May 25, 2006
Director of Media Relations
AMHERST, Mass.—Amherst College will celebrate its 185th Commencement Exercises this weekend, Saturday, May 27, and Sunday, May 28. The college will grant bachelor of arts degrees to 430 members of the Class of 2006 at Commencement Exercises at 10 a.m. on Sunday, May 28, in the Main Quadrangle. (Exercises will be held in LeFrak Gymnasium in the event of rain.) Amherst President Anthony W. Marx will give an address, and graduating senior Kit Wallach of Providence, R.I., has been chosen by her classmates to speak.
Honorary degrees will also be awarded at the ceremony Sunday to Pulitzer Prize-winning composer John Adams, anti-smoking activist Alan M. Blum ’69, poet and translator David Ferry ’46, cable pioneer and former chair of the Amherst College Board of Trustees Amos B. Hostetter, Jr. ’58, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Samantha Power, educational activist Wendy D. Puriefoy, physicist Myriam P. Sarachik and W. Richard West Jr., founding director of the National Museum of the American Indian.
The college will honor Henry B. Pearsall ’56 of Bellwood, Ill., with the Medal for Eminent Service. The honorary marshal will be John E. Beerbower ’70.
At 1:30 p.m., on Saturday, May 27, Samantha Power will address the Senior Class Exercises. Power is a professor in practice of public policy at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. Her book, A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide, was awarded the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for general non-fiction, the 2003 National Book Critics Circle Award for general non-fiction and the Council on Foreign Relations’ Arthur Ross Prize for the best book in U.S. foreign policy. Powers’ 2005 New Yorker article on the horrors in Darfur, Sudan won the National Magazine Award for best reporting. After covering the wars in the former Yugoslavia for several national news magazines, Power was named founding executive director of Harvard’s Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, which she led from 1998 to 2002. In addition to her current teaching, Power is writing and working as a foreign policy fellow in the office of U.S. Senator Barack Obama.
The Class of 2006 also has asked graduating seniors Issa Abdulcadir of Washington, D.C., Andre Kobayashi Deckrow of Kent, Wash., Sarah K. Rothbard of Livingston, N.J. and Aidan Sleeper of Mamaroneck, N.Y. to offer remarks at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday at Senior Class Exercises.
The college also will award prizes at Senior Class Exercises on Saturday, and present Phebe and Zephaniah Swift Moore Awards to secondary school teachers John Benson, a math teacher from Evanston Township High School in Evanston, Ill., nominated separately by three different students: Rachel Gilbert, Hilary Levinson and Christian McClellan, all of Evanston, Ill.; David Ely, a biology teacher from Champlain Valley Union High School in Hinesburg, Vt., nominated by Carolyn Koulouris of Shelburne, Vt.; Elissa Jury, a science teacher from Rondout Valley High School in Accord, N.Y., nominated by graduating senior Jon Vosper of Kingston, N.Y.; and Robert Wilmoth, a history teacher from Elkins High School in Elkins, W.V., nominated by Aaron Hall of Montrose, W.V.
Amherst’s honorary degree recipients will give talks Saturday afternoon.
At 3 p.m. Alan M. Blum ’69 M.D. will discuss “Medicine vs. Madison Avenue: Fighting Smoke with Fire” in the Cole Assembly Room in Converse Hall. Blum has dedicated his career to preventing tobacco-caused illness, most notably through science, marketing and education. For the fearless way that he has battled against the tobacco industry, former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop has called him an “unsung hero of the world of public health.” Blum has served as editor or on the editorial board of nine medical journals, written widely in scholarly and popular journals, and travels frequently as a public speaker. Blum holds the Gerald Leon Wallace Endowed Chair in Family Medicine in the College of Community Health Sciences at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, where he also directs the Center for the Study of Tobacco and Society.
