Commencement speakers announced

By Haley Costen
Staff Writer

pic of michelle alexander

Michelle Alexander, Photo: PBS

The College announced the names of the 2015 commencement speakers on Tuesday, as well as the honorary degree recipients.

Michelle Alexander will be the undergraduate morning commencement speaker and Abigail Disney will be the afternoon graduate speaker.

Alexander is a civil rights lawyer, social justice advocate, author, and legal scholar who is currently a professor of law at Ohio State University.

The College’s press release calls her a leading voice for racial equality in America.

Her 2010 book, “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness,” deals with the mass levels of incarceration in the U.S. and the societal repression of African American men.

The book won the 2011 NAACP Image Award for outstanding non-fiction book and remained on the New York Times Best Seller List for 10 months.

Disney, the afternoon speaker, is a filmmaker, philanthropist, and activist.

pic of abigail disney

Abigail Disney

“Abigail Disney has devoted her life to amplifying the voices of women fighting for peace in war-torn countries, and highlighting the key role women play in modern warfare,” the College said in its press release.

Her first film, the documentary “Pray the Devil Back to Hell,” follows the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace movement during the Second Liberian Civil War.

The film won Best Documentary at the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival.

Disney founded the Daphne Foundation, Peace is Loud and co-founded, along with 2011 Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee, the Gbowee Peace Foundation, USA.

She was also the Simmons Leader in Residence from 2013-2014.

This year’s honorary degree recipients are Deborah Porter and Laurence Prusack.

“Established literary critic Deborah Porter has enriched the city of Boston through her love of literature and her generosity in sharing this with others,” the College said in its press release on the event.

Porter is also the founder and executive director of the Boston Book Festival, the largest public literary event in New England.

The first festival,  held in 2009, drew more than 10,000 attendees; it has since doubled in size, with 25,000 attendees and more than 100 presenters annually including Pulitzer Prize-winning authors from around the world, according to the College’s press release.

Porter graduated from the Simmons Graduate School in 2001, earning a degree in Children’s Literature.

Meanwhile, Prusack is a widely acknowledged researcher, teacher, author, and consultant in knowledge management.

He founded and directed the Center for Business Innovation at Ernst and Young, and the Institute for Knowledge Management (IKM), a global consortium of member organizations engaged in advancing the practice of knowledge management through action research.

Prusak holds an M.S. in Library Science  from Simmons and recieved the Distinguished Alumni Award in 2009.

He is a faculty member teaching at Columbia University’s MS Program in Information and Knowledge Management, and has been a guest lecturer at several universities in the U.S. and abroad.

Alexander and Disney will also be receiving honorary degrees from the college.

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