Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and Williams College will pay tribute to several influential women this commencement season, with Massachusetts' First Lady Diane Patrick and sports icon Billie Jean King delivering their respective keynote addresses.
Other notable women who will be given honorary degrees by the colleges include singer Annie Lennox, Adams native and Pulitzer Prize-winning author and columnist Stacy Schiff, Dickinson College President Nancy Roseman, Bennington College President Elizabeth Coleman and health advocate Mardi Crane-Godreau.
MCLA will celebrate its 114th Commencement Exercises on May 18, at 11 a.m., in the Amsler Campus Center Gymnasium with Patrick, who will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree, serving as keynote speaker.
Also receiving honorary degrees this year at MCLA will be Coleman, president of Bennington College, who will receive an honorary Doctor of Humanities; John "Jack" Downing, president and chief executive officer of Soldier On, who will receive an honorary Doctor of Public Service; and Crane-Godreau, an alumna and member of the faculty at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, who will receive an honorary Doctor of Science.
"We will be delighted to hear from Diane Patrick, whose distinguished law career and long record of public service establishes her as an inspirational role model and civic leader," MCLA President Mary K. Grant, said in a news release. "The achievements and many contributions to Berkshire County, the country, and the world of these remarkable individuals reflect the character and spirit of the accomplished, dedicated and engaged members of the class of 2013, whom we also will celebrate."
Patrick, a lawyer, domestic violence advocate, educator and community volunteer, earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in early childhood education and graduated with honors from Queens College of the City University of New York. After teaching elementary school in New York City for five years, she entered Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, to study labor and employment law.
In addition to holding several high-profile law positions over the years, Patrick is an outspoken advocate for victims of domestic violence and those who suffer from mental health issues. In 2012, she received Families for Depression Awareness' (FFDA) first-ever Distinguished Service in Mental Health Advocacy Award, created to honor individuals who have gone to extraordinary efforts to heighten public awareness of depressive disorders, empower families in need to seek treatment, and fight the stigma surrounding mental illness. She has served on the boards of the United Way of Massachusetts Bay, Jane Doe, Inc., and Brigham and Women's Hospital, and currently sits on the board of the Posse Foundation and is an overseer at The Epiphany School.
Williams College will kick-off its 224th Commencement Exercises on June 1 with a Baccalaureate address by Schiff, a 1982 graduate of the college, and a campus "conversation" with Lennox, who is also a political activist and humanitarian.
King, who founded the Women's Tennis Association in 1973, the Women's Sports Foundation in 1974, and co-founded World Team Tennis, the groundbreaking mixed men's and women's professional tennis league, will be the principal speaker during the college's commencement on June 2.
King, Schiff, Lennox and Roseman will receive honorary degrees during the commencement exercises, along with Edward B. Burger, newly appointed president of Southwestern University and the Francis Christopher Oakley Third Century professor of mathematics at Williams; Deogratias "Deo" Niyizonkiza, founder and director of Village Health Works; and Richard D. Parsons, senior advisor at Providence Equity Partners Inc.
In her hall-of-fame tennis career, King won 39 Grand Slam singles, doubles, and mixed doubles titles, including a record 20 titles at Wimbledon. In 2009, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States, by President Barak Obama and also received the NCAA President's Gerald R. Ford Award in recognition of her contributions to improving higher education and intercollegiate athletics.
In one of the most watched events in sports history, King defeated former champion Bobby Riggs in 1973's "Battle of the Sexes" tennis match. That same year, King lobbied for and obtained equal prize money for men and women in the U.S. Open. In 2007, she co-founded GreenSlam, an environmental initiative for the sports industry. Named one of "100 Most Important Americans of the 20th Century" by Life magazine in 1990, King continues to be a leader in the fight for equality in the LGBT community and has been honored by many LGBT organizations, including the Human Rights Foundation, GLAAD, and the Lambda Legal Foundation.
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