Vermont Business Magazine Van Jones, a CNN political contributor, attorney, author, and environmental and human rights activist, will deliver the 2016 Middlebury College commencement address on Sunday, May 29. Jones is the president and co-founder of Dream Corps, whose current initiatives, including #cut50, #YesWeCode, and Green For All, work to bring economic opportunity to disenfranchised communities.
In 2009, Jones was the Special Advisor for Green Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation at the White House Council on Environmental Quality, where he helped to run the inter-agency process that oversaw $80 billion in green energy recovery spending. He became a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress in 2010, where he leads their Green Opportunity Initiative. Jones is the author of two New York Times bestsellers: The Green Collar Economy and Rebuild the Dream.
He is also the co-founder of two social justice organizations, The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights and Color of Change.
“Because Van’s life and work is a symbol for open, civil debate on the key issues of our time, I am thrilled that he is able to join us and inspire our students as they move into the next chapters of their lives,” said Middlebury President Laurie L. Patton. “We should all be willing to cross as many boundaries as Van has to create a better world.”
Jones will receive an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letter degree at the College’s commencement ceremony.
|Senator Susan M. Collins|
|Hon. William K. Sessions ’69|
Five other distinguished men and women are also recipients of honorary degrees this year:
Srinivas Aravamudan (posthumous) was professor of English, romance studies, and the Literature Program, and the former Dean of the Humanities at Duke University. His areas of expertise included eighteenth-century British and French Literature, postcolonial studies, and literary theory. He was the president of Duke’s Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes and first vice president of the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies. His study, Tropicopolitans: Colonialism and Agency, 1688-1804 won the outstanding first book prize of the Modern Language Association in 2000. His most recent book, Enlightenment Orientalism: Resisting the Rise of the Novel, was published in 2012. Aravamudan was awarded his honorary degree on April 9, and died April 13, 2016.
Senator Susan M. Collins is the senior United States senator from Maine. First elected in 1996, Senator Collins has a national reputation as an effective legislator who works across party lines to find consensus and cooperation. She is a powerful advocate on issues of health care, education, small business ownership, defense, and intelligence. She chairs the Senate Select Committee on Aging and the Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee, and also serves on the Intelligence Committee and the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. Senator Collins ranks 19th in Senate seniority and is the most senior Republican woman. She has never missed a vote – having cast more than 6,000 – during her 19 years in office.
John Grotzinger, Fletcher Jones Professor of Geology at California Institute of Technology in the Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences, was the project scientist and head of strategic science planning for NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover mission. He was also a participating scientist for the Mars Exploration Rovers, and for the High Resolution Science Experiment camera on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). Grotzinger was part of the Opportunity rover team that discovered evidence of liquid water on ancient Mars. He is the recipient of the NASA Group Achievement Award, Mars Science Laboratory Mission; NASA Outstanding Public Leadership Medal; and the Charles Doolittle Walcott Medal from the National Academy of Sciences. Hannah Grotzinger, his daughter, is a member of the Middlebury Class of 2016.
Simi Linton, a writer, consultant, and public speaker, has been active for more than 40 years in increasing the visibility of the disabled in society, and in particular in the arts. She is the author of two books, including the memoir, My Body Politic, and recently coproduced and directed the documentary Invitation to Dance. She is the founder of Disability/Arts, which worked to help shape the presentation of disability in the arts and to increase the representation of works by disabled artists. She founded the National Coalition on Sexuality and Disability and has received a Switzer Distinguished Fellowship from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research.
Hon. William K. Sessions III ’69 is a distinguished jurist who has served 20 years on the U.S. District Court for the District of Vermont, including tenure as Chief Judge from 2002 to 2009. He has held senior status on the Court since 2013. Sessions was vice chair for 10 years and then headed the U.S. Sentencing Commission from 2009 to 2010. Sessions's landmark ruling in 2007 ended the auto industry’s attempts to block states from regulating car emissions, leading the way for clean air legislation to be enacted in multiple states. He was formerly a partner in the Middlebury law firm of Sessions, Keiner, Dumont & Barnes
The Middlebury College commencement ceremony will be held on the main quadrangle at 10 a.m. on Sunday, May 29. More than 5,000 family and friends are expected to attend.