imageSeated, from left: Thomas M. Davis III '71, Elon Musk, Peter Brown, Margaret Bangser '81, Leon Fleisher, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Frank Stella. Top row, from left: Andrew R. Marks '76, President Anthony W. Marx, Faculty Marshall Rowland Abiodun, Frank E. Stevenson II '77 and Honorary Marshal Douglas C. Neff '70.The following distinguished guests were honored during Commencement Weekend 2009. Read their citations, listen to their talks and learn more here.

Margaret Bangser ’81

Doctor of Humane Letters

Based in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, Bangser is founder and former director of the nonprofit Women’s Dignity, which works to prevent and treat obstetric fistula, a complication of childbirth that renders women incontinent. Fistula leads to lives of shame and isolation for at least 2 million women worldwide.

Peter Brown
Doctor of Humane Letters

Brown, considered the world’s foremost historian of the period known as Late Antiquity (approximately 250 to 850 CE, including the later years of the Roman Empire), is a history professor at Princeton who has challenged preceding historians’ notion of Late Antiquity as a time of decadence.

Thomas M. Davis III ’71
Doctor of Laws

Elected in 1994 to the U.S. House of Representatives, Davis served seven terms as a Republican from Virginia, earning a reputation for bipartisanship. He chaired the National Republican Congressional Committee, the House Government Reform Committee and the committee that investigated the response to Hurricane Katrina.

Leon Fleisher
Doctor of Music

One of the most accomplished pianists of his time, Fleisher made his debut at the New York Philharmonic at age 16. When focal dystonia, a neurological disorder, robbed him of the use of his right hand, he took up conducting and teaching—and also continued to perform and record, revitalizing the left-hand repertory. Recent therapies have helped him regain the use of his hand.

Andrew R. Marks ’76
Doctor of Science

Marks’ research has led to the development of the drug-eluting coronary stent. He is also responsible for identifying a protein called calstabin, which is being used in a therapy, now in clinical development, for treating arrhythmias, heart failure and muscular dystrophy. A cardiologist, he chairs the physiology and cellular biophysics department at Columbia University. 

Elon Musk
Doctor of Humane Letters

Musk co-created, a system through which people could make payments over e-mail; renamed PayPal, it was bought by eBay in 2002. He founded SpaceX (Space Explorations Technologies), which designs and manufactures space launch vehicles. He is also CEO of the electric-car company Tesla Motors and board chairman of SolarCity, which equips homes and businesses to run on solar power.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala
Doctor of Humane Letters

A managing director of the World Bank, Okonjo-Iweala was the first woman to serve as finance minister and foreign minister of Nigeria. She founded a nongovernmental organization that helped to introduce public-opinion polling to Nigeria and co-founded a fund that invests in African female entrepreneurs.

Frank Stella
Doctor of Humane Letters

Stella has been an innovator in American abstract art for 50 years. By the time he was 35, New York’s Museum of Modern Art had presented a retrospective of his work. His best-known works include the Black Paintings; the Irregular Polygon and Eccentric Polygon series; the Protractor Series; and public installations in Toronto, Miami and Washington, D.C.

Frank E. Stevenson II ’77
Medal for Eminent Service

For helping to seek out promising prospective students, hosting alumni events and welcoming travelers from the Amherst community to his home in Dallas, Stevenson has been called the college’s “gateway to the Southwest.” Currently president of the Class of 1977, he is also an Amherst parent, the father of Caroline ’06 and Louise ’09. 

L. Addison Diehl
Lawrence Forberg
Kay Tipton
Phebe and Zephaniah Swift Moore Teaching Awards

These high school teachers were nominated by members of the graduating class.

As an English teacher at Bel Air High School in El Paso, Texas, Diehl taught students that their writing “didn’t have to have the flavor of a brown paper bag,” says Lauren Cordova ’09. He also served as a mentor, including to students who identified as gay, lesbian or transgendered.

Forberg, an English teacher from Riverside Brookfield (Ill.) High School, “truly represents everything a teacher in a public high school struggling to improve itself should be: accommodating and understanding but passionate and demanding at the same time,” says Claire Rann ’09.

Tipton, a retired math teacher from Vestavia Hills High School in Birmingham, Ala., led the school’s math team. “As Mrs. Tipton often reminded us, ‘Just worry about the material, and the grades will take care of themselves,’” says Mingham Ji ’09.

Photo by Samuel Masinter '04