WILLIAMSTOWN - Noble Peace Prize laureate William Moomaw encouraged the Williams College class of 2014 to take an active role in addressing climate change during the college's annual convocation ceremonies on Saturday.
"If we all work deliberately we can help change the course of climate history just as Williams and its students have done on other pertinent issues in the past," he said.
The class, which had gathered under the vaulted ceilings of Chapin Hall, following a procession of faculty, students and dignitaries listened intently as Moomaw spoke.
Williams College holds the Fall Convocation to celebrate the start of the new academic year and the annual ceremony focuses on the senior class at the college honoring members of the student body for academic excellence.
The college also honors outstanding alumni with its Bicentennial Medal during the ceremony. This year, Moomaw, an alumnus of the class of 1959, not only was the key speaker at the convocation, but also received a Bicentennial Medal for his work on combating global climate change.
A former student and faculty member of Williams, he has worked on numerous intergovernmental panels on climate change, becoming a lead policy scientist dealing with changes to the environment.
In 2007 Moomaw's work on climate change and policy helped to earn a Nobel Peace Prize for the United Nations panel he was a part of. That panel shared the prize with former Vice President Al Gore.
"Each of us contributes to these changes by burning fossil fuels that release heat trapping gasses into the atmosphere and by consuming food and goods that are produced by destroying forests and grasslands creating decertification," Moomaw said.
He peppered his speech with facts and figures not only from his own work but with information drawn from recent reports dealing with climate change.
In addition to Moomaw this year's convocation saw the Bicentennial Medal awarded to several other prestigious alumni.
The Bicentennial Medal was created by the college in 1993, as part of its bicentennial celebration, as a way to honor outstanding members of its alumni.
Founder and CEO of Minted.com Mariam Naficy, a graduate of the class of 1991, received the award for her work as an entrepreneur and e-commerce pioneer. Former IRS commissioner Douglas Shulman, graduate of the class of 1989, was honored for his work in offshore tax enforcement.
The executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association Michael Wiener, who graduated in 1983, was honored for his pivotal role in the MLB's collective bargaining process.
Independent film pioneers John Sayles, class of 1972, and Maggie Renzi, a 1974 graduate, also received the medal honoring their 30 years of work.
The convocation ceremony also included the introduction of the newest members of Phi Beta Kappa, the oldest American collegiate honor society.
The Grosvner Cup Award was also presented to the Lousia Lee, a Williams senior selected for showing concern for the college community.