Commencement 2017 honorees announced

NPR Legal Affairs Correspondent Nina Totenberg, Southern Poverty Law Center founder Morris Dees, MacArthur Foundation Managing Director Cecilia Conrad to be awarded honorary degrees. Obama White House Chief Photographer and Dartmouth native Pete Souza, author and LGBT activist Jennifer Finney Boylan to receive Chancellor’s Medals.

Commencement 2017 honorees (left to right) MacArthur Foundation Managing Director Cecilia Conrad, Author/activist Jennifer Finney Boylan, NPR Legal Correspondent Nina Totenberg, White House Photographer Pete Souza, Southern Poverty Law Center Founder Morris Dees.

UMass Dartmouth announced today that National Public Radio Legal Affairs Correspondent Nina Totenberg, Southern Poverty Law Center Founder and Chief Legal Counsel Morris Dees, and MacArthur Foundation Managing Director Cecilia Conrad will receive honorary degrees and address the Class of 2017 at the university’s 117th Commencement exercises May 13-15.

Former Chief Official White House Photographer Pete Souza, who grew up in Dartmouth, and author and LGBT activist Jennifer Finney Boylan will receive the Chancellor’s Medal in recognition of their exemplary service to society. 

Nearly 2,400 members of the Class of 2017 will receive undergraduate, graduate and law school diplomas during Commencement ceremonies.

The undergraduate and graduate ceremonies will be held at the Xfinity Center in Mansfield to accommodate the growing number of graduates and their families attending the ceremonies. The School of Law ceremony will be held at the Main Auditorium on the UMass Dartmouth campus. 

The decision to move the undergraduate and graduate ceremonies was made in consultation with student and faculty leadership as the ceremonies have outgrown the 4,000-seat on-campus amphitheater. Over the past few years, UMass Dartmouth has been forced to limit the number of family members allowed to attend the ceremonies and split up the colleges into smaller ceremonies. This meant many classmates were unable to attend the same ceremony together. The move to the Xfinity Center will also allow for much improved security, parking and traffic flow. 

The full schedule is as follows: 

Saturday, May 13

Xfinity Center

855 South Main St., Mansfield, MA 

10 a.m. – Graduate Commencement

Honorary Degree Recipient and Commencement Speaker - Cecilia Conrad, Managing Director, MacArthur Foundation

Chancellor’s Medal Recipient – Jennifer Finney Boylan, author and LGBT activist 

2:30 p.m. – Undergraduate Commencement

Honorary Degree Recipient and Commencement Speaker - Nina Totenberg, Legal Affairs Correspondent, National Public Radio

Chancellor’s Medal Recipient – Pete Souza, former Chief Official White House Photographer


Monday, May 15, 2017

Main Auditorium, Campus Center, UMass Dartmouth

285 Old Westport Rd., Dartmouth, MA 

10 a.m. – School of Law Commencement

Honorary Degree Recipient and Commencement Speaker - Morris Dees, Founder and Chief Legal Counsel, Southern Poverty Law Center 


About the 2017 Commencement Honorees and Speakers 

Cecilia Conrad, Managing Director, MacArthur Foundation 

Cecilia Conrad leads the MacArthur Fellows Program, the MacArthur Awards for Creative and Effective Institutions, and 100&Change, the Foundation’s competition for a single $100 million grant to help solve a critical problem of our time.

Before joining the Foundation in January 2013, Dr. Conrad had a distinguished career as both a professor and an administrator at Pomona College, Claremont, CA. She joined the economics faculty at Pomona College in 1995.  She served as Associate Dean of the College (2004-2007), as Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the College (2009-2012), and as Acting President (Fall 2012).  From 2007-2009, she was interim Vice President and Dean of the Faculty at Scripps College.

In 2002, Dr. Conrad was recognized as California's Carnegie Professor of the Year, a prestigious national award that recognizes faculty members for their achievement as undergraduate professors. Her academic research focuses on the effects of race and gender on economic status.

Before joining the faculty at Pomona College, Dr. Conrad served on the faculties of Barnard College and Duke University, as an economist at the Federal Trade Commission and a visiting scholar at The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. 


