Ursula Burns to speak at Commencement

Burns will be the featured Commencement speaker. Photo courtesy of Forbes.
Burns will be the featured Commencement speaker. Photo courtesy of Forbes.

The Board of Trustees has announced that Ursula M. Burns, Chairman and CEO of Xerox, will be the principal speaker at the College’s 226th Commencement Exercise, to take place June 7. Former Massachusetts Governor Deval L. Patrick will speak at Baccalaureate. Both speakers will receive honorary degrees from the College.

In the first year using a recently revised selection process, the Board has also announced three additional recipients of honorary degrees – Frank Deford, Gish Jen and Mario J. Molina.

The newly-formed Honorary Degrees Advisory Committee – composed of a member of the Board of Trustees, the College Marshall, the College Chaplain, three faculty members, three members of the sophomore, junior and senior classes each, College Council’s Vice President for Community and Diversity and, as staffing support, College Council’s Vice President for Public Affairs – presents its candidate selections to the Board of Trustees, which ultimately decides the College’s honorary degree recipients.

Ursula M. Burns

Burns first began working at Xerox in 1980 as a mechanical engineering summer intern. In 2000 she was named senior vice president of Corporate Strategic Services, and in 2007 became president of Xerox. In 2009 she was named CEO, becoming the first African-American woman to hold this position at a Fortune 500 company. Burns’s leadership at Xerox has galvanized its transformation from a company known only for its copy machines, into a successful enterprise dedicated to business solutions and technology services. Burns holds a number of other prominent positions, including board director for American Express, Exxon Mobil and the Ford Foundation. In 2010, she was appointed vice chair of the President’s Export Council by President Barack Obama. Her combination of business management and leadership in community, educational and non-profit organizations, including the National Academy Foundation and the U.S. Olympic Committee, has seen her named one of the world’s most powerful women by Fortune and Forbes. Burns is a founding board director of Change the Equation, an organization committed to improving STEM education.

Deval L. Patrick

Patrick grew up in the South Side of Chicago but moved to Massachusetts at the age of 14, when he was awarded a scholarship to attend Milton Academy by Boston-based organization A Better Chance. He went on to attend Harvard and Harvard Law School, after which he clerked for a federal judge. His career as an attorney and business executive led him to become partner at two Boston law firms, and a senior executive at Texaco and Coca-Cola. Patrick was appointed to the nation’s top civil rights post in 1994 by President Bill Clinton, who named him Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. Patrick was elected governor of Massachusetts, the commonwealth’s first African-American governor, in his first run for public office in 2006. He was re-elected in 2010. As governor, Patrick oversaw the implementation of the state’s health care reform program – expanding healthcare to 98 percent of state residents – launched several initiatives to stimulate clean energy and biotechnology, won a national Race to the Top grant, and led Massachusetts to a twenty-five year low in unemployment rates. Patrick has authored two books, A Reason to Believe: Lessons from an Improbable Life and Faith in the Dream: A Call to the Nation to Reclaim American Values.

Frank Deford

Deford is among the most well-known and influential sportswriters in the United States. He has written 18 books, including Everybody’s All-American and Alex: The Life Of A Child, both of which were made into movies. He is a weekly commentator on NPR’s Morning Edition, senior correspondent on the HBO show RealSports with Bryant Gumbel and senior contributing writer at Sports Illustrated. A six-time U.S. Sportswriter of the Year, Deford is the recipient of numer-ous other awards for both his writing and broadcasting journalism, including the National Magazine Award for profiles, a Christopher Award, an Emmy, and a George Foster Peabody Award. In 1998, Deford was elected to the Hall of Fame of the National Association of Sports-casters and Sportswriters, and in 2013, President Obama honored his contribution to sportswriting with a National Humanities Medal for “transforming how we think about sports.” Deford is also the chairman emeritus of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, where he served for 16 years as national chairman.

Gish Jen

Jen is an award-winning author of four novels and a collection of short stories. Her first novel, Typical American (1991), was a finalist for the National Book Critics’ Circle Award, while she earned the Massachusetts Book Prize for her most recent novel, World and Town (2010). She has been published in The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, The Best Ameri-can Short Stories of 1988, 1995 and 2013 and The Best American Short Stories of the Century. Included among her numerous awards are a Lannan Literary Award for Fiction, a Guggenheim fellowship, a Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study fellowship, and a Mildred and Harold Strauss Living Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 2009 Jen was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Her most recent work is Tiger Writing: Art, Culture, and the Interdependent Self (2013), a collection of her 2012 Massey lectures in the History of American Civilization at Harvard which focuses on the diverse roles of art, storytelling, and self-narration across the East-West divide.

Mario J. Molina

Molina is a world-renowned scientist, who was born in Mexico City and has studied in Mexico, Germany and the United States, focusing on the effects of man-made compounds on the ozone layer. At the University of California at Irvine, Molina and Sherwood Rowland developed the CFC-ozone depletion theory, which revealed the negative effects of chlorofluorocarbons and other compounds on the ozone layer. This theory earned Molina, Rowland and Paul J. Crutzen the 1995 Nobel Prize for Chemistry, making Molina the first Mexican-born citizen to be thus honored. Molina has been awarded a plethora of international honors, including the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement, the UN Environment Programme Sasakawa Environment Prize, the Heinz Award in the Environment, and the 2013 Presidential Medal of Freedom. Molina’s experience ranges from work at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institue of Technology, to teaching positions at University of California, Irvine and MIT. He is a Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of California at San Diego.

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