Speaker to be selectted for Commencement

by Maura Henninger | 3/6/98 6:00am

With Commencement just a term away, the administration is in the process of selecting a speaker for an important year, the 25th anniversary of coeducation at the College and James Freedman's final year as College president.

According to Women Resource Center Director Giavanna Munafo, the Council on Honorary Degrees, of which she is a member, has put together a group of 12 women the members hope Freedman and the Board of Trustees will consider.

"I think it would be appropriate to have a woman, as do the rest of the people on the committee," Munafo said.

Each fall, the committee solicits nominations from the entire College community for all honorary degree recipients. The Council then passes on a list from among those nominated to the president.

After contemplating the list, the president forwards his recommendations to the Board, which formally approves the list. Ultimately, the president makes the final decision as to who the speaker will be and extends invitations.

This process continues through early spring, when the Public Affairs Office announces the president's selection. According to College spokesman Roland Adams, the president directs the Public Affairs Office when to make the announcement.

Because no deadline exists, there is no telling when the Public Affairs Office will make the announcement. In the past, the announcement has been made at the last minute -- later than most other Ivy League schools.

"I don't personally see why that's such a big deal. As long as it's announced before Commencement day, it's nice to keep some element of surprise," Adams said.

When President Clinton spoke at Commencement in 1995, the College announced it at the end of March. Most other speakers are announced in May.

The timing of the announcement, Adams said, is the privilege of the president and hinges on when the speaker accepts.

A bigger concern of the president, Adams added, is getting a qualified speaker.

"If you look back at a list of Freedman's speakers, for example, it would be a list any first-rate institution would be proud of," Adams said.

In addition to Munafo, the Council on Honorary Degrees includes Amos Tuck School of Business Administration Professor Paul Argenti, Religion Professor Susan Ackerman, History Professor Margaret Darrow, Biology Professor George Langford, Professor Emeritus Heinz Valtin, Engineering Professor Graham Wallis, Senior Class President Katy Bieneman '98 and Secretary to the Board of Trustees Cheryl Reynolds, who also serves as the committee's secretary.

Last year's honorary degree recipients were Pulitzer-prize winning playwright Edward Albee, writer V.S. Naipaul, historian Nell Irvin Painter, former New Hampshire Gov. Walter Peterson '47, Smith College President Ruth Simmons, National Institutes of Health Director and Nobel laureate Harold Varmus and sociologist William Julius Wilson. Finnish Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen '64 spoke at Commencement.

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