It’s not many colleges that have a decorated war hero and a professional athlete as the principal commencement speaker, but Saint Vincent College has found one person who can lay claim to being both — former Army Ranger Alejandro Villanueva, who is an offensive tackle for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The college on Friday announced that Villanueva, a decorated Army Ranger, a National Football League Pro Bowler and noted humanitarian, will speak at commencement on May 11 at the Robert S. Carey Student Center on campus.
Villanueva, who graduated in 2010 from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point with a degree in systems engineering, plays for the Steelers, whose summer training camp is, and has been for more than 50 years, at Saint Vincent College in Unity.
Villanueva served three tours of duty in Afghanistan from 2010 to 2013 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. He earned a Bronze Star Medal for valor for rescuing wounded soldiers from enemy fire.
Villanueva, a Pittsburgh resident, has been with the Steelers since 2014 and has been a starter since the 2016 season. In 2017, he became the first service academy alum to make the Pro Bowl since Navy’s Roger Staubach in 1979.
Villanueva has spoken often about the importance of his Catholic faith in reaching out to help others, and in addition to his decorated military and football careers.
Through the Steelers’ Social Justice Grant program, Villanueva gives his time to many worthy causes, including the Veterans Place of Washington Boulevard. Through Veterans Place, he has helped to deliver and furnish townhouse properties where veterans live to provide them with a boost and comforts as they battle personal struggles. He also regularly visits patients at the Pittsburgh Veterans Administration hospital.
He has donated proceeds from the royalties of the sales of his No. 78 Steelers jersey to various charities in Pittsburgh, as well as in the cities of the Steelers’ three other divisional foes, Cleveland, Cincinnati and Baltimore, benefiting school systems and area police officers and first responders.
Villanueva and his wife, Madelyn, have one son and two daughters.