Bates College will confer honorary degrees on four leaders from the arts, business, journalism and technology during the college’s 148th Commencement ceremonies on Sunday, May 25.
Delivering the Commencement address and receiving an honorary degree will be Isabel Alexis Wilkerson, author of the acclaimed “The Warmth of Other Suns.” Also receiving honorary degrees during the ceremony will be pioneering computer scientist John Seely Brown, renowned actress and social activist Glenn Close, and leading Maine entrepreneur and champion of corporate social responsibility David Shaw.
Commencement concludes the undergraduate careers of the Bates Class of 2014, expected to total 450 graduates representing 31 U.S. states and 34 other countries. The ceremony will begins at 10 a.m. on the Historic Quad and will be livestreamed at bates.edu/live. Conferring the honorary degrees will be Bates College President Clayton Spencer.
“These four remarkable individuals embody in their lives and work the values we strive to instill in our students,” Spencer said. “With astonishing talent, creativity and drive, they have pushed the boundaries in their own fields and have opened new worlds for all of us.”
John Seely Brown, Doctor of Science.
For more than 30 years, John Seeley Brown has been knee-deep in the creation of technologies that have fundamentally changed how we learn, relate, converse and conduct business. For two decades, he was Xerox Corp.’s chief scientist and the director of its famed Palo Alto Research Center, where technologies such as the personal computer and Ethernet were born. These days, Brown sometimes refers to himself as the “Chief of Confusion,” a title that connotes how he helps organizations create tools that will reinvent how they operate and create meaning.
Equal parts scientist, strategist and artist, he taps the skills of all three disciplines to contemplate how we search for, recognize and embrace new resources and new ways of learning. Brown and others call this “The Big Shift.” He notes that the life cycle of a skill learned today is about five years – indicating that most of our learning now takes place well after we leave the classroom – and that we must rethink what it means to be both a teacher and a learner in this environment.
He has published more than 100 papers as well as several books, including the acclaimed “The Social Life of Information” (Harvard Business School Publishing, 2000) and, most recently, “A New Culture of Learning” (2011) with Douglas Thomas, associate professor at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Despite being a leading futurist and innovator, Brown brings to his work a healthy skepticism about whether or not change always represents true progress.
Glenn Close, Doctor of Fine Arts.
One of the great actresses of our time, Glenn Close “never steps wrong, never breaks reality,” the late film critic Roger Ebert said of her Academy Award-nominated performance as the title character in “Albert Nobbs.” Close also produced the film and wrote the lyrics for its award-winning theme song.
She has described her capacity to portray incredible yet believable characters by saying, “I’ve always felt that, in order to truly commit to a character and do her justice, to find her truth, I must love her no matter what the behavior. I have to find some common point of humanity.”
Close earned Academy Award nominations for her roles in “Dangerous Liaisons,” “Fatal Attraction,” “The Natural,” “The Big Chill” and “The World According to Garp.” She won consecutive Emmys and a Golden Globe Award for her portrayal of the character Patty Hewes in the acclaimed legal thriller “Damages.” She won a Golden Globe for her performance in “The Lion in Winter,” as well as a Peabody and “Best Actress” Emmy as an executive producer and star of “Serving in Silence: the Margarethe Cammermeyer Story.”
Close earned one of her three Tony awards in 1995 for the role of Norma Desmond in the musical production of “Sunset Boulevard.” She returns to Broadway this fall to star in Edward Albee’s “A Delicate Balance.” Close has completed roles in four new feature films – “Low Down,” “5 to 7,” “Anesthesia” and “Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy” – and will begin shooting a fifth, “The Great Gilly Hopkins,” this month.
David Evans Shaw, Doctor of Humane Letters.
David Shaw recognized long ago that a well-run business could also make the world a better place. Shaw embraced the ideals of corporate social responsibility decades before it became fashionable for companies to engage in substantive community involvement and giving.
In a career that has spanned public service, business, academia and investment management, Shaw has enriched the lives of thousands of people in Maine and far beyond. After serving in Maine state government and building a strategy consulting practice, he founded IDEXX Laboratories in 1983. IDEXX is a world leader in providing innovative science-based products and services for veterinary, food and water testing.
Today, IDEXX revenues exceed $1 billion, and it employs more than 5,000 people worldwide – success that earned recognition in the Life Science Hall of Fame. Shaw was founding CEO and chair of Ikaria Pharmaceuticals and has helped create and run more than a dozen companies spanning medical devices, pharmaceuticals, renewable fuels and direct marketing.
Shaw has served as chair of Jackson Laboratory, a renowned genetics research institute. Jackson’s annual revenues have increased more than tenfold, to well over $200 million during Shaw’s board term. Shaw is founding chair of the Sargasso Sea Alliance, which has achieved historic breakthroughs in ocean conservation – and was honored with the “International Seakeeper” award last year.
Shaw recently served on the faculty of Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, focusing on corporate governance, business social responsibility and public leadership. He has also served on the advisory board of the Center for Public Leadership at the Kennedy School and is treasurer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world’s largest general science society. Shaw currently serves as a director of the National Parks Foundation.
Shaw’s son, Benjamin, graduated from Bates in 2000 with majors in political science, environmental studies and biology, and is now CEO of Vets First Choice, the nation’s leading online veterinary partner-pharmacy and marketing service provider.
Isabel Alexis Wilkerson, Doctor of Letters.
Four years ago, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Isabel Wilkerson brought to light one of the biggest underreported stories in American history: the Great Migration, the mass exodus of African Americans out of the South that transformed the politics, economy and culture of the United States during the last century.
Wilkerson traced this astonishing history in her celebrated 2010 book, “The Warmth of Other Suns” (Random House). During the Migration, she reported, some 6 million African Americans fled the oppressive Jim Crow South in a courageous search for opportunity in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. When the Migration began, in 1915, 90 percent of blacks lived in the South. By the time it ended, in 1970, nearly half lived elsewhere.
“I’m a daughter of the Great Migration,” Wilkerson told radio host Tavis Smiley in 2010, explaining that most African Americans in the North and West are children of that phenomenon as well, including a pantheon of influential Americans ranging from Motown founder Berry Gordy to astronaut Mae Jemison to first lady Michelle Obama.
“The Warmth of Other Suns,” Wilkerson’s first book, received an array of awards, including the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction and the Stephen Ambrose Oral History Prize. It appeared on more than 30 Best of the Year lists, including The New York Times’ 10 Best Books of the Year.
The first African American woman in American journalism to win a Pulitzer and the first African American to win for individual reporting, Wilkerson received the honor in 1994 for her feature writing while Chicago bureau chief of The New York Times.