During Hobart and William Smith Colleges’ 2017 Commencement ceremony on Sunday, May 14, the Colleges bestowed honorary degrees to individuals who exemplify the values set forth by the institution’s founders and reflect the spirit of the HWS community.
This year’s honorary degree recipients include: President Bill Clinton, the founder of the Clinton Foundation and 42nd president of the United States, who also delivered the 2017 Commencement address; Deborah Bial, founder of the Posse Foundation; Mark D. Gearan, president of Hobart and William Smith Colleges; and Mary Herlihy Gearan, community activist and member of the Board of Directors of Happiness House-Finger Lakes Cerebral Palsy Association.
Under President Bill Clinton’s leadership, the United States enjoyed the strongest economy in a generation and the longest peacetime economic expansion in U.S. history, including the creation of more than 22 million jobs. After leaving the White House, President Clinton founded the Clinton Foundation with the mission to improve global health, strengthen economies, promote healthier childhoods and reduce health disparities, and protect the environment by fostering partnerships among governments, businesses, nongovernmental organizations and private citizens to turn good intentions into measurable results.
Deborah Bial is an education strategist and the founder of the Posse Foundation, one of the most successful college access and youth leadership development programs in the country. Since 1989, nearly 7,000 Posse Scholars have been selected to attend top-tier colleges and universities throughout the country, including HWS, which partnered with the organization in 2012. A graduate of Brandeis University, Bial later earned a master’s and Ed.D. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and worked at the nonprofit CityKids Foundation prior to founding Posse. In 2007, she was recognized for her accomplishments with a MacArthur Fellowship. Today, she continues to lead Posse as the organization creates strong networks to increase educational opportunities for underserved and underrepresented populations.
Appointed President of Hobart and William Smith Colleges in 1999, Mark D. Gearan is the longest serving president in the history of the Colleges and has led the institution through a period of unprecedented growth. Under his leadership, HWS has strengthened its financial resources and increased its fundraising range, which has in turn transformed the physical campus, adding and expanding facilities while also expanding financial aid to increase access and opportunity for students. Gearan has made significant commitments to diversity and inclusion, propelled the Colleges’ environmental sustainability efforts, reinforced the Colleges’ relationship with the local community and grown programming in civic engagement, career services, leadership, study abroad and student services. Prior to his appointment as HWS president, Gearan served as Director of the Peace Corps and, during the Clinton Administration, served in the White House as Assistant to the President, Director of Communications and Deputy Chief of Staff. He earned his B.A. in government cum laude from Harvard University and his law degree from Georgetown University.
Since moving to Geneva in 1999, Mary Herlihy Gearan has been a leader with numerous local and regional organizations touching a variety of issues, including healthcare, diversity, education and poverty. She has served on the board of directors of Happiness House-Finger Lakes Cerebral Palsy Association since 2002 and as vice chair since 2007. She has been a longtime activist for local organizations such as Geneva Heroes, the Boys & Girls Club of Geneva, Geneva Rotary Interact Club and Festival of Nations. On the HWS campus, she hosts an open house for students each week. For her service, she has earned many honors including the 2010 Citizen of the Year award from the Geneva Chamber of Commerce and recognition at the 2011 New York State “Women of Distinction” ceremony. Previously, she served on the Michael S. Dukakis presidential campaign. She also worked in roles in the federal government and served as vice president at the Wexler Group, a government relations firm in Washington, D.C. She holds a B.A. in political science and economics magna cum laude from Emmanuel College and a J.D. from George Washington University.
More news on Commencement can be found at http://www.hws.edu/news/commencement2017.aspx