2009 Archives

Laura Bush to Speak at Commencement

Three to receive honorary degrees for contributions to society

May 14, 2009

 DALLAS (SMU) — Southern Methodist University will hold its 94th Commencement ceremony at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, May 16, in Moody Coliseum with former First Lady Laura Bush addressing 1,958 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree recipients.

Laura Bush“With her life-long dedication to education and the global insights she has gained from her years as First Lady, Mrs. Bush will offer a unique perspective to our graduates,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “At the same time, she brings a shared memory of her own graduation from the University.”

Mrs. Bush, who earned a Bachelor’s degree in elementary education from SMU in 1968, is actively involved in national and global issues, with an emphasis on education, health care and human rights. As First Lady, she made a historic trip to Afghanistan in 2005 to witness the progress achieved by the Afghan people after the fall of the Taliban regime. She visited the Women's Teacher Training Institute in Kabul, which is preparing women to lead classrooms that girls were once forbidden to enter. Mrs. Bush's involvement in Afghanistan began in 2001, when she delivered a weekly radio address to call attention to the plight of women and children.

Also during Saturday’s Commencement, SMU will confer honorary degrees upon best-selling author Alexander McCall Smith, Yale Divinity School Dean Harold W. Attridge and Dance Theater of Harlem co-founder Arthur Mitchell.

McCall Smith, who will receive an honorary Doctor or Humane Letters, has excelled in two diverse careers — as legal scholar and fiction writer. He earned a law degree and a Ph.D. from the University of Edinburgh, where he has led a distinguished career as professor of medical law. He has been a visiting professor at law schools in Europe and the United States, including twice at SMU's Dedman School of Law. An international authority on biomedical ethics, he has served on the International Bioethics Commission of UNESCO. However, he is best known as the author of  The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, which has sold more than 20 million copies worldwide.

Attridge will receive an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree. An internationally respected scholar of early Christianity, he served on the faculty of SMU's Perkins School of Theology from 1977 to 1985. He joined the Yale faculty in 1997 and became dean of the Divinity School in 2002. His research has contributed significantly to understanding of the intellectual and religious environment in which Christianity arose.

Mitchell, who will receive an honorary Doctor of Arts degree, is a pivotal figure in the world of dance, as well as an agent for social change. He is co-founder and artistic director of the Dance Theater of Harlem, a multicultural ballet company of international renown that has broken barriers around the world. After studying at the School of American Ballet, Mitchell became the first African-American male to be a permanent member and principal dancer with the New York City Ballet. Following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968, he resolved to provide opportunities for the children of Harlem and co-founded the Dance Theater of Harlem. Over the years, Mitchell and his dancers have served as cultural ambassadors and received worldwide acclaim.

McCall Smith, Attridge and Mitchell will be honored at symposia on Friday, May 15.

"The Bible in American Public Life," set for 10 a.m. Friday in Perkins Chapel in honor of Attridge, will include panelists Mark Chancey of Dedman College's Religious Studies Department and Jaime Clark-Soles, Roy Heller and Susanne Scholz of Perkins School of Theology. (Read more.)

Mitchell will discuss his life and work with Shelley Berg of Meadows’ Dance Division and Maria Dixon of Meadow’s Corporate Communications and Public Affairs Division beginning at 1 p.m. Friday in O'Donnell Hall, 2130 Owen Arts Center. (Read more.)

From 2:30 – 4 p.m. Friday in the Umphrey Lee Ballroom, McCall Smith will take part in "A Conversation with Alexander McCall Smith," moderated by Dedman School of Law Professor Fred Moss. (Read more.)

Saturday also will mark the first time SMU’s graduating class will wear red and blue robes, representing SMU’s school colors, instead of the traditional black. (Read more.)

After the University-wide Commencement, SMU’s schools and departments will hold individual ceremonies throughout the day to honor graduates. SMU enrolls nearly 11,000 students in seven degree-granting colleges and schools.

See a schedule of Commencement Weekend events and related information.

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