The College will award six honorary degrees at its 208th Commencement exercises Saturday, May 25, 2013, and one at Reunion Convocation, Saturday, June 1, 2013.
Honorary degree recipients include former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Sri Lankan poet Jean Arasanayagam, American Civil War historian David Blight, former Burberry CEO Rose Marie Bravo, Island Institute founder and president Philip Conkling, actor and philanthropist Patrick Dempsey, and trustee emerita C. Lee Herter.
With the exception of Dempsey, whose honorary degree is to be awarded at Reunion Convocation, honorands will receive their degrees during Commencement.
About the Recipients
Madeleine Albright has been an important figure in the history of American foreign policy for more than 30 years, serving as the 64th Secretary of State of the United States, the 20th U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations (1993-1997), president of the Center for National Policy (1989-1992), and as a member of the National Security Council. President Obama presented her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in May of 2012. She is currently the Michael and Virginia Mortara Distinguished Professor in the Practice of Diplomacy in Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service, chair of Albright Stonebridge Group (a global strategy firm), and chair of Albright Capital Management LLC (an investment advisory firm focusing on emerging markets). She has served on the Council of Foreign Relations Board of Directors, as chair of the National Democratic Institute of International Affairs, co-chair of the Commission on the Legal Empowerment of the Poor and as president of the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation.
Albright was born in Prague, Czechosklovakia, the daughter of Josef Korbel, a Czech diplomat. She and her family were forced to flee to England during World War II; they returned after the war, only to experience growing control by the Communist Party in the region. The family sought political asylum in the U.S., living first in New York and then in Denver, Colorado. Dr. Albright became an American citizen in 1957. She graduated with honors from Wellesley College in 1959 and received M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Columbia University’s Department of Public Law and Government.
Albright was the chief legislative assistant to Senator Edmund S. Muskie H’57 before becoming a member of the White House staff and the National Security Council in the Carter administration. Following her tenure as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, she was nominated to be Secretary of State in 1997 and was confirmed by a unanimous vote of the U.S. Senate. She was the first woman to be Secretary of State and, at the time of her appointment in 1997, she was the highest ranking woman in the history of the U.S. Government.
Albright is the author of five books: Madam Secretary: A Memoir (2003); The Mighty and the Almighty: Reflections on America, God, and World Affairs (2006); Memo to the President: How Can We Restore America’s Reputation and Leadership (2008); Read My Pins: Stories from a Diplomat’s Jewel Box (2009); and Prague Winter: A Personal Story of Remembrance and War, 1937-1948 (2012).
Albright is the mother-in-law of trustee Gregory B. Bowes ’83 and is the grandmother of David A. Bowes ’16.
Jean Arasanayagam has been one of Sri Lanka’s most prolific and well-known contemporary writers of English-language poetry and prose for more than 40 years. Born to a Dutch Burgher family (of Dutch and indigenous ancestry) in Kandy, Sri Lanka, she graduated from the University of Peradeniya there. Her husband is a Tamil, a minority ethnic group in Sri Lanka, and she and her family endured the dangers and disruptions of a quarter-century of civil war between separatist Tamil forces and the Sri Lankan government. Her writings are informed by a deep understanding of the nuances and complexities of personal and family identities that reaches well beyond simple categories of race, ethnicity, class and gender. Arasanayagam attributes the alienation of being confined in a refugee camp in 1983 to a re-examination of her responsibilities as a writer to raise the social and psychological issues that accompany displacement and dispossession: “We have all become spinners of endless sagas, which we read in the silence of our eternal loneliness. We inhabit the world of exile, which lies within the Babylon of ourselves.”
Arasanayagam is the author of numerous collections of poetry, including Apocalypse ’83 (1984); The Cry of the Kite (1984); Out of Our Prisons We Emerge (1987); Trial by Terror (1987) ; Reddened Waters Flow Clear (1991); and Shooting the Floricans (1993). Among her books are The Cry of the Kite (1984); Fragments of a Journey (1992); and All is Burning (1995).
Arasanayagam has been a lecturer at the ISLE (Intercollegiate Sri Lanka Education) Program for several years, a program offered by a consortium of colleges, including Bowdoin. Her daughter, Devasundari Arasanayagam, is a member of the Class of 1989.
David W. Blight is one of the foremost historians of the American Civil War and its aftermath. A native of Flint, Michigan, he graduated from Michigan State University and earned a Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin in 1985. After teaching at Harvard and then at Amherst for 13 years, he was named Class of 1954 Professor of American History at Yale University, and is also the Director of the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition at Yale.
Blight’s 2001 book, Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory (2001), won eight prestigious book awards, including the Frederick Douglass Prize, The Bancroft Prize, the Abraham Lincoln Prize, and four awards from the Organization of American Historians. He is also the author of such acclaimed books as Frederick Douglass’s Civil War: Keeping Faith in Jubilee (1991); Beyond the Battlefield: Race, Memory & the American Civil War (2002); A Slave No More: Two Men Who Escaped to Freedom, Including Their Own Narratives of Emancipation (2007); and American Oracle: The Civil War in the Civil Rights Era (2011). He is the editor of six books on the Civil War, slavery, and the Underground Railroad. He is on the Board of Trustees of the New York Historical Association, the board for African American programs at Monticello, the board of advisors for the Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, and has been a consultant for numerous documentary films, including the PBS series, “Africans in America” and “The Reconstruction Era.”
