Mitchell to give Commencement address

by Nicole Tsong | 4/23/99 5:00am

Former U.S. Senator George Mitchell, D-Maine, will deliver the main address at Commencement exercises this year, the College announced yesterday.

A well-respected member of the Senate for 14 years, Mitchell served as Senate majority leader for six years before retiring in 1994. More recently, he played a key role as the chairman for the Northern Ireland peace accord which ended decades of violence and political strife.

In addition to the Northern Ireland peace negotiation, Mitchell also chaired a commission created by the U.S. Olympic Committee that investigated allegations of corruption in the selection of Salt Lake City as an Olympics site.

He now serves as chairman of the International Crisis Group, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the prevention of crises in international affairs.

"He's a person who inspires all of us," College President James Wright said.

Expectations for the Commencement speaker are intense. The graduating class will look toward Mitchell for inspiring words as they end their careers at Dartmouth.

Wright said criteria for the Commencement speaker include someone who has something significant to say to the community, someone "whose own life represents and symbolizes something that we value. Someone who could inspire us a bit."

"Certainly George Mitchell can do that," he added.

Past speakers at Dartmouth's Commencement exercises include President Bill Clinton in 1995, journalist David Halberstam in 1996 and historian Doris Kearns Goodwin in 1998.

The College will also award honorary degrees to a number of prestigious academics and artists.

Along with Mitchell, former Spelman College President Johnetta Cole will receive an honorary doctorate of law.

Cole, who was the first female African-American to act as president of Spelman, was appointed by President Clinton to serve on a commission on the celebration of Women in American History in 1998.

Dartmouth will also laud Nobel-prize winning neurologist and biochemist Stanley B. Prusiner with a doctorate of science. Prusiner, a professor at the University of California at San Francisco, won the 1997 Nobel Prize in medicine for research linking brain proteins called prions to Alzheimer's disease, mad-cow disease and other fatal brain-ravaging illnesses.

Another doctorate of science will be awarded to Stephen Marsh Tenney, DMS '44, former dean of the Dartmouth Medical School.

Tenney was instrumental to change at the medical school, raising money to build key buildings, recruiting many new faculty and establishing a research tradition that continues to thrive today at DMS.

Jerry Zaks '67 will receive a doctorate of fine arts.

Zaks has won four Tony awards for his work as director of several Broadway plays including "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum," "Smokey Joe's Cafe" and "Six Degrees of Separation." He also directed the Academy Award-nominated film "Marvin's Room."

Author Freya von Moltke will be honored at Commencement with a doctorate of humane letters. A member of the German resistance against Hitler, von Moltke taught at Dartmouth for 22 years.

Her publication of her own letters and those of her husband, a highly prominent leader of the resistance against Hitler, has given scholars a rare look into the Kreisau Circle, one of the largest groups in the German resistance during World War II.

Dartmouth's other schools will hold their Class Day and Investiture ceremonies the day before the College's Commencement.

John Strohbehn, former Dartmouth provost, will speak at the Thayer School of Engineering. Strohbehn is currently provost at Duke University.

Dartmouth Medical School will feature Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, lieutenant governor of Maryland.

Didier Pineau-Valencienne, an international financier and member of the Tuck School Board of Overseers, will speak at the Tuck School of Business.

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