At 3 p.m. David R. Ferry ’46 will talk about “Learning to Read” in Stirn Auditorium. Ferry is a poet, critic, teacher and, most recently, a translator of classical texts. The Sophie Chantal Hart Professor of English Emeritus at Wellesley College, he is the author of Of No Country I Know, which received the Lenore Marshall Prize from the Academy of American Poets and the Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry from the Library of Congress. In 1992, he published his first important "verse rendering” of the Babylonian epic Gilgamesh; he since has translated the Odes and Epistles of Horace and the Eclogues and Georgics of Virgil. Ferry is a fellow of the Academy of American Poets and of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
At 3 p.m. Amos B. Hostetter Jr. ’58 will recall “Amherst 1985-2005: A Trustee’s Perspective” in the Pruyne Lecture Hall (Fayerweather 115.) A member of Amherst’s Board of Trustees since 1989, Hostetter chaired the Board from 1998 to 2005. During his tenure, Amherst’s endowment doubled, and the college successfully completed The Amherst College Campaign. In 1999, Amherst implemented a new financial aid initiative that eliminated loans for a broad range of low- and middle-income families. Most academic and athletic buildings on campus were renovated during Hostetter’s chairmanship, and the college began a comprehensive renewal of its dormitories through the Residential Master Plan. Hostetter also chaired the search committee that brought President Anthony W. Marx to Amherst in 2003. Professionally, Hostetter is known as a visionary business leader and a technological innovator. In 1963 he co-founded Continental Cablevision, ushering in a new era of technology that has transformed news, entertainment and information services. Hostetter served as Continental Cablevision’s chairman and CEO from 1967 to 1997. From 1999 to 2003 he was non-executive chairman of AT&T Broadband and Internet Services and a member of the AT&T board. He currently serves as chairman of Pilot House Associated, a family investment office.
At 3 p.m. Myriam P. Sarachik will speak on “Nanoscience and Nanotechnology: What Is It? Why Is It Interesting? What Is It Good For?” in the Paino Lecture Hall in the new Earth Sciences and Museum of Natural History Building. Sarachik chairs the Physics Department at the City University of New York, where she serves as Distinguished Professor of Physics. The author of nearly 150 professional articles, she has made important contributions to such diverse fields as superconductivity, the metal-insulator transition in two- and three-dimensional systems, and resonant tunneling of magnetization. Last year, she received both the L’Oreal-UNESCO Prize for Women in Science and the Oliver Buckley Prize for Condensed-Matter Physics awarded by the American Physical Society. Sarachik is also a well known advocate for scientists’ rights: She is a national board member of the Committee of Concerned Scientists and former chair of the American Physical Society’s Committee on the International Freedom of Scientists.
Due to illness composer John Adams will not be here for Commencement Weekend.
At 4 p.m. Wendy Puriefoy will speak on “Public Education: A Promise Worth Keeping” in Pruyne Lecture Hall (Fayerweather 115.) Puriefoy is a nationally recognized expert on issues of school reform and civil society. Her activism in this area began in the 1970s, when she served as a special monitor of the court-ordered desegregation plan for Boston’s public schools. In 1991, she was named the founding president of the Public Education Network. Under her leadership, PEN has become the nation’s largest network of community-based school reform organizations and a leading force behind systemic reform initiatives in school finance, governance, curriculum, parent involvement, libraries and student health. A frequent author and speaker on topics related to education, she also serves on a number of national committees and boards.
At 4 p.m. W. Richard West Jr. will lecture on “Native America in the 21st Century: Beyond Myth” in the Cole Assembly Room in Converse Hall. West, a citizen of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma and a Peace Chief of the Southern Cheyenne, has devoted his professional life and much of his personal life to working with American Indians on cultural, educational, legal and governmental issues. As founding director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, West has been responsible for guiding the successful opening of the three facilities (in Maryland, New York, and on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.) that comprise the NMAI. Trained as a lawyer, West is a member of several boards, including those at Stanford University, the Ford Foundation and the National Parks and Conservation Association. West chaired the American Association of Museums from 1998 to 2000.
Find more information, plus photos and audio, on the Commencement pages.