Commencement 2011 – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Commencement 2011

With service to others as the Commencement theme, President Barack Obama’s top official overseeing our nation’s domestic community service programs will deliver the Commencement Address to graduating seniors.

Patrick Corvington, chief executive officer of the Corporation for National and Community Service, will give the 2011 Commencement Address on Sunday, May 15. The Corporation engages more than five million Americans of all ages and backgrounds in service each year through its Senior Corps, AmeriCorps, and Learn and Serve America programs, and leads President Obama’s United We Serve initiative.

A recognized expert on nonprofit sector leadership, philanthropy and volunteerism, Corvington was sworn in as the CEO of the Corporation in February 2010. Born in the Congo to Haitian refugees, Corvington and his family lived around the world, spending time in Uganda and Morocco before coming to America where he became a United States citizen in 1993. He began his career as a case manager working with migrant farm workers, served as director of a group shelter home for adjudicated youth, and worked as a patient advocate in a community-based HIV/AIDS clinic. Prior to joining the Corporation, he served as a senior associate at the Annie E. Casey Foundation, a private philanthropic organization that seeks to create promising futures for disadvantaged children in the United States. He earned his bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Maryland and a master’s in public policy from Johns Hopkins University. He is the co-author of several publications including “Ready to Lead: Next Generation Leaders Speak Out.”

This year’s ceremony marks the 100th graduation for William Smith and the 186th for Hobart. Approximately 506 undergraduates and seven MAT students will graduate from the Colleges in the ceremony that will begin at 10 a.m. on the Colleges’ Quadrangle. In addition to addressing the graduates, Corvington will be one of five recipients of honorary degrees at Commencement 2011. Other honorary degree recipients include Makiko Tanaka of the Tanaka Memorial Foundation, HWS Provost and Dean of Faculty Teresa Amott, New York State Agricultural Experiment Station (NYSAES) Director Thomas J. Burr, and former director of the NYSAES James Hunter.  

Corvington’s address is the culmination of a yearlong, campus-wide conversation about service and the power of an idea to enact change that began at Convocation with Aaron S. Williams, the 18th director of the Peace Corps. The Peace Corps traces its roots and mission to 1960, when then-Senator John F. Kennedy challenged students to serve in the cause of peace by living and working in developing countries. From that one idea, Congress authorized the establishment of a federal government agency devoted to world peace. At the time, Kennedy said: “The wisdom of this idea is that someday we’ll bring it home to America.” In 1993, President Bill Clinton did just that when he signed the National and Community Service Trust Act which led to the establishment of The Corporation for National and Community Service.

“Patrick Corvington has devoted his life to volunteerism and community engagement, empowering people to serve and in doing so, to build strong, lasting communities,” says President Mark D. Gearan, who serves as the chair of the Board of Directors for the Corporation for National and Community Service. “There is no one better than Patrick to show our graduating students that a single person can initiate change, make a difference, and find solutions to some of our world’s most challenging issues.”

This year’s four other honorary degree recipients were selected because of their invaluable service to the growth of the Colleges and the enrichment and opportunities they have provided to Hobart and William Smith students.

The Colleges will celebrate their strong relationship with the Tanaka family by awarding Makiko Tanaka an honorary degree during the Commencement ceremony. In the late 1980’s, Dr. Kenji Tanaka L.H.D. ’92 visited campus with his daughters, Makiko and Kimiko, and it is through the Tanaka family’s generosity and guidance that the Colleges have expanded and strengthened their Asian Studies program. Since 1992, the support of the Tanaka family has allowed dozens of students and faculty members to travel to Japan each summer to participate in Technos International Week, a cross-cultural exchange program sponsored by Technos International College in Tokyo, and the Tanaka Ikueikai Educational Trust.

Recently named the President of Knox College, Provost and Dean of Faculty Teresa Amott came to HWS in July 2005, having previously served as the vice provost at Gettysburg College and the chair of the economics department at Bucknell University. During her time at HWS, she successfully guided the Colleges through an important Middle States Review, laying the foundation for the reaccreditation process in 2014. She was instrumental in the development of the Rosensweig Learning Commons. Through her work with the Center for Teaching and Learning, The Finger Lakes Institute and the Offices of Community Engagement and Study Abroad, she has expanded opportunities for learning both in Geneva and around the world. An economist by training, Amott holds a Ph.D. from Boston College and a B.A. from Smith College.

Before receiving her degree during the commencement ceremony, Amott will speak at the annual Baccalaureate ceremony on Saturday, May 14 at 2 p.m. in Trinity Church, 520 South Main Street. A tradition that has existed since the Colleges’ inception – and dating back to 8th century England – the ceremony will be presided over by Chaplain Lesley Adams. Amott will deliver the Baccalaureate speech addressing the Colleges’ year-long reflection of the power of an idea.

For 31 years, Hobart and William Smith students have gained valuable research experience with Cornell University faculty and researchers at the Geneva-based New York State Agricultural Experiment Station (NYSAES). Whether in the Station’s fields or labs for independent studies, Honors projects, or internships, HWS students have participated in advancing a sustainable agriculture and food system that will improve human health, protect the environment and support economic development. In honor of the affiliation between HWS and NYSAES, Hobart and William Smith will this year award honorary degrees to the current and past director of NYSAES.

Throughout his career, Thomas Burr has shown great commitment to Cornell and the NYSAES. A faculty member at Cornell since 1977, Burr has served as chair of the department of plant pathology at the NYSAES since 2001. His work at the Experiment Station has helped expand resources and increased productivity and interactions between the station and HWS.  Burr received a B.S. in agricultural science and an M.S. in plant pathology from the University of Arizona in 1971 and 1973, respectively. He received his Ph.D. in plant pathology from the University of California-Berkeley in 1977. He was appointed assistant professor at Cornell in 1977, associate professor in 1983, and professor in 1991.

James Hunter graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a B.A. in bacteriology and a Ph.D. in botany with emphasis in plant pathology. He became an assistant professor of biology at California State Polytechnic University in 1964, and taught at University of Hawaii in 1966. In 1972, he became an associate professor and chair of the Department of Plant Pathology at the NYSAES – a position he held for 10 years. He also served as associate director of the Experiment Station and three years later he became the director, a position he held for the next 13 years. During the three years preceding his retirement, he was an associate dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University.


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