Media contact: Noelle Lemoine, communications assistant; tele: (413) 597-4277; email: [email protected]
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass., March 14, 2012 – Atul Gawande, a surgeon, writer, and public health researcher whose work focuses on transforming safety and performance in surgery, childbirth, and care of the terminally ill, will be the principal speaker at Williams College’s 223rd Commencement Exercise on Sunday, June 3. Playwright, actor, and professor Anna Deavere Smith will be the Baccalaureate speaker the day before.
Gawande and Smith will receive honorary degrees at Commencement together with writer, editor, and commentator David Brooks; Toby Cosgrove ’62, president and chief executive officer of Cleveland Clinic; and Mary K. Grant, president of Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.
2012 Honorary Degree Candidates
After working as a senior editor at The Weekly Standard and as a contributing editor at Newsweek and The Atlantic Monthly, Canadian-born Brooks became an Op-Ed columnist for The New York Times in September 2003. In addition to his impressive history of articles for publications including The New Yorker, The Washington Post, Forbes, The Public Interest, and The New Republic, Brooks has written three books—Bobos in Paradise, On Paradise Drive, and The Social Animal—and edited the 1996 anthology Backward and Upward: the New Conservative Writing. Currently, he is a commentator on The Newshour with Jim Lehrer, and he also frequently comments on National Public Radio, CNN’s Late Edition, and The Diane Rehm Show. Brooks received a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Chicago.
Toby Cosgrove ’62
As president and chief executive officer of Cleveland Clinic, Cosgrove oversees an extensive $6 billion healthcare system, which U.S. News & World Report has consistently named among the top four hospitals in America. Cleveland Clinic also appeared on the list of America’s 99 Most Ethical Companies as compiled by the Ethisphere Institute. Cosgrove has published nearly 450 journal articles, several book chapters, one book, and 17 training and continuing medical education films; performed more than 22,000 operations; and filed 30 patents for medical and clinical products. This impressive career has made him an internationally recognized expert in cardiac surgery, and has led to his appearance on nearly every major television news program and major print periodical, including a cover story in Time. Before joining Cleveland Clinic in 1975, Cosgrove served as a surgeon in the U.S. Air Force in Da Nang, Republic of Vietnam, for which he was awarded the Bronze Star and Republic of Vietnam Commendation Medal. Cosgrove received his bachelor’s degree from Williams and his medical degree from the University of Virginia School of Medicine in Charlottesville. He is a trustee emeritus of Williams.
Atul Gawande is a surgeon, writer, and public health researcher who practices general and endocrine surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. As founder of Lifebox, an international not-for-profit, he implemented systems and technologies to reduce surgical deaths globally. His innovative spirit is focused on transforming safety and performance in all areas of hospital care, which has contributed to his role as lead advisor for the World Health Organization’s Safe Surgery Saves Lives program. Gawande is a prolific writer, serving as a staff writer for The New Yorker magazine since 1998 and writing three New York Times bestselling books: Complications (a finalist for the National Book Award in 2002), Better, and The Checklist Manifesto. Gawande also teaches as an associate professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School and associate professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Harvard School of Public Health. He received an undergraduate degree from Stanford University, a degree in philosophy, politics, and economics from Balliol College, Oxford, as a Rhodes Scholar, a medical degree from Harvard Medical School, and a master’s degree in public health from the Harvard School of Public Health.
Grant is the 11th president of Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) and the first alumna of the college to serve as its president. Under her leadership, MCLA has expanded academic programming and facilities; provided students with new study away, internship, research, and service opportunities; overseen growth in enrollment; strengthened the connections between the college and the community; and become part of the Massachusetts State University System. Grant has provided consistent leadership in advancing the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) agenda in Berkshire County and statewide, serving on the governor’s STEM Advisory Council. She is the recipient of the 2010 Council for the Advancement and Support of Education District I Executive Leadership Award and the 2011 American Council on Education Massachusetts National Network of Women Leaders Lifetime Achievement Award. Grant serves on a range of nonprofit boards and established the Berkshire Compact for Higher Education. She received a bachelor’s degree in sociology from MCLA, a master’s degree in public affairs from the John W. McCormack Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Massachusetts, and a doctorate in social policy from the Heller School at Brandeis University.
Anna Deavere Smith
Named “the most exciting individual in American theatre” by Newsweek, Smith uses her skills to explore issues of community, character, and diversity in America. Two of her best-known works are the one-woman plays about racial tensions she wrote and performed: Fires in the Mirror (Obie Award winner and runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize) and Twilight: Los Angeles 1992 (Obie Award winner and Tony Award nominee). Smith won the Drama Desk Award for outstanding one-person show two years in a row for these plays. Smith has also appeared in several films, including Rachel Getting Married, Philadelphia, and The American President, and she has a recurring role as the nurse manager on the Showtime series Nurse Jackie. She also played National Security Advisor Nancy McNally on NBC’s The West Wing. Her plays and performances have won her widespread recognition, including a MacArthur Foundation “genius” Fellowship. Her most recent book is Letters to a Young Artist: Straight-up Advice on Making a Life in the Arts, and her latest play is Let Me Down Easy, which opened on Off-Broadway’s Second Stage Theatre in 2009 and was broadcast on PBS in January 2012. She is a tenured professor at NYU’s Tish School of the Arts.
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