James Carville, one of America’s best-known political commentators and a leading citizen in the revitalization of post-Katrina New Orleans, will deliver this year’s Commencement address on Sunday, May 19.
With a history of impressive electoral victories at the local and state level, Carville was the lead strategist for the successful election in 1992 of William Jefferson Clinton as the 42nd president of the United States. The next year, he married Republican strategist Mary Matalin who worked on the campaign of incumbent George H.W. Bush. Their cross-aisle marriage has resulted in more than two decades of political commentary on every major television network and news organization, informing Americans across the political spectrum. Their book All’s Fair: Love, War and Running for President became a national bestseller.
Following Hurricane Katrina, Carville and Matalin relocated their family from the Washington, D.C. beltway to Carville’s home state of Louisiana where they have been vocal supporters of the renaissance of New Orleans. Together, they have taken part in a range of environmental, educational, economic and cultural projects in support of the Gulf Coast. They have embraced such causes as The Idea Village, Teach for America, Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Small Businesses program in New Orleans, Boys Hope/Girls Hope, Women of the Storm, the Loyola Institute of Politics and others. Described by New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu as “wonderful ambassadors and great friends of the city,” Carville and Matalin recently co-chaired the Super Bowl Host Committee.
“One of the most gifted minds in modern American politics, James Carville is also one of the most civically engaged,” says President Mark D. Gearan. “James has dedicated his life to civic engagement – to the electoral process at the heart of our democracy and to a city devastated by the largest natural disaster in American history. Along with his wife, Mary Matalin, he has taught us that while politics can be deeply held, thoughtful engagement can result in productive civil discourse. It is my hope that James can offer our graduating seniors his perspective on living a life of consequence.”
The former co-host of CNN’s Crossfire and Sirius XM radio’s 60/20 Sports with Luke Russert, Carville is the author of a number of books including, most recently, It’s the Middle Class, Stupid! with pollster Stan Greenberg. Carville and Greenberg also co-founded Democracy Corps, an independent, non-profit polling organization dedicated to making government more responsive to the American people. Carville has provided consultation to campaigns in more than 20 countries and teaches political science at Tulane University in New Orleans. Often referred to as the “Ragin’ Cajun” for his animated and colorful debating style and his roots in Louisiana, Carville began managing political campaigns in 1982. Before entering politics, he worked as a litigator at a Baton Rouge, La., law firm, was a U.S. Marine, and taught high school. He received his undergraduate and Juris Doctor degrees from Louisiana State University. He will receive an honorary degree from Hobart and William Smith Colleges on May 19.
Commencement 2013 marks the 188th graduation for Hobart and the 102nd for William Smith. In addition to Carville, the Colleges will award honorary degrees to Maureen F. Curley, president of Campus Compact; John Grotzinger ’79, mission leader and project scientist for the Mars Science Laboratory; and Mara O’Laughlin ’66, who recently retired from the Colleges as assistant vice president for the performing arts initiative.
As president of Campus Compact, 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.
Curley 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.
Grotzinger 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 and just seven months later found evidence of a habitable environment that could have supported life. 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, he previously served as the Shrock Professor of Earth Sciences and Director of the Earth Resources Laboratory at M.I.T. He was elected into the National Academy of Sciences, one of the highest honors that can be accorded a U.S. scientist. He 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.
O’Laughlin, who will offer this year’s Baccalaureate Address at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday at Trinity Church, arrived at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in 1962 as a first-year student from Manhattan. Other than a brief departure just after graduation to teach history at Romulus Central School, she has remained central to HWS. During the course of more than 40 years of service to the Colleges, she took 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 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.
Commencement will happen on the Hobart Quad on Sunday, May 19, at 10 a.m. Live streaming video can be found at