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Honorary Degrees 2016

Smith College awarded honorary degrees to seven distinguished guests at the 138th Commencement ceremony on Sunday, May 15. In addition to speaker Megan Smith, the honorary degree recipients are:

Alison Bechdel

Alison Bechdel created the countercultural comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For, which ran in lesbian and gay publications from 1983 to 2008. From her comic strip emerged the “Bechdel Test,” now an international benchmark for assessing gender bias in film. In 2006 Bechdel began to gain a wider readership with the publication of Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic. This graphic memoir about her relationship with her closeted gay father was named Best Book of the Year by Time magazine, and has been turned into a Tony Award-winning Broadway musical. Bechdel’s second graphic memoir, Are You My Mother? A Comic Drama, explores her relationship with her mother through the lens of psychoanalytic theory. Bechdel has drawn comics for The New Yorker, Slate, McSweeney’s and The New York Times Book Review, among many other publications. She is the recipient of a 2012 Guggenheim Fellowship and a 2014 MacArthur Fellowship, and her papers are part of Smith College’s highly regarded Sophia Smith Collection.

Roslyn Brock

Roslyn Brock is chairman of the National Board of Directors for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Her unanimous election to the chairmanship in 2010 made history, as she was the youngest person and just the fourth woman to hold this position. Brock is employed as vice president of advocacy and government relations for Bon Secours Health System, Inc., and serves on governing boards for institutions including The George Washington University, the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, the American Public Health Association and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. Brock graduated magna cum laude from Virginia Union University; earned a master’s degree in health services administration from George Washington University, an M.B.A. from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, and a master of divinity degree from the Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology at Virginia Union University. Brock says her goal in life is embodied in an African proverb: “Care more than others think is wise, risk more than others think is safe, dream more than others think is practical, and expect more than others think is possible.”

Ruchira Gupta

Ruchira Gupta is a feminist campaigner, a visiting professor at New York University, and founder of Indian anti-sex trafficking organization Apne Aap Worldwide. She has helped more than 20,000 girls, women and their family members exit prostitution systems. An advocate for prostitution survivors, she took delegations of survivors to speak to the United Nations, and she also spoke to the UN General Assembly on their behalf; this work helped inspire the creation of the UN’s Trafficking Fund. Gupta testified before the U.S. Senate to support passage of the Trafficking Victim Protection Act; she also led survivors of the 2012 Delhi bus rape to successfully lobby for a new anti-trafficking law. Gupta has won an Emmy for outstanding investigative journalism, the Clinton Global Citizen award and the Woman of Distinction Award from the United Nations’ NGO Committee on the Status of Women. Gupta has edited two anthologies: River of Flesh & Other Stories: The Prostituted Woman in Indian Short Fiction and As if Women Matter: The Essential Gloria Steinem Reader. Her dream, she says, is “to create a world in which no human being is bought or sold and Every Last Girl is free.”

Abby Wambach

World Cup champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist Abby Wambach is the all-time leading scorer in international soccer history, with 184 career goals. She was the United States’ leading scorer in the 2007 and 2011 Women’s World Cup tournaments and the 2004 and 2012 Olympics. (She missed Beijing 2008 due to a broken leg.) Her ability to wear down defenses with her physical play, aerial game and hard running has long been a key to the USA's success. After winning the Women’s World Cup in 2015, Wambach retired as one of the most dominant players in the history of women’s soccer. A leader on and off the field, Wambach is dedicating the next chapter of her career to fighting for equality and inclusion across industries. The youngest of seven children who says she got her toughness from her four older brothers, she loves coffee, cooking, music and playing golf.

Stephanie D. Wilson

Engineer and NASA astronaut Stephanie D. Wilson is a veteran of three spaceflights and has logged more than 42 days in space. Born in Boston, she attended high school in Pittsfield, Mass., and earned her B.S. degree in engineering science from Harvard University in 1988. After working at Martin Marietta for two years, she earned her master’s degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Texas at Austin; her graduate research, sponsored by a NASA Graduate Student Researchers Fellowship, focused on the control and modeling of large, flexible space structures. Selected by NASA as an astronaut candidate in April 1996, Wilson reported to the Johnson Space Center in August 1996 for two years of training. After a series of assignments at Johnson Space Center, she flew her first mission on board the Space Shuttle in 2006, then flew subsequent Space Shuttle missions in 2007 and 2010. Before becoming an astronaut, Wilson worked for two years for the former Martin Marietta Astronautics Group, serving as a loads and dynamics engineer for the Titan IV rocket. Wilson’s many honors include the Harvard Foundation Scientist of the Year Award, NASA’s Distinguished Service Medal and the Johnson Space Center Director’s Innovation Group Achievement Award.