Mount Holyoke to Host Its 175th Commencement May 20

Best-selling author Azar Nafisi will deliver the commencement address and receive an honorary degree when Mount Holyoke College celebrates its 175th commencement on Sunday, May 20 in the Richard Glenn Gettell Amphitheater.

The College will confer 577 bachelor of arts degrees during the ceremony, including 37 that will go to Frances Perkins Scholars. One additional student will receive a master of arts degree, and another 25 will receive international student certificates. In addition to Nafisi (top right), honorary degrees will be presented to Mallika Dutt '83, the founder and executive director of Breakthrough; Bernard LaFayette, a leader in the civil rights movement and cofounder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee; and astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson, director of New York City's Hayden Planetarium.

Tamar Spitz Westphal ’12 (lower right) of Evanston, Illinois, has been chosen to give the senior address. Westphal completed a self-designed major in musical theatre, which combined work in theatre, music, and dance. She plans to return to the Chicago area after graduation to pursue a career as a stage actress.

Commencement weekend at Mount Holyoke includes some of its most cherished and time-honored commencement traditions. On Saturday, May 19, the alumnae parade and laurel chain ceremony will begin at Woolley Circle at 9 am, when members of the class of 2012--dressed in white to honor the suffragettes and carrying a chain of laurel leaves--will be led by returning alumnae in a procession to the grave of the College's founder, Mary Lyon. There they will join MHC president Lynn Pasquerella and Alumnae Association president Cynthia L. Reed '80 to place the garland at the gravesite.

At 9 pm Saturday, graduates participate in a Baccalaureate service in Abbey Chapel, where they will be addressed by Associate Professor of Psychology and Education Amber Douglas and Professor of Anthropology Lynn Morgan. Baccalaureate is followed by the canoe sing, which will begin at 10:30 pm on Lower Lake; 12 canoes, illuminated by lanterns, will carry selected seniors to Upper Lake as they and classmates along the banks sing songs in celebration of commencement.

On Sunday, May 20, the commencement procession to Gettell Amphitheater will begin at 10 am, followed by the start of the commencement ceremony at 10:30 am. (In the event of rain, the ceremony will be held in Kendall Field House.) There will be a closed-circuit telecast to Hooker Auditorium and Blanchard Campus Center; Mount Holyoke will also broadcast commencement live across the globe via the Web.

Twitter fans will be able to follow the event through live tweets via @mtholyoke or through the hashtag #MHC2012. Live streaming of the event will begin shortly before the commencement procession steps off.

See biographical information on Nafisi and the other honorary degree recipients here.

(Westphal's photo was taken by Leila Quinn '12.)