The speaker for 2006 commencement has been announced. New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer will address the senior class at their graduation ceremony on May 21, 2006.
Spitzer has served as the New York State Attorney General since 1999 and is running for New York State Governor this year. He graduated from Harvard Law School in 1984 and has held both private practice and various New York City and State legal positions. He founded the Children for Children Foundation and was named “Crusader of the Year” by Time Magazine in 2002.
The decision of who to invite to speak at commencement is made by the Joint Committee on Honorary Degrees and Civic Awards.
“The committee consists of a select group of the Board of Trustees, two faculty members, the president and a student, usually the president of the senior class,” Senior Class President Sian-Pierre Regis said. “The senior class president, however, only plays an advisory role and can give suggestions, but has no vote in the selection of the speaker.”
Students and faculty are allowed to nominate potential speakers and the list of nominations is then presented to the committee, which votes in order to come to a final decision.
“The suggestions ranged from high profile celebrities to newspaper journalists,” Regis said.
The committee then decides on Honorary Degree Recipients, one of whom will serve as the Commencement speaker, and another to serve as the Baccalaureate speaker.
The committee selected Spitzer because of his many accomplishments.
“He’s done a great deal in the curbing of corruption in the New York financial district and is a very influential character in many sectors,” Regis said. “He has done a great deal fighting corruption and had been incredibly influential in the field of law.”
While commencement speakers are not paid for their speech, they are traditionally given an honorary degree, which is considered a form of payment in itself, especially from a University like Colgate.
Secretary of the College Kim Waldron reiterated this.
“Speakers generally respond enthusiastically because it is considered an honor to give a commencement speech and receive an honorary degree,” she said. “The Attorney General was nominated by several members of the senior class. He is known nationally for his work and so should have wide appeal as a speaker.”
President Rebecca Chopp also expressed enthusiasm about the decision.
“Colgate is very pleased that Attorney General Spitzer has agreed to be our commencement speaker,” she said. “He should be a very interesting speaker because I think his work appeals to many of our students given their interest in politics, ethics and leadership.”
Regis also expressed excitement for Spitzer’s visit.
“I am certain that his experiences coupled with his personality will pepper his speech and make it quite memorable,” he said. “I am extremely happy with the decision.”
The other honorary degree recipients this year are Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz, a professor of ethics and theology at Drew University and Baccalaureate speaker, Dr. Walter Massey, president of Morehouse College, physicist and former director of the National Science Foundation, and Alfred ’60 and Aminy Audi, owners of Stickley-Audi furniture, both of whom are very involved in the Upstate New York and Colgate communities.
Members of the senior class who were not directly involved in the selection process seem to think Spitzer an interesting choice.
“As a resident of the state of New York, I’m thrilled to have Eliot Spitzer speaking at my graduation,” senior Sean Curran said. “You can quote me on that.”