Pioneering Educator Juliet V. García Will Deliver College Commencement Address

Dr. Juliet V. García—the first Hispanic woman to lead a U.S. college or university, and the woman whose decades of leadership at the University of Texas at Brownsville expanded educational opportunities for Hispanic and first-generation students—will deliver the Commencement Address at Smith College’s graduation ceremony at 10 a.m. Sunday, May 17.

For the first time ever, as the result of a student initiative, the ceremony will be translated live, into Spanish and Mandarin. (Students identified these two languages as the top priority for translation this year.)

Commencement speaker Juliet García will receive an honorary degree at commencement. Honorary degrees also will be awarded to:

  • Mahzarin Banaji, a social psychologist whose work focuses on the nature and consequences of unconscious biases
  • Sally Benson, a globally renowned climate scientist and a member of the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
  • Marilyn Carlson Nelson, a 1961 Smith graduate and former chair and CEO of Carlson, an international leader in the hotel and travel industries
  • Adelaide Cromwell, a 1940 Smith graduate, the first African American professor appointed at Smith and a pioneer in the field of Afro-American studies
  • Northampton resident Frances Crowe, a well-known peace activist
  • award-winning dramatic soprano Deborah Voigt.

About the Honorary Degree Recipients

jg-135In September 2014, commencement speaker Juliet García was named the inaugural executive director of the University of Texas Americas Institute, which provides a non-partisan venue for discussions of critical issues facing the Americas and the Global South. Operating throughout the University of Texas system, the institute will convene seminars, leadership programs, public events and policy programs for consensus building and problem solving.

This appointment builds on García’s accomplishments during her long tenure as president at the University of Texas-Brownsville. As president there from 1992 to 2014, and in her previous tenure as president of Texas Southmost College, she significantly expanded the number of higher education programs offered in the lower Rio Grande Valley, increasing access for students, growing retention and expanding both schools’ academic programs. At UTB, García also helped establish a Math and Science Academy for high school students, an Early College High School and a dual enrollment program for regional high school students.

García served as the chair of the Advisory Committee to Congress on Student Financial Assistance, the chair of the American Council on Education and was a member of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans. She was also a member of the San Antonio Board of the Federal Reserve and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, and currently serves on several boards including the Ford Foundation. García has been widely recognized for her vision and leadership; she has been inducted into the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame for Lifetime Achievement in Education and has received the Hispanic Heritage Award. Hispanic Business magazine recognized her many times in their 100 Most Influential Hispanics annual publication, Time magazine named her on its list of Top 10 College Presidents, and CNN named her one of their 50 Greatest Leaders.

García earned her doctorate from the University of Texas at Austin and her master’s and bachelor’s degrees from the University of Houston.


Mahzarin_135Mahzarin Banaji, the Richard Clarke Cabot Professor of Social Ethics at Harvard, is a leading researcher on subconscious biases and the co-author of Blind Spot: Hidden Biases of Good People. Her work has been widely honored for its impact on social justice. Elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Banaji has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation and the National Science Foundation, among others. Banaji holds a B.A. degree from Nizam College, an M.A. from Osmania University in Hyderabad, and a Ph.D. from Ohio State University.


benson-135Sally Benson is a globally renowned climate scientist and member of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. A member of the faculty at Stanford University, she serves as director of the Precourt Institute for Energy, the hub of energy research and education at Stanford, and also directs Stanford’s Global Climate and Energy Project, a university-industry partnership that develops innovative energy supplies. Benson is the author of more than 160 scientific publications and the co-founding editor of MRS Energy and Sustainability. Benson holds a B.S. degree in geology from Barnard College and earned M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of California-Berkeley.


Mayo-pix-2014Marilyn Carlson Nelson ’61 is co-CEO of Carlson Holdings, Inc. and the former CEO and chair of Minneapolis-based Carlson, a global travel and hospitality company which includes such brands as Radisson Blu, Quorvus Collection, Radisson, Country Inns & Suites and Carlson Wagonlit Travel. Under Nelson’s leadership, Carlson doubled its system wide revenues and became an industry leader in the fight to combat the sexual trafficking of children in travel and tourism.  For her efforts, she received  the Oslo Business for Peace Award and was awarded the White House’s Presidential Award for Extraordinary Efforts to Combat Trafficking in Persons. Nelson studied at the Sorbonne in Paris and at the Institut des Hautes Etudes Economiques et Politiques in Geneva.


ac-135Adelaide Cromwell ’40 became the first African-American professor appointed at Smith in 1945. After teaching at Smith, she served for more than 30 years on the sociology faculty at Boston University, where she co-founded the African studies program and later founded the Afro-American studies program. A 1940 graduate of Smith, Cromwell holds a certificate in social work from Bryn Mawr and a Ph.D. in sociology from Radcliffe College. A recipient of the Smith Medal in 1971, she is also the niece of Otelia Cromwell, Class of 1900, the first African-American graduate of Smith College.


fc-135At age 95, Northampton resident Frances Crowe is a peace activist and pacifist, well known in the Pioneer Valley and beyond for her fearless work on the ground and for her ability to inspire others. Crowe is the founder of the Northampton Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, the Sane Nuclear Policy Committee and the Valley Peace Center. She holds degrees from Stephens College and Syracuse University, and conducted graduate work at Columbia University and The New School for Social Research. Her papers are in the Sophia Smith Collection at Smith.


Deborah_voigt-135One of the world’s preeminent dramatic sopranos, Deborah Voigt made her Carnegie Hall Debut in 1988, and has since built one of the most accomplished careers in opera. Voigt is especially well known for her roles in operas by Wagner and Strauss, as well as for her recitals and performances of popular songs. She records widely, and she has appeared regularly as both a performer and as a host of the Metropolitan Opera’s Live in HD series, which is transmitted live to movie theaters around the world. Her memoir, Call Me Debbie: True Confessions of a Down-to-Earth Diva, was released late last year.