Each year, a joint committee comprised of three faculty members and three trustees and chaired by President of the University and Professor of Philosophy and Religion Rebecca Chopp selects about five individuals who will receive honorary degrees at the year’s commencement ceremony. From among these recipients, the committee chooses both Commencement and Baccalaureate speakers who will offer indispensable guidance to the graduating class.
This year, Colgate is fortunate enough to have Lesley Stahl give the commencement address. Stahl has been the co-editor of CBS’s 60 Minutes for the past seventeen years, and she recently became the anchor of 48 Hours Investigates. Prior to her stint on these news programs, Stahl was a CBS News White House correspondent during the Carter, Reagan and George H. W. Bush administrations. Between September 1983 and May 1991, Stahl also served as a moderator on the Sunday news talk show Face the Nation.
Throughout her career, Stahl has had a significant impact on the world of American journalism. She has interviewed a multitude of top officials from the United States and foreign countries. In her June 2007 interview with Abdul Rahman Yasin, the terrorist revealed to Stahl that he intended to strike Jewish neighborhoods instead of the World Trade Center during the 1993 attack in New York. Her political and journalistic experiences over the past twenty years are all documented in her book, Reporting Live.
Senior Class President Taylor Buonocore expressed how thrilled she is for Stahl’s commencement address.
“I’m confident that Ms. Stahl’s address will hold a great message for the Class of 2008,” Buonocore said. “She has interviewed some of the most influential people in the world and has experience with a wide variety of fields and issues. There’s a lot of experience and perspective behind the message she’ll give during commencement.”
As class president, Buonocore advised the commencement committee “on behalf of the Class of 2008.” The senior class was asked to submit speaker nominations in August 2007. Furthermore, during the “Real World” program in January of 2007, the Senior Class Council collected information from seniors concerning their “career interests and perspectives on the transition from Colgate to the ‘real world.'” According to Buonocore, all of this input from the senior class was considered during the selection process.
Stahl was announced as this year’s speaker at 1:13 p.m. on February 10 – 99 days before commencement – at a Colgate Bookstore event hosted by the Senior Class Council. Also announced the five other individuals who will receive honorary degrees at the graduation ceremony.
This year, the honorary degree recipients include John C. Cushman III ’63, Dr. LaSalle Leffal, William McKibben, Gail O’Day – who is also the Baccalaureate speaker – Stahl, and Burmese democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi. Aung will be awarded the degree in absentia, as she is a political prisoner in Burma. Biographical information about the six honorary degree recipients was distributed to the senior class at the announcement ceremony earlier in February and is printed below.
“It’s very exciting to have such a diverse groups of individuals, who are each prominent leaders in their fields,” Buonocore said. “Commencement weekend is an opportunity to honor the achievements of Colgate’s graduating senior class as well as the achievements of these distinguished individuals.”
Buonocore added that no senior students would speak at graduation alongside O’Day, Stahl and President Chopp, though they will have the chance to address their class during the annual Champagne Brunch for seniors this May. Seniors interested in speaking at the brunch will be able to “submit remarks for selection later this month.”
The traditional torchlight ceremony will take place on the night of May 17, 2008, and Colgate University’s 187th commencement exercises will occur the following day, May 18.
John Cushman is a Colgate trustee emeritus who has offered constant service to Colgate over the past several decades. He has served as the chair of the Buildings and Grounds Committee, and Cushman House, the residence that Cushman supported, has become a shining example of residential education on campus. He is also a successful leader in the field of commercial real estate.
Dr. LaSalle Leffal is a professor of surgery at Howard University, as well as being one of the top oncologists in the United States. He was once the president of the American Cancer Society, and today he supervises the development and execution of the National Cancer Program as chair of the President’s Cancer Panel.
Bill McKibben visited campus earlier this year when he gave a speech concerning climate change as part of Colgate’s Center for Ethics and World Society lecture series. McKibben is a prominent environmentalist from the upstate New York region, and is active in promoting awareness of global warming, alternative energy sources and genetic engineering.
Gail O’Day is the A.H. Shatford Professor of Preaching and New Testament and the Associate Dean of Faculty and Academic Affairs at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University. Currently, O’Day is focusing on study of the Gospel of John and the relationship between the Old and New Testaments.
Aung San Suu Kyi, a democracy activist from Burma, led a peaceful revolt there in the 1980s, promoting democratic reforms and free elections. For much of the past nineteen years she has been under political house arrest by the Burmese military junta. She received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991.