosurgery, President of the Executive Committee of the Medical Staff, and Specialty Advisor for Neurosurgery to the Surgeon General of the Navy. She also was an active member of the Craniofacial Board. Augmentation assignments took Dr. Piccirilli to Okinawa, Japan and Landstuhl, Germany where she provided neurosurgical care; and in 2003, she deployed to Kuwait with a Navy fleet hospital in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. 

Dr. Piccirilli completed her naval career and honorably retired in 2016 with more than 31 years of dedicated service. Her military decorations include the Meritorious Service Medal (awarded thrice) and the Joint Service Achievement Award. She received the Professional Achievement Award by La Roche in 1996, and she was an inaugural member of the La Roche Distinguished Alumni Circle in 2013.


About La Roche University: A private liberal arts college in the North Hills of Pittsburgh, La Roche University offers more than 50 undergraduate majors, six graduate degree programs and one doctoral program, with particular strengths in education, business, criminal justice, psychology, and health and medical sciences as well as interior design and graphic design. This residential college provides a vibrant campus community for more than 1,400 men and women enjoying 30-plus student organizations and an exciting NCAA Div. III athletics program. Founded by the Sisters of Divine Providence in 1963, La Roche University embraces its Catholic heritage while welcoming people of all faiths and backgrounds. With a legacy of social justice and a commitment to international exchange, La Roche University educates students to be lifelong learners and achievers in an increasingly diverse and global society.