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March 1, 2007

Feminist Icon Gloria Steinem to Deliver Smith Commencement Address

Honorary degrees will be awarded to four

Editor's note: For a digital image of Gloria Steinem or the honorary degree recipients, e-mail Marti Hobbes.

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. – Editor, journalist and political activist Gloria Steinem, a tireless promoter of equality for women around the world, will be the speaker at Smith College’s 129th commencement ceremony, at 10 a.m. Sunday, May 20.

Following Steinem’s address four other accomplished women will receive honorary degrees.

Steinem’s lifelong career as a writer and journalist began when she graduated from Smith in 1956. Her early freelance articles include an investigative piece for Show magazine on the working conditions of Playboy bunnies. By the 1960s, Steinem had gained national attention as the outspoken leader of the women’s movement. In 1971, she co-founded Ms. magazine, which became an influential forum for feminist issues. Around that time, Steinem and several other leading feminists – including Betty Friedan, Smith Class of 1942 – also founded the National Women’s Political Caucus.

Throughout the years, Steinem wrote several books about her experiences, including “Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions,” “Revolution from Within,” "Road to the Heart: America as if Everyone Mattered" and "Doing Sixty and Seventy." She also recently joined several other women including actress Jane Fonda in founding GreenStone Media, a national radio network dedicated to women listeners.

Steinem received an honorary degree from Smith in 1988 and was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, N.Y., in 1993. She has twice before delivered the commencement address at Smith, in 1971 and 1995. During the latter address, Steinem noted, “Trusting our own experience…may be the single most revolutionary thing we can do.”

The following women will receive honorary degrees from Smith on May 20:

Dr. Helene Gayle, pediatrician, director of health initiatives

In 2006, Gayle became the first woman and first person of color to lead the 60-year-old international humanitarian organization CARE. The same year, the Wall Street Journal named her among its “50 Women to Watch.” Since completing her medical residency at Children’s Hospital National Center in Washington, D.C., Gayle has focused her attention on HIV and AIDS and issues pertaining to women, children, adolescents and U.S. minority and international populations. Prior to her post as CARE president, Gayle directed the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis Program and spent nearly 20 years at the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Ruth Holmberg, journalist, Smith Class of 1943

For nearly three decades, until her retirement in 1992, Holmberg served as publisher of the Chattanooga Times and the Times Printing Company. After earning her bachelor of arts degree in history from Smith in 1943, Holmberg began her career as a newspaper reporter and a magazine writer at the New York Times. Throughout her life, Holmberg played groundbreaking roles in both business and civic affairs. She was the first woman to head a major Chattanooga business and the second woman tapped for the Associated Press Board of Directors, following Kay Graham, the late publisher of the Washington Post. A founding member of the Tennessee Arts Commission, Holmberg is chair of the Public Education Foundation and a director of the Chattanooga Symphony & Opera Association.

Nancy Hopkins, geneticist

Hopkins, professor of biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), has achieved recognition for both her research and her work on gender equity issues in science. A fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Hopkins has identified genes that predispose zebrafish to cancer and may eventually shed light on human genes, physiology and birth defects. Her work as chair of the first Committee on Women Faculty in the School of Science at MIT shed light on a different subject: inequalities for women. Hopkins was the main force behind the study that led a former MIT president to acknowledge a pattern of bias at the institution in 1999. The following year, Hopkins was appointed co-chair of the first Council on Faculty Diversity at MIT.

Lauren Lazin, award-winning filmmaker, Smith Class of 1982

After graduating magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Smith in 1982, Lazin earned a master's degree in documentary filmmaking from Stanford University. She then joined the nascent network MTV and has been there ever since. Throughout the years, Lazin has directed, produced, written and edited more than 40 award-winning documentary and news specials on issues such as racism, drugs, sexual abuse and AIDS. Her first feature film, “Tupac: Resurrection,” about the often-troubled life of the late rapper Tupac Shakur, was nominated for an Oscar. An additional seven Emmy Award nominations recognize the quality of her work. Lazin currently executive produces documentary series for MTV, VH1, Logo and CMT. She has also directed films for the National Organization for Women and in 1996 was named “Role Model of the Year” by the Women’s College Coalition.


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