Smith College
    Laurie Fenlason
    Media Relations Director
    T (413) 585-2190
    F (413) 585-2174
Office of College Relations
Smith College
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Northampton, Massachusetts 01063


May 6, 2003

Smith College Sets Commencement

Editor's note: Reporters and photographers interested in covering Smith's commencement should request press passes by calling (413)585-2190 or e-mailing by Friday, May 16. Seats for media representatives will be available in the press box adjacent to the stage. Photos of Albright and the other honorary degree recipients are available upon request.

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. -- At 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, May 18, in the Quadrangle, Smith College will hold its 125th commencement ceremony, honoring 725 graduating seniors, including 62 students in the Ada Comstock Scholars Program for women beyond the traditional age, as well as 55 advanced degree candidates.

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.)

Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright will be the commencement speaker and will be given an honorary doctor of laws degree.

In addition, three other leaders and visionaries in their respective fields will be recognized with honorary doctoral degrees; they are landscape architect and Smith College alumna Cornelia Hahn Oberlander; playwright, actress and professor Anna Deavere Smith; and author, storyteller, songwriter and Smith College alumna Jane Yolen.


  • Madeleine Albright

One of the most visible and influential women to serve in government, Albright was the first woman to serve as Secretary of State and has attained the highest political rank yet achieved by a woman in the United States. She served as the United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations from 1993 to 1997 and as a member of President Clinton's Cabinet and National Security Council. In 1995, she led the U.S. delegation to the UN's fourth world conference on women in Beijing.

Born in Prague, Albright immigrated to America with her family in 1948. She earned degrees from Wellesley College and Columbia University. Currently she consults on global issues; chairs several international affairs organizations, including the Truman Scholarship Foundation; and holds faculty appointments at Georgetown University School of Foreign Service and the University of Michigan Business School. Recently, she was nominated to the board of the New York Stock Exchange.


  • Cornelia Hahn Oberlander

Widely considered one of North America's most accomplished and well-known female landscape architects, Oberlander is a pioneer of socially conscious and sustainable landscape designs. During the past 50 years she has collaborated with internationally acclaimed architects on a wide range of public projects in the United States and Canada, including the Canadian Chancery in Washington, D.C., (Arthur Erickson, architect) and the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, (Moshe Safdie, architect).

After graduating from Smith College in 1944, Oberlander continued her studies at Harvard Graduate School of Design, in the first of its classes to accept women. In 1953 she moved with her husband, Peter Oberlander, to Canada. During the 1960s, Oberlander concentrated on low-rent housing and playgrounds, such as the Children's Creative Centre at Expo '67 in Montréal. Her projects honor the ideal of sustainable development by respecting concern for surrounding land, water and air resources and creating spaces for the enjoyment of nature in the city. Her most important project is in downtown Vancouver, comprising Robson Square and the Provincial Government Courthouse Complex, creating an urban oasis on an accessible roof of the building, completed in 1980 (Arthur Erickson, architect).

Oberlander, who was honored with a Smith College Medal in 1982, had a major role in the creation of the 1996 Smith College Master Plan for the campus's long-term beautification and development.

Smith College will award Oberlander an honorary doctor of humane letters degree.


  • Anna Deavere Smith

Acclaimed by critics and audiences nationwide, Smith's work probes controversial social events through her uncannily faithful renderings of excerpts from interviews she has conducted with participants in the events.Over the past two decades Smith has written and performed a body of theatrical works collectively titled "On the Road: A Search for American Character." Among those, "Fires in the Mirror: Crown Heights, Brooklyn, and Other Identities," exploring the 1991 clash between Jews and blacks in that community, was the runner-up for the 1993 Pulitzer Prize, earned Smith an Obie and other awards, and was broadcast on PBS. Her most recent play, "House Arrest," explores the role of the presidency throughout American history.

On film, Smith has appeared in Ivan Reitman's "Dave," Jonathan Demme's "Philadelphia" and Rob Reiner's "The American President." On television she plays the National Security Adviser on "The West Wing" and has a recurring role in "The Practice."

Smith founded and has directed the Institute on the Arts and Civic Dialogue at Harvard University, is a tenured professor in the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, and teaches the art of listening at the NYU School of Law. Her books include "Talk to Me: Listening Between the Lines" (2000).

Smith College will award Smith an honorary doctor of fine arts degree.

  • Jane Yolen

Called "the Hans Christian Andersen of America" by Newsweek and "the modern equivalent of Aesop" by The New York Times, Yolen has written more than 250 books for children (in collaboration with a long list of notable illustrators), young adults and adults. Both gifted and versatile, she is perhaps best known as a fantasist but has an easy command of many genres. Her works range from board books for the very young to poetry for adults, as well as novels, nonfiction, musings on writing and even a cookbook. She is also a teacher of writing and literature, a reviewer of children's literature, a songwriter and a professional storyteller.

Yolen was born in New York City and earned a bachelor of arts from Smith College in 1960 and a master of education from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 1976. Her books and stories have won numerous awards including the Caldecott Medal, two Nebula Awards, a World Fantasy Award, a Golden Kite Award, a Jewish Book Award and many state children's book awards and five bodies-of-work awards. She is a former president of the Science Fiction Writers of America and for more than 25 years served on the board of directors of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. She lectures frequently at colleges and conferences in the United States and Britain.

Smith College will award Yolen an honorary doctor of letters degree.



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