Carol Geary Schneider—president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, champion of liberal education, influential leader, tireless proponent of excellence in student learning, former member of our board of trustees—we are in your debt for your persistent and significant advocacy of the transformative power of the liberal arts.
You are one of Mount Holyoke College’s most accomplished and influential alumnae, having graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa in 1967. After studying at the University of London’s Institute for Historical Research, you completed your PhD in history at Harvard University. Your educational research has been widely published and you have extensive teaching experience at institutions including the University of Chicago and Chicago State, DePaul, and Boston Universities.
In the 1990s you began your work for the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), serving first as vice president and then as president, a position you have held for seventeen years. Today, AAC&U, which celebrates its centennial this year, has more than 1,300 member colleges and universities, which have benefited from your voice and your vision. Your skillful and wise leadership has made AAC&U one of the leading national organizations for the advancement of undergraduate liberal education.
At a time when the value of a liberal arts education faces unprecedented scrutiny, your own achievements as an educator, a researcher and a creative, inspirational leader speak eloquently to the power of broad learning. Not satisfied with mere argument, you launched programs such as AAC&U’s LEAP initiative for Liberal Education and America’s Promise that demonstrate the impact of a liberal education for the twenty-first century. You encouraged and identified innovations and successful ways to improve the quality of undergraduate learning. And you understood the critical need to tell these stories in meaningful ways to students and their families, to the public and to national leaders.
Your support for the continued relevance of women’s colleges in particular is especially valued by the Mount Holyoke community. “Colleges like Mount Holyoke are setting the pace for creative reinvention by connecting the liberal arts and sciences to the world’s most important challenges,” you have said. Such words hearten our students, faculty, staff, and alumnae and reinforce our commitment to our mission. We concur with the observation of one of today’s graduates, who said, “I believe there is no other person besides Carol Geary Schneider who should be our commencement speaker.”
It is not surprising that, in recognition of your efforts to restore the centrality of liberal education, you have received numerous awards, including a Mina Shaughnessy award from the United States Department of Education and the 2013 Boyer award from the National Association of Colleges and Universities, as well as ten honorary degrees. We have but one to offer today; it is our hope that an honorary degree from your alma mater will hold special significance. You have honored Mount Holyoke through your service to higher education, and we are delighted to honor you by bestowing upon you the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa.