Kopp Named MHC Commencement Speaker

Posted: April 24, 2007

Teach for America founder and president Wendy Kopp will be the speaker at Mount Holyoke's 170th commencement Sunday, May 27, at which 521 seniors--including 39 Frances Perkins Scholars--will receive bachelor of arts degrees. One master's degree, one postbaccalaureate certificate, and 26 certificates for international students will also be awarded.

Kopp will be joined by honorary degree recipients Eleanor Reed Adair '48, a leading scientist in the field of microwave radiation; movie producer Debra Martin Chase '77; and Lt. Cmdr. Charles D. Swift, the Navy lawyer who led the successful Supreme Court challenge of the Bush administration's military tribunals for Guantanamo detainees.

Kopp, the author of One Day, All Children: The Unlikely Triumph of Teach for America and What I Learned Along the Way, will be at the Odyssey Bookshop Saturday, May 26, at 4:30 pm to sign her book.

Chosen to speak for the graduating class is Sara E. Richards, a German studies major from Knoxville, Tennessee.

Commencement ceremonies will begin at 10:30 am in Gettell Amphitheater. In the event of rain, the ceremony will be held in Kendall Field House.

Wendy KoppWendy Kopp
In 1989, Wendy Kopp proposed the creation of Teach for America in her undergraduate thesis at Princeton University. She was convinced that many in her generation were searching for a way to assume a significant responsibility that would make a real difference in the world and that top college students would choose teaching over more lucrative opportunities if a prominent teacher corps existed. Now, more than 3,500 corps members are teaching in the country's neediest communities, reaching approximately 375,000 students each year. They join more than 10,000 Teach for America alumni who--still in their 20s and 30s--are assuming significant leadership roles in education and social reform. Under Kopp's leadership, Teach for America is in the midst of an effort to grow to scale while maximizing the impact of corps members and alumni as a force for short-term and long-term change.

Kopp serves on the board of directors of the New Teacher Project and the advisory boards of the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government and the National Council on Teacher Quality. Her experience is chronicled in her book, One Day, All Children: The Unlikely Triumph of Teach for America and What I Learned Along the Way.

"This year's honorary degree recipients represent a wide array of accomplishment and leadership very much in keeping with the College's mission of purposeful engagement in the world," President Joanne V. Creighton said. "We are proud to honor them and have them share their inspiring stories with the graduating class of 2007."

Eleanor Reed AdairEleanor Reed Adair '48
Eleanor Reed Adair '48 is a leading scientist whose work has proved that exposure to radiation from microwave ovens and cell phones is not harmful to human beings. Adair received a Ph.D. in psychophysics from the University of Wisconsin and began researching the physiological effects of microwave radiation in 1975 at Yale University's John B. Pierce Laboratory. In 1996, Adair was appointed Senior Scientist in Electromagnetic Radiation Effects for the Human Effectiveness Directorate of the Air Force Research Laboratory at Brooks Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas--a position equivalent to the rank of brigadier general. During her five-year term, Adair conducted a series of studies on the interaction of humans and microwaves that definitively confirmed the standards for the safe use of electromagnetic energy.

Adair was named an Air Force senior scientist emeritus in 2001. She continues to consult at Brooks and is currently working on a manuscript detailing her work there.

Debra Martin ChaseDebra Martin Chase '77
Debra Martin Chase is a Hollywood producer and lawyer. After graduating from Mount Holyoke in 1977, she earned a law degree from Harvard Law School in 1981 and practiced law for several years before joining the legal department of Columbia Pictures. By 1992, she was heading Denzel Washington's production company, Mundy Lane Entertainment. Her production credits include The Pelican Brief, The Preacher's Wife, Courage Under Fire, and the Academy Award-nominated documentary Hank Aaron: Chasing the Dream. By 1995, Chase was executive vice president of Whitney Houston's Brown House Productions, which produced the 1997 Emmy-nominated television musical, Rogers and Hammerstein's Cinderella, and The Princess Diaries. In 2000, she formed Martin Chase Productions and produced Fox-TV's Missing and Disney's The Cheetah Girls, Miracle, and Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.

In 2002, Chase was honored by Girls Inc. for inspiring young women. In August 2003, Savoy magazine named Chase one of the 100 most influential blacks in America. In October 2003, Essence magazine named her one of the 50 African American women shaping the world. In March 2007, Black Enterprise magazine named her one of the Top 50 Powerbrokers in Hollywood. And in May 2007, Ebonymagazine will honor her with its Television and Film Award for Outstanding Women in Marketing and Communications.

Lt. Cmdr. Charles D. SwiftLt. Cmdr. Charles D. Swift
Charles D. Swift is a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy, Judge Advocate General's Corps. Swift is known for leading the successful Supreme Court challenge of the Bush administration's military tribunals for Guantanamo detainees. Swift served as counsel for Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a former driver for Osama bin Laden who was charged in July 2004 with conspiracy to commit terrorism. As Hamdan's legal counsel, Swift, together with Neal Katyal, appealed Hamdan's writ of habeas corpus petition to the U.S. Supreme Court. The court held that the military commission to try Hamdan was illegal and violated the Geneva Conventions. Swift learned two weeks after the decision that he was passed over for promotion and would have to retire under the military's "up or out" promotion system.

According to the New York Times, "With his defense of Hamdan and his testimony before Congress, Swift did as much as any individual to expose the wrongs of Guantanamo and the lawless military commissions. It was a valuable public service and a brave act of conscience, and his treatment is deeply troubling."

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