Rose Marie Bravo is the former CEO and Vice Chairman of Burberry Group Plc., and has established a record of outstanding leadership in the retail industry in a career that spans more than 30 years. Born in the Bronx, she graduated from the Bronx High School of Science and then from Fordham University. Bravo began her career as a buyer for Abraham and Strauss in 1971, and later became chair and CEO of the I. Magnin Specialty Division of R.H. Macy, a position that she held from 1988 to 1992. She was president of Saks Fifth Avenue from 1992 to 1997, and then took on the challenge of reforming the British fashion brand Burberry as its CEO. She revitalized the brand through her knowledge of the industry and her proven abilities as a chief executive. In 2005 she stepped down as CEO of Burberry and assumed the position of vice chairman of the firm.
Because of her extraordinary record of accomplishment in the retail industry, her advice and insights into the qualities needed for effective leadership in a changing business world are in great demand. Bravo is currently a member of the boards of directors for Tiffany & Co., Estee Lauder Companies and Williams-Sonoma. She was named the most powerful woman in fashion by Time magazine in 2004 and was included in Forbes’s list of “The 100 Most Powerful Women in the World” in 2005.
Philip Conkling is the founder and president of The Island Institute in Rockland, Maine. Born in Nyack, New York, he graduated from Harvard University in 1970, and after teaching high school in California and working at seasonal jobs in Maine (cutting pulpwood, raking blueberries and digging clams), he enrolled in Yale’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, earning a master’s degree in 1974. He collected baseline ecological information for the Nature Conservancy on several Maine islands, and soon developed an understanding of the social, economic, historical and ecological aspects of island life that is both broad and deep. Conkling is the publisher of The Working Waterfront, an online and print newspaper that focuses on policy issues and current research that affect coastal communities. He is also the lead editor of Island Journal, an annual magazine that explores island life through articles, essays, photographs, art and poetry.
Conkling is the author of numerous articles and several books, including Islands in Time, A Natural and Cultural History of the Islands of the Gulf of Maine (1982) and Lobsters Great and Small – How Fishermen and Scientists are Changing Our Understanding of a Maine Icon (2001); he is the editor of From Cape Cod to the Bay of Fundy – An Environmental Atlas of the Gulf of Maine (1995) and The Fate of Greenland: Lessons from Abrupt Climate Change (2011). He is a board member of the Conservation Law Foundation and was appointed by President Obama as an alternate member of the Roosevelt Campobello International Park Commission. In 2006 he received the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.
Patrick Dempsey is perhaps best known as a film and television actor, but the Lewiston native is held in high regard in Maine for his philanthropic work and for establishing the Patrick Dempsey Center for Cancer Hope & Healing at the Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston. Undeterred by a diagnosis of dyslexia at age 12, he demonstrated a determination to excel on stage, on the ski slopes (where he won the Maine state slalom championship), and in juggling (tying for second place in a national competition). His professional acting career began while he was in high school in a Maine production of “On Golden Pond.” This debut was followed by joining a touring company for “Torch Song Trilogy,” a series of stage productions, and a 1990 off-Broadway show in New York. He has worked steadily in the film and television industries since 1985, with his first major feature film role coming at the age of 21 in the movie “In the Mood.” His most prominent role has been that of Dr. Derek Shepherd in the long-running “Grey’s Anatomy.” He accepted a suggestion from Bowdoin students that the fictitious Dr. Shepherd might be a Bowdoin alumnus, and on several occasions he has appeared onscreen wearing a Bowdoin T-shirt, sweatshirt or cap. For his work on television and in films he has received numerous award nominations. Dempsey is also the owner and driver for a professional auto racing team.
Following his mother’s diagnosis and treatments for cancer, Mr. Dempsey established the Patrick Dempsey Center for Cancer Hope & Healing at the Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston in 2008. To raise awareness of cancer treatments and to raise funds to support the work of the Dempsey Center, he introduced the Dempsey Challenge for running, walking and cycling. It has become an annual event, and ensures that the Center can offer free support services to anyone impacted by cancer.
Trustee Emerita C. Lee Herter was elected to the Board of Overseers in 1976 as one of the first women to serve on the College’s governing boards. In the words of Trustee and Board Chair Emeritus Fred Thorne ’57, H’05, Lee “was exceptionally effective in her quiet way. Bowdoin had just become a coeducational institution and she took gender equity extremely seriously. She also pushed hard for greater diversity of the student body as well as the faculty.” Herter was elected to the Board of Trustees in 1988 and was designated Trustee Emerita in 1996, after 20 years of dedicated service in the governance of the College.
Herter graduated from the Winsor School in Boston and attended Smith College. She has a distinguished record of service to education and philanthropic causes – as a trustee of Winsor School and a trustee of St. George’s School in Newport, RI, a volunteer and committee member at Massachusetts General Hospital, and for 15 years doing daily pro bono work in the development office at Beverly Hospital in Massachusetts.
Her connections to Bowdoin are extensive, and include her sons David Herter ’76 and Edward Herter ’77; grandchildren James Herter ’11, Kathryn Herter ’12, Rachel Herter ’12, and Pamela Herter ’15; daughter-in-law Lauren Tenney Herter ’82; niece Brooke Herter James ’78; and father-in-law Christian H. Herter H’48.