National education advocate to speak at commencement.

After graduating from Mount Holyoke, Schneider—a former College trustee— received her PhD in history from Harvard University.


Story updated at 12:15 p.m. March 25, 2015

Carol Geary Schneider ’67, president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), will give the keynote address at Mount Holyoke College’s 178th commencement Sunday, May 17.

A leading national advocate for undergraduate liberal education and women’s colleges, Schneider also will be awarded an honorary doctorate of humane letters. Honorary degrees also will be presented to Robert Forrester, president and chief executive officer of Newman’s Own Foundation; Sheila Lirio Marcelo ’93, an alumna and the founder and CEO of; and Meredith J. Monk, an internationally acclaimed artist whose innovative work explores the boundaries and relationships between music and movement.

Commencement ceremonies will begin at 10:30 am in the Gettell Amphitheater.

"It is a huge honor to return to the college that gave me so much, as the commencement speaker, but it is especially inspiring at this particular moment in the history of the College," Schneider said. "Mount Holyoke has always provided a rigorous education, and every alumna benefits daily from that intellectual and personal discipline. But today, Mount Holyoke is setting a new standard for liberal and liberal arts education by expecting every student to connect her college studies with those real-world' questions and challenges we face in our own society, in our economy, and around the globe.

"I have been both inspired and even awed to see the bold leadership Mount Holyoke is providing right now in the liberal arts college community.  I look forward to talking with graduates and their families about the significance and value of Mount Holyoke’s 'can-do' approach to a liberal education."      

Schneider, who has served as AAC&U’s president since 1998, has significantly advanced the association’s profile as the leading national organization for promoting and strengthening undergraduate liberal education. Under her leadership, AAC&U has launched two major initiatives to advance the liberal arts: “Greater Expectations: The Commitment to Quality as a Nation Goes to College,” and “Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP).”

LEAP is “a national advocacy, campus action, and research initiative that champions the importance of a twenty-first-century liberal education—for individuals and for a nation dependent on economic creativity and democratic vitality,” according to AAC&U. “Since its launch in 2005, hundreds of colleges, universities, community colleges, state systems and private consortia have all worked to engage the public with core questions about what really matters in college and to advance a guiding vision for high-quality education through which all students achieve essential learning outcomes and participate in high-impact educational practices.”

Geary is widely recognized and published as an authority on higher education and previously taught at the University of Chicago, DePaul University, Boston University, and Chicago State University. After graduating from Mount Holyoke College, she received her PhD in history from Harvard University. She is a past member of the Mount Holyoke College Board of Trustees.

Robert H. Forrester, president and CEO of Newman’s Own Foundation, will receive an honorary doctorate of humane letters. He has served as president since the foundation’s inception in 2005 and also is president and CEO of Newman’s Own, which distributes 100 percent of its profits. For more than 40 years, Forrester’s career has been focused on the work of nonprofit organizations and helping others to engage in philanthropy; he has served on the boards of several organizations. Forrester also worked in higher education management at New York University and the University of Hartford, and founded and served as CEO of Payne, Forrester and Associates, LLC, an international consulting firm that provides advice to nonprofit organizations. Forrester is a graduate of the University of Hartford and served as a captain in the United States Army during the Vietnam War.

Sheila Lirio Marcelo ’93, founder and chief executive officer of, will receive an honorary doctorate of humane letters. Marcelo founded, which helps its members identify service providers for the care of children, individuals with special needs, and the elderly,  as well as for housekeeping and pet care, because of her own experiences in finding care for her young children and an ailing parent while she was completing her education. Now operating in 16 countries, has nearly ten million members. Named one of the “Top Ten Women Entrepreneurs” by Fortune magazine in 2014, Marcelo also was awarded a Harvard Business School Alumni Achievement Award in 2014 and received a Filipino Heritage Award from President Benigno Aquino III. She advocates for women in entrepreneurial and technology leadership roles and speaks frequently about this in leading national forums. A magna cum laude graduate of Mount Holyoke College, Marcelo also holds a law degree and an MBA from Harvard University. She gave the keynote address at the recent Mount Holyoke Asian Alumnae Symposium in Hong Kong.

Meredith Monk, an internationally acclaimed artist whose innovative work explores the boundaries and relationships between music and movement, will receive an honorary doctorate of fine arts. During her 50-year career, Monk has promoted and developed interdisciplinary performance and extended vocal techniques. A composer, choreographer, filmmaker, performer, and vocalist, Monk has created operas, symphonic and music-theatre pieces, and films and installations. She has also composed, performed, and recorded numerous vocal and dance works. Twice awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, she was named a John D. and Catherine T. McArthur Fellow in 1995. A graduate of Sarah Lawrence College, she has been nominated for a Grammy and has been honored with three Off-Broadway Theater Awards or “Obies” and two New York Dance and Performance Awards (“Bessies”).

Visit the Mount Holyoke’s commencement website for more information and updates.