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Feb. 17, 2010

Political Analyst Rachel Maddow to Deliver 2010 Commencement Address

Honorary degrees will be awarded to Maddow, renowned dance composer Martha Myers, record-setter Victoria “Tori” Murden McClure, environmental justice advocate Peggy M. Shepard and global activist Princess Basma Bint Talal of Jordan.

Video of the announcement:

MaddowNORTHAMPTON, Mass. – Rachel Maddow, a political analyst and media host who rose to national prominence after launching her career on local radio, will be the speaker at Smith College’s 132nd commencement ceremony on Sunday, May 16, at 10 a.m. in the campus Quadrangle. Maddow and four other accomplished women will receive honorary degrees prior to the address.

On her national television program, Maddow daily analyzes top headlines from the worlds of politics, current events, sports, science, health, crime and the absurd. Her critically acclaimed program, titled “The Rachel Maddow Show,” airs on MSNBC. Her interviews with newsmakers have been described as spotlighting “the headlines, and the politics behind the headlines.”

About a year after launching her MSNBC show in April 2008, Maddow was nominated for the Television Critics Association Award for Outstanding Achievement in News and Information. She was also recently included in the list of openly gay media professionals in The Advocate’s “Forty under 40” and received a Gracie Award from the American Women in Radio and Television.

A contest launched Maddow’s career in 2004. As the winner of a challenge for a new on-air personality in Holyoke, Mass., she addressed listeners for the first time. Meeting with success at the local level, she soon joined the newly created Air America and, a year later, MSNBC.

Maddow earned a degree in public policy from Stanford University in 1994, was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship, and earned a doctor of philosophy degree from Oxford University.

In addition to Maddow, the following women will receive honorary degrees from Smith on May 16:

Martha Myers, renowned dance composer and teacher
For more than 30 years, Myers has served as vice president of The American Dance Festival (ADF). Heralded as “one of the nation’s most important institutions,” the ADF serves the needs of dance, dancers, choreographers, and professionals in dance-related fields. Programs are developed based on its mission to encourage and support the creation and presentation of new modern dance work while preserving its heritage. Myers began her dance studies in Richmond, Virginia, earning her bachelor’s degree from the Virginia Commonwealth University and her master’s degree from Smith. She served on the Smith faculty for more than a decade before establishing the dance department at Connecticut College, where she is now the Henry B. Plant Professor of Dance Emeritus.

Victoria “Tori” Murden McClure ’85, a woman of “firsts”
At the age of 36, McClure was the first woman and first American to row solo across the Atlantic Ocean. In 81 days, she traveled 2,962 miles, completing the journey on Dec. 3, 1999. A memoir about her experiences, “A Pearl in the Storm: How I Found My Heart in the Middle of the Ocean,” was published last year. That was not the first time McClure set a record. She was also the first woman and first American to ski to the geographic South Pole. In academia, her travels took her from Smith to Harvard University, where she earned a master’s in divinity, the University of Louisville School of Law, where she earned her law degree, and Spalding University, for a master’s of fine arts in writing. In Louisville, she served as director of development for the Muhammad Ali Center. On July 1, 2010, McClure will become president of Spalding. Currently, she serves as the vice president for external relations, enrollment management, and student affairs at Spalding, where she is also the acting corporate general counsel. A Smith alumna, McClure also serves on the college’s Board of Trustees.

Peggy M. Shepard, co-founder and executive director of We Act for Environmental Justice
In 1988, Shepard helped found West Harlem Environmental Action Inc., (WE ACT), New York's first environmental justice organization created to improve environmental health and quality of life in communities of color. Through community organizing, advocacy and research, the non-profit influences public policy. Early in its history, WE ACT sued the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for operating the North River Sewage Treatment Plant. The lawsuit was settled in 1994 for $1.1 million. Today, WE ACT has 13 staff members, including Shepard, its executive director. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the 10th Annual Heinz Award for the Environment and the 2008 Jane Jacobs Medal for Lifetime Achievement. She also served as the first female chair of the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council to the U.S. A former journalist, Shepard earned her bachelor’s degree from Howard University .

Princess Basma Bint Talal of Jordan, global advocate for women and children
For nearly 30 years, the Oxford University-educated Princess Basma has worked internationally to promote a range of global issues. Basma plays an active role in the United Nations (U.N.), contributing to global strategies on health, education, population, the environment, and the advancement of women. In 2001, the U.N. Population Fund appointed Her Royal Highness as goodwill ambassador. A year earlier, she was presented with the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization 50 Years Commemorative medal. Basma is particularly involved with supporting sustainable development programs that address the social and economic needs of women and children.

Smith College educates women of promise for lives of distinction. One of the largest women’s colleges in the United States, Smith enrolls 2,800 students from nearly every state and 62 other countries.

For information about disability access or to request accommodations, call (413) 585-2407. To request a sign language interpreter specifically, call (413) 585-2071 (voice or TTY) or e-mail All requests must be made at least 10 days prior to the event.


Office of College Relations
Smith College
Garrison Hall
Northampton, Massachusetts 01063

Kristen Cole
Media Relations Director
T (413) 585-2190
F (413) 585-2174

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