Jennifer Finney Boylan, Author and activist

Jennifer Finney Boylan is the author of 15 books and currently serves as the inaugural Anna Quindlen Writer in Residence at Barnard College of Columbia University. She also serves as the national co-chair of the Board of Directors of GLAAD, the media advocacy group for LGBT people worldwide.

 Dr. Boylan has been a contributor to the op/ed page of the New York Times since 2007. She became Contributing Opinion Writer for the page in 2013.

Dr. Boylan serves on the Board of Trustees of the Kinsey Institute for Research on Sex, Gender, and Reproduction.  She is a consultant and cast member for I AM CAIT, the docu-series about Caitlyn Jenner that debuted on the E! Network in July 2015. She also served as a consultant to the Amazon series TRANSPARENT. 

Dr. Boylan’s 2003 memoir, She’s Not There: a Life in Two Genders was the first bestselling work by a transgender American. A novelist, memoirist, and short story writer, she is also a nationally known advocate for civil rights.

She lives in New York City, and in Belgrade Lakes, Maine, with her wife, Deedie, and her two sons, Zach and Sean. 


Nina Totenberg, Legal Correspondent, National Public Radio

Nina Totenberg is an award-winning legal affairs correspondent for National Public Radio. Her reports air regularly on NPR's critically acclaimed newsmagazines All Things Considered, Morning Edition, and Weekend Edition

Totenberg's coverage of the Supreme Court and legal affairs has won her widespread recognition. Newsweek says, "The mainstays [of NPR] are Morning Edition and All Things Considered. But the creme de la creme is Nina Totenberg."

In 1991, her ground-breaking report about University of Oklahoma Law Professor Anita Hill's allegations of sexual harassment by Judge Clarence Thomas led the Senate Judiciary Committee to re-open Thomas's Supreme Court confirmation hearings to consider Hill's charges. NPR received the prestigious George Foster Peabody Award for its gavel-to-gavel coverage — anchored by Totenberg — of both the original hearings and the inquiry into the issue, and for Totenberg's reports and exclusive interview with Hill. 

Before joining NPR in 1975, Totenberg served as Washington editor of New Times Magazine, and as the legal affairs correspondent for the National Observer.


Pete Souza, Chief Official White House Photographer, 2009-2017

Pete Souza, a native of Dartmouth, Massachusetts, served as the Chief Official White House Photographer and the Director of the White House photo office, during the presidency of Barack Obama. He had also served as Official White House Photographer for President Ronald Reagan.

Prior to serving as President Obama’s official photographer, Souza had served as Assistant Professor of Photojournalism at Ohio University, national photographer for the Chicago Tribune based in the Washington bureau, and freelancer for National Geographic

Several of Souza’s books document his intimate, humanizing photographs of his time with President Obama and President Reagan. 

He has won numerous photojournalism awards, including several in the prestigious National Press Photographer Association's Pictures of the Year annual competition, and the White House News Photographers Association's yearly contest.


Morris Dees, Founder and Chief Legal Counsel, Southern Poverty Law Center 

Morris Dees co-founded the Southern Poverty Law Center in 1971 following a successful business and law career. 

Attorney Dees started a direct mail sales company specializing in book publishing while still a student at the University of Alabama, where he also obtained a law degree. After launching a law practice in Montgomery in 1960, he won a series of groundbreaking civil rights cases that helped integrate government and public institutions. He also served as finance director for former President Jimmy Carter’s campaign in 1976 and for Democratic presidential nominee George McGovern in 1972. 

Known for his innovative lawsuits that crippled some of America’s most notorious white supremacist hate groups, he has received more than 20 honorary degrees and numerous awards. Those include Trial Lawyer of the Year from Trial Lawyers for Public Justice, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Award from the National Education Association and The Salem Award for Human Rights and Social Justice.

Attorney Dees was named one of the 100 most influential lawyers in America by the National Law Journal in 2006. In addition, the University of Alabama Law School and the New York law firm Skadden Arps jointly created the annual Morris Dees Justice Award to honor a lawyer devoted to public service work.

He has written three books:  A Season for Justice, his autobiography; Hate on Trial: The Case Against America’s Most Dangerous Neo-Nazi; and Gathering Storm: America’s Militia Threat.



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