May 3, 2011
** Editor’s Note: Christine Lagarde, who had been invited as an Honored Guest for Commencement Weekend, regrettably had to cancel her visit to the College. All other Commencement events will take place as scheduled. **
AMHERST, Mass.—John Abele ’59, founder of the Boston Scientific Corporation; Adam Falk, president of Williams College; Andrew Kendall ’83, president of the nonprofit Trustees of Reservations; Christine Lagarde, Minister of Economy, Finance and Industry for France; Gail Kern Paster, outgoing director of the Folger Shakespeare Library; Paul Volcker, former chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank; Alice Waters, chef and restaurateur; and Kimmie Weeks ’05, founder and director of Youth Action International, will all receive honorary degrees from Amherst College during its 190th Commencement exercises on Sunday, May 22, at 10 a.m. on the school’s campus. Though Amherst President Anthony W. Marx will deliver the address during the May 22 ceremonies, the eight honored guests will speak to the approximately 483 members of Amherst’s Class of 2011, their families and friends and the college and Western Massachusetts communities in a series of conversations that are free and open to the public on Saturday, May 21. The schedule of discussions with the honorands is available on the Commencement website, www.amherst.edu/commencement.
About the honorary degree recipients
John Abele, Amherst Class of 1959, is the retired founding chairman of Boston Scientific Corporation. As a pioneer and leader in the field of less-invasive medicine, he holds numerous patents and has published and lectured extensively on the technology of various medical devices and on the technical, social, economic and political trends and issues affecting education and health care. Abele is a trustee emeritus of his alma mater, having served from 1997 to 2003, and the founder of the Argosy Foundation, which provides funding for Amherst College’s Center for Community Engagement. His major interests are science literacy of children, education and the process by which new technology is invented, developed and introduced to society. He has also served as vice chair of the FIRST Foundation, which works with high school kids to make being science literate cool and fun, and founded the Kingbridge Centre in Canada, a conferencing institution whose mission is to research and develop improved methods to help groups become collaborative and collectively intelligent.
Adam Falk was officially inaugurated last September as the 17th President of Williams College, after many years as a professor, dean of faculty and then James B. Knapp Dean in the Zanvyl Krieger School of Arts and Sciences at The Johns Hopkins University. Falk is a high-energy physicist, with research interests in elementary particle physics, quantum field theory and the interactions and decay of heavy quarks. He holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill—from which he graduated with the highest distinction as a Morehead-Cane Scholar—and a Ph.D. from Harvard. He held postdoctoral appointments at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center and the University of California, San Diego. A fellow of the American Physical Society, he has won national young investigator awards from the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Energy, the Research Corporation for Science Advancement and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, as well as the Johns Hopkins Alumni Association Excellence in Teaching Award.
Andrew Kendall, a Class of 1983 Amherst alumnus, is president of The Trustees of Reservations, a statewide nonprofit organization that protects and cares for exceptional landscapes and landmarks across Massachusetts — including farms, historic sites, woodlands, parks and beaches – all of which are open for the public to enjoy, forever. The organization has grown tremendously during Kendall’s 11 years at the helm and now manages more than 105 “reservations” that annually welcome and engage more than 1 million visitors. Kendall holds degrees in astronomy and economics from his alma mater, as well as an M.B.A. from Harvard. He has previously held leadership roles at Audubon Societies in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and California and led conservation work in the Costa Rican rain forest. The Barr Foundation honored Kendall with a fellowship in 2009, in recognition of his work in “strengthening bonds between urban residents and neighborhood land” in the Boston area. He is also chairman of the Henry P. Kendall Foundation and a trustee of the New England Grassroots Environment Fund.
