Celebrating Commencement


Working within the constraints of State and County regulations, the Colleges intend to hold in-person Commencement ceremonies for the Classes of 2021 on May 16 and for the Classes of 2020 on June 6.

2021 Commencement

Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden will deliver the 2021 Commencement Address and receive both an honorary degree and the Elizabeth Blackwell Award. On Sunday, May 16, during the Commencement ceremony for the Classes of 2021, the Colleges will also present honorary doctorates to Director of Public Health for Ontario County Mary L. Beer RN, MPH and Executive Director of the Boys & Girls Club of Geneva and the Geneva Community Center Christopher N. Lavin '81.

"Carla Hayden has served communities and the country as a champion for access to knowledge and literacy. With indefatigable energy, she is a trailblazer and a role model whose work has helped people across the nation enjoy the freedom and opportunity that the library holds," says President Joyce P. Jacobsen. "Our community looks forward to celebrating her remarkable professional achievements. She will be joined by two individuals whose leadership of our community here in Geneva has never been more influential or needed. Mary Beer and Chris Lavin have risen to the challenges the pandemic created, solving monumental problems and always delivering hope."

A guiding force in recording and proliferating the intellectual and creative life of the United States, Carla Hayden is the 14th Librarian of Congress and the first woman and the first African American to lead the national library. Since beginning her career with the Chicago Public Library in 1973, she has been committed to the free and open access to ideas and information, helping people across the country harness the opportunities the library holds. Hayden has been an important and powerful voice for the needs of the nation's reading public, especially for young readers, championing literature as a fundamental vessel for human experience and possibility.


Since 2008, Mary L. Beer RN, MPH has led Ontario County Public Health, managing disease prevention, health education promotion and community health protection for more than 100,000 residents, including Genevans. A registered nurse with more than 40 years of experience, Beer directs the county's COVID-19 response, implementing safety guidelines, investigating and containing outbreaks and overseeing public communications. During her career, she has been a tireless advocate for public health laws prohibiting smoking, efforts that have reduced smoking rates countywide. A hospice volunteer and past president of the S2AY Rural Health Network board of directors, Beer is devoted to improving public health and well-being through health equity, access and personal engagement.


Christopher N. Lavin '81 is responsible for a diverse expansion of programming at the Boys & Girls Club of Geneva and the Geneva Community Center. Named executive director in 2015, Lavin has launched new health, education and arts and entertainment initiatives to meet the developing needs of the community. In collaboration with the Colleges, he oversaw the formation of the HWS Geneva Corps in 2017, which engages dozens of HWS students in tutoring and mentorship for K-8 students from Geneva schools. At the start of the pandemic and in response to the changing needs of the community, he quickly pivoted his organization to prepare and serve thousands of hot meals for Geneva families hit hard by economic challenges.

2020 Commencement

After a one year delay because of the pandemic, the Colleges will celebrate the Classes of 2020 with an in-person Commencement ceremony on the Quad.

As we reported in a previous issue of The Pulteney Street Survey, Presiding Bishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church, the Most Rev. Bishop Michael B. Curry '75, will deliver the Commencement address on Sunday, June 6. An honorary doctorate will be awarded to Curry, as well as to Margaret "Peggy" Bokan Greenawalt '66, an influential philanthropist and advocate for increased female leadership, and to G. Peter Jemison, a celebrated artist, activist and Historic Site Manager of Ganondagan State Historic Site.

"Bishop Curry's inspirational ministry of love and redemption is as vital as ever, and we are excited to celebrate his exemplary life of service to those in need," says President Joyce P. Jacobsen. "We will recognize Bishop Curry alongside two other esteemed honorees who have devoted themselves to education, opportunity, arts and culture in exemplary ways that reflect the Colleges' history and our future aspirations."


In 2015, Michael B. Curry '75 was elected as the 27th Presiding Bishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church, becoming the first African-American to hold the Church's top leadership office. He has dedicated his life and ministry to making what he calls "the redemptive power of love" a palpable force in the world. In the churches he served in North Carolina, Ohio and Maryland, Curry developed emergency assistance resources, educational centers, summer camps, preaching missions and networks of family day care providers. He has preached and written about social and economic inequality, ideological division, faith and love, expanding on the sermon he delivered at the British royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. In 2016, Curry returned to HWS to participate in the President's Forum and receive the Hobart Alumni Association's Medal of Excellence.


Margaret "Peggy" Bokan Greenawalt '66 is a noted philanthropist devoted to supporting education, the arts, and the advancement of women in leadership roles. She rose through the hierarchy of the finance industry, holding leadership positions at Citibank, Citicorp and Monchik-Weber. She has served on the boards of directors for not for profit organizations such as The White House Project, the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, the Chestnut Hill Historical Society and the Philadelphia International Theater Festival for Children. Through the Margaret Greenawalt '66 Annual Scholarship, she annually pays off the student loan debt of two William Smith graduates who intend to pursue careers in finance and who have completed internships on Wall Street.


Fine artist G. Peter Jemison is a member of the Heron Clan of the Seneca Nation and a leading authority on Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) history. His artwork appears in the British Museum, Museum of Mankind, Whitney Museum of American Art and the Institute of American Indian Arts Museum. Jemison serves as the historic site manager of the Ganondagan State Historic Site in Victor, N.Y., which tells the story of Haudenosaunee contributions to agriculture, art, culture and government. He has served as a consultant to the Smithsonian Institute's Native American Museum Training Program and the National Endowment for the Arts and is on the board of trustees for the National Museum of the American Indian.