Hobart and William Smith Colleges will recognize three extraordinary individuals with honorary degrees at this year’s Commencement Ceremony on Sunday, May 19. Maureen F. Curley, president of Campus Compact, John Grotzinger ’79, and Mara O’Laughlin ’66 have each set benchmarks in their professions, establishing a lasting legacy for the Colleges and the nation.
“This year, the Colleges are proud to confer honorary degrees on three individuals whose accomplishments in science, the arts and education are truly exceptional,” says President Mark D. Gearan. “In addition to their significant contributions in their fields and to the Colleges, they serve as powerful examples to our graduating seniors of the opportunities made possible through an HWS degree and the many pathways to a life of consequence.”
Maureen F. Curley is dedicated to advancing campus-based service, service learning, and civic engagement. Prior to assuming the role of president in 2006, Curley was chief relationship officer for The Bridgespan Group, where she helped develop Bridgestar, an initiative that connects executive-level managers with career and board opportunities in the nonprofit sector.
She also previously served as director of public policy for the Community Service Society of New York and executive director of the Massachusetts Service Alliance. Additionally, Curley is the founder of the Forum for Women Leaders of Nonprofit Organizations.
She has taught courses on nonprofit and volunteer management at Columbia University, New York University and the University of Massachusetts, Boston. Currently, she serves on the boards of Antioch University, the National Service-Learning Partnership and the Massachusetts Commonwealth Corps. Curley holds a bachelor’s degree from Emmanuel College and a master’s from Antioch University New England.
John Grotzinger ’79 has the distinction of being the mission leader and project scientist for the Mars Science Laboratory which successfully landed the Curiosity Rover on Mars in August 2012. Its mission is to detect organic compounds in sedimentary rock that may point to the one-time existence of life on Mars. Due to the likelihood that the early history of the red planet is similar to that of the Earth, Grotzinger hopes to gain more understanding of Earth’s evolution through studies of Mars. Still underway, the mission is widely described as among the most successful in NASA history.
Grotzinger is the Fletcher Jones Professor of Geology at the California Institute of Technology. An eminent sedimentologist and stratigrapher with wide-ranging interests in sedimentary processes, geobiology, and Earth’s early history, Grotzinger previously served as the Shrock Professor of Earth Sciences and Director of the Earth Resources Laboratory at M.I.T.
Grotzinger was elected into the National Academy of Sciences, one of the highest honors that can be accorded a U.S. scientist. He has also been awarded the National Science Foundation Young Investigator Award, the Fred Donath Medal from the Geological Society of America, the Henno Martin Medal from the Geological Society of Namibia, and the Charles Doolittle Walcott Medal by the National Academy of Sciences.
Grotzinger earned a B.S. in geoscience from Hobart and was a member of the lacrosse team. He earned an M.S. from the University of Montana and a Ph.D. from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. He has returned to campus twice to speak with students about his work.
Mara O’Laughlin ’66 first arrived at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in 1962 as a first-year student from Manhattan, and other than a brief departure just after graduation to teach history at Romulus Central School where Christopher McDonald ’77 was her student, she hasn’t left.
During the course of more than 40 years of service to the Colleges, she has taken on increasingly complex administrative roles from admissions to advancement, each one allowing her to make an indelible mark on the institution. As director of admissions of William Smith College from 1974 to 1992, and then of Hobart and William Smith Colleges until 2005, she admitted nearly two-thirds of all William Smith alumnae. In 2005, O’Laughlin took on a new role – that of assistant vice president of institutional advancement for the William Smith College Centennial Fund, a position that allowed her to reconnect with the alums she first met when they applied. After the initial Centennial fundraising goal of $6 million was surpassed and a total of $8 million raised, O’Laughlin was named assistant vice president for the performing arts initiative. As such, she has played an important role in framing the scope of the new performing arts project.
O’Laughlin was instrumental in establishing “Frank’s Books” in the Warren Hunting Smith Library on campus – an extensive collection of nearly 11,000 scholarly books from the library of Professor Emeritus of History Frank O’Laughlin, to whom she was married for 35 years. She also established the Frank and Mara ’66 O’Laughlin Scholarship, which targets middle income students of high promise in their first year.