Smith College Admission Academics Student Life About Smith news Offices

Home > Offices > News Office > News Releases > News Release

News Releases

Smith Announces Plans for May 20 Commencement

At 1:30 p.m. Sunday, May 20, in the Quadrangle, Smith College will hold its 123rd commencement ceremony, honoring 704 graduating seniors (656 traditional-aged students and 48 Ada Comstock Scholars).

In addition, five leaders and visionaries in their respective fields will be recognized with honorary doctoral degrees.

Novelist Toni Morrison, who received an honorary degree at Smith in 1991, will be the commencement speaker. The honorary degree recipients are Wendy Kopp, founder and president, Teach for America; Vera C. Rubin, senior astronomer, Department of Terrestrial Magnetism, Carnegie Institution of Washington; Donna Shalala, president-elect of the University of Miami and former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services; Cornel West, Alphonse Fletcher, Jr., University Professor, Professor of Afro-American Studies and Professor of Philosophy of Religion, Harvard University; and Diana S. Natalicio, president of the University of Texas at El Paso.

The Robert F. Goheen Professor in the Council of the Humanities at Princeton University, Toni Morrison is the author of several best-selling novels, including "Beloved," "The Bluest Eye," "Tar Baby," "Jazz" and "Sula." She has also received numerous awards, including the National Book Critics Award in 1978 for her novel "Song of Solomon" and the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for "Beloved." In 1993 she was the recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature and this year received the National Humanities Medal.

Morrison, who was a senior editor at Random House for 20 years, earned degrees from Howard and Cornell universities and has taught at Yale and Rutgers universities, Bard College and the State University of New York. She has received honorary degrees from Harvard, Yale, Georgetown, Columbia and Brown universities; the universities of Pennsylvania and Michigan; and Université Paris 7-Denis Diderot. A founding member of the Académie Universalle des Culture, Morrison is also a member of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, the American Philosophical Society and the Africa Watch and Helsinki Watch committees on human rights.

Wendy Kopp, fresh out of Princeton University at the age of 22, founded and became president of Teach for America, a national corps of recent college graduates who commit to two years of teaching in urban and rural public schools. Since then, she has been named one of Time magazine's Fifty Most Promising Leaders Under Forty and one of Glamour magazine's Women of the Year. In 1991 she won the Jefferson Award for Greatest Public Service by an Individual 35 Years or Under from the American Institute for Public Service for her creation of the successful teaching program.

Since its founding in 1989, Teach for America has placed more than four thousand of the country's strongest college graduates in teaching positions in schools from south central Los Angeles to the South Bronx. Her program, sometimes referred to as a "domestic Peace Corps," has benefited an estimated 1 million children from 13 troubled school districts across the country.

Diana S. Natalicio, president of the University of Texas at El Paso, is a member of the Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans. She was appointed by former President Bill Clinton to the National Science Board and the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities. She also serves on the NASA Advisory Council and the U.S.-Mexico Commission for Educational and Cultural Exchange and served on President George W. Bush's Education Transition Advisory Team. She holds numerous board memberships and is a former chair of the board of the American Association for Higher Education. Natalicio was the recipient of the 1997 Harold W. McGraw, Jr., Prize in Education, and in 1999 was inducted into the Texas Women's Hall of Fame. She completed her undergraduate studies in Spanish at St. Louis University and earned a master's in Portuguese and a doctorate in linguistics from the University of Texas at Austin.

Vera C. Rubin, senior astronomer at the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism of the Carnegie Institution in Washington, is credited with contributing to an alteration of the way astronomers regard the universe. Through her research on the rotation of spiral galaxies, she proved the existence of "dark matter" or nonluminous mass, which accounts for the 90 percent of the universe that humans cannot see. During the past decade, research into the unknown makeup of dark matter has become one of astronomy's highest priorities.

A member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Rubin actively encourages women and minorities to enter science fields. A graduate of Vassar College with a master's from Cornell University and a doctorate from Georgetown University, Rubin holds honorary degrees from Yale and Harvard universities.

Donna Shalala will assume the presidency of the University of Miami on June 1. In her former position as United States secretary for health and human services under President Clinton, she implemented sweeping welfare reform legislation that set strict time limits and work requirements for recipients. She also instituted a new program that provides health insurance for children in working poor families. While overseeing 61,000 employees in the Medicare and Medicaid programs, the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration and all welfare, child care and child welfare programs, Shalala worked to combat fraud in Medicare and extend the program's long-term solvency. She also helped build support for a patients' bill of rights and attempted to implement tobacco legislation that would have raised taxes and set new restrictions on marketing.

Shalala, who served as chancellor of the University of Wisconsin at Madison before joining Clinton's cabinet, received degrees from Western College for Women and Syracuse University. She was the longest-serving human services secretary.

Cornel West, the Alphonse Fletcher, Jr., University Professor and professor of Afro-American studies and of the philosophy of religion at Harvard University, is the author of 13 books, with several groundbreaking volumes among them, including "Race Matters," "Keeping Faith: Philosophy and Race in America," the two-volume "Beyond Eurocentrism and Multiculturalism," and "Restoring Hope: Conversations on the Future of Black America." West, who has become a preeminent international voice on cultural and social theory and philosophy, completed his undergraduate studies at Harvard before earning master's and doctoral degrees from Princeton University. He served as professor of religion and director of the Afro-American studies department at Princeton before joining the Harvard faculty in 1994.

Smith College is consistently ranked among the nation's foremost liberal arts colleges. Enrolling 2,800 students from every state and 50 other countries, Smith is the largest undergraduate women's college in the United States.

May 3, 2001


News Release Directory // News Office Home Page // Smith College Home Page

© 2001 Smith College // Please send comments to:
Page maintained by the Office of College Relations.