Mary-Claire King to deliver commencement address

Rose Houglet and Arrington Luck

This year’s commencement speaker, Mary-Claire King (left), discovered BRCA1, and baccalaureate speaker, Ophelia Dahl (right), co-founded Partners In Health. PHOTOS COURTESY OF MARY-CLAIRE KING AND OPHELIA DAHL.

King, Ophelia Dahl, Roger H. Brown, Michael Eisenson ’77 and Kevin Roosevelt Moore to receive honorary degrees

The College announced today that Mary-Claire King, who discovered the BRCA1 breast and ovarian cancer gene, will give the 2019 commencement address. The baccalaureate speaker will be Ophelia Dahl, a British-American social justice and health care advocate. In addition to both speakers, Berklee College of Music President Roger H. Brown, Charlesbank Capital Partners founder and Williams Board of Trustees Chair Michael Eisenson ’77 and Grammy Award-winning singer, guitarist and songwriter Kevin Roosevelt Moore – known as Keb’ Mo’ – will receive honorary degrees from the College.

An American Cancer Society research professor of genome sciences and medicine at University of Washington, King graduated from Carleton and earned her Ph.D. in genetics from the University of California, Berkeley. King, who has studied human genetics and health for 40 years, discovered the BRCA1 gene, providing insight into vulnerability to and prevention of breast and ovarian cancer for women with an inherited predisposition. At Berkeley, she collaborated with her mentor, Professor of Biochemistry Allan Wilson, to find that chimpanzees and humans share 99 percent of their gene sequences. She also used her knowledge of genetics for social justice, promoting the use of DNA evidence to identify Argentine children who had been kidnapped during the country’s 1970s and 1980s military dictatorship, as well as victims of humans rights abuses in five continents. Among the awards King has received for her work are the Lasker Foundation Special Achievement Award for Medical Research and the United States National Medal of Science.

Baccalaureate speaker Dahl co-founded the nonprofit healthcare organization Partners In Health (PIH), which works with government and medical institutions to deliver healthcare to those who cannot afford services. Notably, Dahl’s work has been featured in the 2017 documentary film  Bending the Arc. The daughter of author Roald Dahl, she also leads her father’s estate and serves as trustee of the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre in Buckinghamshire, England. Dahl was named Bostonian of the year in 2011 by The Boston Globe.

As president of the Berklee College of Music in Boston, honorary degree recipient Brown helped create the largest global online music education system; a new campus in Valencia, Spain; a merger with Boston Conservatory; a tripling of the endowment; and an over 500 percent increase in scholarship and financial aid. Prior to his presidency at Berklee, Brown, with his wife, Linda Mason, aided relief efforts for a humanitarian crisis on the Thailand-Cambodian border through the Land Bridge food distribution. The pair helped more than 400,000 people and saved over 200,000 lives as co-directors of a Save the Children Federation initiative addressing famine in Sudan. They then co-founded the biggest global provider of worksite childcare, Bright Horizons Family Solutions, as well as Horizons for Homeless Children, a program that provides early education services to homeless youth. Brown was named the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year and received the Ron Brown Award for Corporate Leadership and along with Mason was named a Visionary Social Entrepreneur by the Social Venture Network’s Hall of Fame.

Honorary degree recipient Eisenson is the founder and co-chairman of Charlesbank Capital Partners, a Boston-based private equity firm. Eisenson came to the College as a first-generation college student from New York and later earned an M.B.A. and a J.D. from Yale. He began his career at the Boston Consulting Group and went on to become president of Harvard Private Capital Group. Eisenson has been chair of the Williams Board of Trustees since 2014 and chaired the presidential search resulting in President Maud Mandel’s appointment. He also worked to establish the college’s investment office in 2006. Additionally, Eisenson is also a co-founder of Horizons for Homeless Children.

A Nashville-based blues renaissance musician originally from Compton, Calif., honorary degree recipient Moore, better known as Keb’ Mo,’ is a four-time Grammy Award winner. In the early 1970s, Keb’ Mo’ appeared on four of Papa John Creach’s albums and played with multiple bands up throughout the next two decades. His first release as a bandleader, “Rainmaker,” came out in 1980 under Chocolate City Records. He then took part in productions of the play Spunk and came out with a self-titled album in the early 1990s, later winning his first Grammy for his 1996 album Just Like You. He has also appeared on various television shows and films.