As France’s current Minister of Economy, Finance and Industry, Christine Lagarde has been recognized for her intelligent reforms and her advocacy of international government cooperation in the face of economic crisis. She was previously the country’s Minister of Agriculture and Fishing and Minister of Foreign Trade. She is a former member of Chicago’s international law firm Baker & McKenzie, where she excelled as a labor and antitrust lawyer and later served as chair of the firm’s Global Executive Committee and then its Global Strategic Committee; she also opened the European Law Centre in Brussels, a branch of Baker & McKenzie dedicated to European Union law. She holds degrees from the Law School of the University of Paris X and the Political Science Institute in Aix en Provence. Lagarde is a recipient of France’s highest honor, membership in the Legion of Honor, and appears in several publications’ recent annual lists of the world’s greatest leaders and most powerful women.
Gail Kern Paster has been director of the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., since 2002 and will retire from the position on July 1. Under her leadership, the internationally renowned library—which holds the world’s largest collection of Shakespeare materials—has acquired rare and fascinating new items, digitized much of its collection, increased its outreach and accessibility to the public, expanded its educational programs, modernized its physical infrastructure and remained on solid financial footing during difficult economic times. Educated at Smith College and Yale University, Paster was a professor of English at The George Washington University for 28 years, president of the Shakespeare Association of America in 2003 and editor of the Shakespeare Quarterly until 2009. She has written and edited numerous books on Shakespeare and his world, most recently Humoring the Body: Emotions and the Shakespearean Stage, and won fellowships from the Woodrow Wilson, Andrew W. Mellon and John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundations and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Economist Paul Volcker is perhaps best known for helping to end the country's stagflation crisis during his time as chairman of the Federal Reserve under Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. A vocal proponent of international solutions to economic problems and of stronger government regulation of banks, he chaired President Barack Obama’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board from February 2009 until January 2011. Other highlights of his long career include several senior positions in the U.S. Treasury Department, presidency of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and chairmanships of the Trilateral Commission and the Group of Thirty. Volcker has also negotiated an agreement between the Jewish community and Swiss banks about the disposition of funds of Holocaust victims placed with the banks. He more recently investigated corruption in the United Nations’ Iraqi Oil-for-Food Program and proposed more effective anti-corruption policies for World Bank programs. He was educated at Princeton, Harvard and the London School of Economics.
For 40 years, Alice Waters has been an influential chef and a pioneer in the call for broader access to local, organic and sustainable food from a system that is “good, clean and fair.” She is the founder and owner of Chez Panisse, the renowned Berkeley, Calif. eatery that will celebrate its 40th birthday this August and is credited with defining and popularizing “California cuisine.” Waters has also established the Chez Panisse Foundation, the Edible Schoolyard Program and the Yale Sustainable Food Program to help reconnect students to real food through garden and kitchen curriculum. She is the author of numerous books about food and cooking and vice president of Slow Food International. Educated at the University of California, Berkeley, and in France, Waters has been inducted into the California Hall of Fame and the French Legion of Honor. In addition, she has been recognized with a Lifetime Achievement Award from Restaurant magazine and the Harvard Global Environmental Citizen Award.
Kimmie Weeks, a member of Amherst’s Class of 2005, has worked to improve the lives of young people in war-torn countries ever since he lived through the First Liberian Civil War as a child. He co-founded Voice of the Future, the Children’s Disarmament Campaign and the Children’s Bureau of Information in Liberia before government assassination attempts forced him to seek asylum in the United States at the age of 17. While a student at Amherst, Weeks launched Youth Action International, a nonprofit whose many projects provide education, health care and economic empowerment to women and children in several postwar African nations. More than 1 million people have benefitted from Weeks’ work. He has been recognized with a Golden Brick Award, a Wangari Mathai Award for Global Citizenship and the World Economic Forum’s prestigious Global Young Leader Award. In 2007, he received his country’s highest honor when he was decorated Knight Grand Commander in Liberia’s Humane Order of African Redemption. He also served as the youngest national orator for Liberia’s 160th anniversary.
Founded in 1821, Amherst is a highly selective, coeducational liberal arts college with approximately 1,700 students from most of the 50 states and more than 30 other countries. Considered one of the nation’s best educational institutions, Amherst awards the B. A. degree in 36 fields of study.