Alexander, Norsigian slated to speak at 2016 Commencement ceremonies

Photo: NewJimCrow.com

Photo: NewJimCrow.com

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By Katie Sittig-Boyd
Staff Writer

On March 3, just before spring break, President Helen Drinan introduced via email the speakers for Simmons’ upcoming Commencement ceremonies in May.

Michelle Alexander, author of the book “The New Jim Crow,” will be the morning commencement speaker. Alexander is a leader in advocating for racial equality in the U.S., and her well-regarded book, “The New Jim Crow,” won the NAACP Image Award in 2011 for best nonfiction.

Alexander is highly acclaimed as a civil rights lawyer, as well as for her social justice advocacy, authorship, and legal scholarship. She is currently an associate professor of law at Ohio State University.

Alexander will be the speaker for the undergraduate ceremony, which will take place in the morning.

Additionally, Judy Norsigian will speak during the afternoon ceremony, which will be attended by matriculating students from Simmons’ graduate schools. Norsigian is a co-founder of Our Bodies Ourselves and also served as the executive director between 2001 and 2015.

Norsigian is internationally renowned for her advocacy related to women’s health concerns, in particular health care reform, issues of reproductive justice, genetics, and other such topics.

Norsigian has also been an author and editor for each of the nine editions of “Our Bodies, Ourselves,” OBOS’s influential book on sexuality and reproductive health.

“These visionary women have pioneered important movements to educate society and bring about change to two critical issues of our time,” President Drinan wrote in the announcement email. “Their work embodies the spirit of purpose, empowerment, and excellence for which our institution has stood for more than 100 years.”

Simmons College will award honorary degrees not only to Alexander and Norsigian, but also to three other individuals.

Saru Jayaraman is an advocate for the rights of immigrant workers, author, and co-founder of the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United in New York. Jayaraman currently serves as the director of the Food Labor Research Center at UC Berkeley.

Paula A. Johnson, MD, MPH, is an internationally recognized physician, researcher, and expert in public health and health policy, and recently appointed president of Wellesley College. Dr. Johnson founded the Connors Center for Women’s Health and Gender Biology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Robert Lewis, Jr. is a noted civic, community, and non-profit leader, who founded athletic advancement opportunity organization The BASE in 2013. Previously, Lewis founded StreetSafe Boston, a privately funded organization which sends former gang members into the city to help prevent gang violence.

Commencement will take place on May 20, 2016.