Harvard Professor of Public Service, best-selling author, CNN senior political analyst and trusted adviser to four U.S. Presidents, David Gergen will deliver this year’s Commencement address on Sunday, May 17, at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. One of the few public servants in Washington to have served both Republican and Democratic Presidents, Gergen has been a national thought leader on civic engagement and community service.
The Commencement ceremony with procession will begin at 10 a.m. on the Hobart Quadrangle, where more than 590 students will be awarded degrees. HWS will host a live stream of the event. Commencement will also be broadcast live on WEOS 89.5FM and 90.3FM and in Mandarin on WHWS 105.7FM. The rain location is the Robert A. Bristol ’31 Field House. Visit the HWS Commencement page for complete details and follow along on the social media live feed using #HWSgrad.
The ceremony marks the 190th graduation for Hobart and the 104th for William Smith. This year, 244 Hobart students and 346 William Smith students will earn bachelor’s degrees, and four graduate students will earn their Master of Arts in Teaching. At the ceremony, Gergen will receive an honorary degree.
Gergen joined the Harvard faculty in 1999 and his role as co-director of the Center for Public Leadership at the Kennedy School has enabled him to work closely with a rising generation of younger leaders, especially social entrepreneurs, military veterans and Young Global Leaders chosen by the World Economic Forum. Through the generosity of outside donors, the Center helps to provide scholarships to more than 70 students a year, preparing them to serve as leaders for the common good. The Center also promotes scholarship at the frontiers of leadership studies.
“David Gergen has dedicated his life to public service and to ensuring that generations of young men and women have the knowledge and expertise to make public service a career, a topic of great interest to Hobart and William Smith students,” says President Mark D. Gearan. “In his role as professor of public service and co-director of the Center for Public Leadership at the Harvard School, David continues to embody a life of consequence as he helps develop America’s next generation of public servants. A trusted journalist with significant experience, he has unique insight and the ability to offer comprehensive analysis of today’s most divisive political issues. As an institution grounded in the values of equity and service, Hobart and William Smith are honored to welcome David Gergen to campus as this year’s Commencement speaker.”
The Colleges will also award honorary degrees to four other individuals who, like Gergen, have dedicated their lives to public service through the creation of innovative non-profit organizations and through community leadership at the local and national levels. They include: Alan Khazei, founder and CEO of Be The Change, Inc.; The Hon. Louise Slaughter, congresswoman, (D-NY); The Rev. Lesley Adams, chaplain of Hobart and William Smith Colleges; and Lucile Mallard, president of the Geneva, N.Y. chapter of the NAACP and resource coordinator for the Canandaigua City (N.Y.) Court system.
Gergen launched his career under Richard Nixon as a staff assistant on the speech writing team, a group of heavyweights that included Pat Buchanan, Ben Stein and Bill Safire. He went on to work in the administration of Gerald Ford and as an adviser to the 1980 George H.W. Bush presidential campaign. He later served as director of communications for Ronald Reagan. In 1993, Gergen put his country before politics when he agreed to take on the role of counselor to Bill Clinton on both foreign policy and domestic affairs, and then as special international adviser to the president and to Secretary of State Warren Christopher.
As a journalist in the 1980s, Gergen teamed up with Mark Shields for political commentary every Friday night for five years on the MacNeil/Lehrer “PBS NewsHour.” The two were a popular political team and won numerous accolades for their political coverage. In the late 1980s, he was chief editor of U.S. News & World Report, working with publisher Mort Zuckerman to achieve record gains in circulation and advertising. In the fall of 2000, Gergen published a New York Times best-seller, “Eyewitness to Power: The Essence of Leadership, Nixon to Clinton.“ Twice he has been a member of election coverage teams that won Peabody awards. In addition, he currently contributes a monthly column to Parade Magazine.
Over the years, Gergen has served on several non-profit boards, including the boards of both Yale and Duke Universities. Currently, he serves on the board for Teach for America, City Year, Schwab Foundation, the Aspen Institute, Mission Continues, and the advisory board for the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He also chairs the advisory board for the new School of Law at Elon University. He frequently lectures in the United States and overseas, and has been awarded 26 honorary degrees.
A native of Durham, N.C., Gergen graduated with honors from both Yale University in 1963 and the Harvard Law School in 1967. He is a member of the D.C. bar, a veteran of the U.S. Navy, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the U.S. executive committee for the Trilateral Commission.
Commencement 2015 will be the second time Gergen has spoken to the HWS community. In 2003, Gergen spoke as part of President’s Forum Series at HWS offering a talk titled “American Leadership in a Time of War” in Boston, Mass.