NORTHAMPTON, Mass.—At 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, May 15, in the Quadrangle, Smith College will hold its 127th commencement ceremony, honoring 734 graduating seniors— including 67 students in the Ada Comstock Scholars Program for women beyond the traditional college age—as well as 63 advanced degree candidates.
Rochelle “Shelly” Lazarus, named one of the most powerful women in American business in Fortune magazine’s annual listings for the past six years, will be the commencement speaker. Lazarus, a member of the Smith College Class of 1968, will receive an honorary degree, the doctor of humane letters.
In addition to Lazarus, four other leaders and visionaries in their respective fields will be recognized with honorary degrees. Hari Brissimi, a leader in global refugee efforts, will receive a doctor of laws degree; Julie Foudy, athlete and activist, a doctor of laws degree; Gwen Ifill, veteran print and television journalist, a doctor of humane letters degree; and Mary A. Simmonds, first woman American Cancer Society president, a doctor of science degree.
Smith’s commencement ceremony is open to the public at no charge; no tickets are required. (In case of rain, the event will take place in the Indoor Track and Tennis Facility.)
Lazarus has been chair and chief executive officer of Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, one of the world’s largest advertising agencies, since 1997. She joined Ogilvy more than three decades ago, working her way up through account services and moving through every product category and eventually into management positions. Advertising Age named the firm North American Agency of the Year in 2002.
A psychology major at Smith College, Lazarus later earned her master’s in marketing from Columbia Business School—one of only four women in her class of 300. She was the first woman to receive Columbia Business School’s Distinguished Leader in Business Award and is one of only two women to serve as chair of the American Association of Advertising Agencies, the leading industry trade group.
Lazarus is a member of several professional organizations, among them Advertising Women of New York, Committee of 200 and Women’s Forum, Inc. She serves on the boards of several philanthropic, academic and business institutions, including the World Wildlife Fund, General Electric, New York Presbyterian Hospital and the American Museum of Natural History.
Brissimi dedicated her life to aiding refugees and the needy. Born in Greece, she began her humanitarian mission by helping to procure food for starving families during the German occupation in World War II. After the liberation she joined a United Nations relief organization until 1946, when she was granted a scholarship to study at Smith. In her senior year she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and she graduated in 1948.
By 1951 Brissimi had obtained her master’s degree in social work from Columbia University and returned to Greece. Four years later she joined the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR), where she worked for seven years before moving to Geneva. There she promoted refugee-assistance programs on several continents, and in 1978 she became the first woman director of UNHCR.
Later that same year she faced her greatest professional challenge as the number of refugees worldwide swelled to immense proportions, and the agency aided in the resettlement of more than 250,000 refugees. In 1981, just after her retirement from the UNHCR, the organization was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for dealing with a “veritable flood of human catastrophe,” in recognition of her work on behalf of the Vietnamese boat people.
Retirement did not stop Brissimi from pursuing her life’s work. In 1981 she founded and served as president of the Greek National Council for Refugees, where she is active still.
In addition to being an outstanding athlete, Foudy has become an outspoken advocate for the rights of women and children.
Foudy’s athletic achievements include recent captain of the U.S. National Women’s Soccer team, where she first played at the age of 16; two-time Olympic gold medalist in 1996 and 2004, as well as silver medalist, 2000; two-time World Cup champion, 1991 and 1999; and Goodwill Games gold medalist, 1998. She served as president of the Women’s Sports Foundation from 2000 to 2002 and is a founding player in the Women’s United Soccer Association.
A committed activist, Foudy was the first woman and first American to receive the Fair Play Award from soccer’s international governing body in 1997 for her work against child labor after a trip to Pakistan to ensure that children were not employed to make soccer balls. She has also served on a presidential advisory committee on Title IX and worked with the U.S. Youth Soccer Association to create opportunities for children with disabilities to play soccer.
Foudy has used her sports experience as a television commentator, as contributing editor for Self magazine and as pundit for several NCAA Women’s College Cups. In 2003 she was included in the list of Most Powerful Women in Sports by The Sporting News.
Ifill is a prominent journalist, known for her insightful, hard-hitting questions and unflappable demeanor. Currently at PBS, she serves as senior correspondent and backup anchor on “The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer” and as moderator on “Washington Week in Review.” Ifill encourages civil discourse in a roundtable discussion of current events in the nation’s capital, putting into context some of the toughest issues of the day.
In her career, Ifill has covered the White House, Congress, presidential campaigns and state and local government for the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Baltimore Evening Sun and the Boston Herald American. In 1994 she switched to television, joining NBC News as reporter on the “Nightly News with Tom Brokaw,” “Today” and MSNBC.
Because of her reputation for fairness and focus, Ifill was chosen to moderate the first vice presidential debate of the 2004 presidential campaign, where she veered away from some of the expected topics to elicit a response about the AIDS epidemic facing women in the African American community.
A native of New York City and a graduate of Simmons College in Boston, Ifill’s work has been highly acclaimed, earning her eight honorary degrees. She also serves on the board of the Harvard University Institute of Politics and the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism.
Mary A. Simmonds
Distinguished physician, researcher and educator, Simmonds is in the forefront of the crusade against cancer. As a medical oncologist, she has worked with many types of cancer, but has become a specialist in breast cancer and has been instrumental in promoting awareness of this epidemic. In 1997 she received a Pink Ribbon Award from the Pennsylvania Breast Cancer Coalition.
A compassionate professional, Simmonds has long worked to improve the quality of life for cancer patients and to provide more effective pain relief during treatment. In 1989 she cofounded the Pennsylvania Cancer Pain Initiative to promote pain relief research and ways of making cancer patients feel more comfortable. She has also chaired and continues to serve on the American Cancer Society’s Patient Services Advisory Group on Cancer Pain Relief.
Simmonds received her bachelor’s degree at Smith in 1971 and a medical degree from the Medical College of Pennsylvania. A fourth-generation medical professional, Simmonds entered medical school in the 1970s at a time when women made up only 10 percent of medical students. She now serves as clinical professor of medicine at Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine.
Widely published, with articles and abstracts appearing regularly in medical and public health journals, Simmonds also serves on several editorial and review boards.
Smith College is consistently ranked among the nation’s foremost liberal arts colleges. Enrolling 2,800 students from every state and 60 other countries, Smith is the largest undergraduate women’s college in the country.