Honorary DegreesGAMBIER, Ohio (May 15, 2006) Senator John F. Kerry of Massachusetts will present the Commencement address at Kenyon's one hundred seventy-eighth graduation ceremony on Saturday, May 20. The program will begin at 10:30 a.m. on the lawn of Samuel Mather Hall. (The rainsite is the Kenyon Athletic Center.)
In addition to presenting diplomas to graduating seniors, the College will confer honorary degrees on Kerry; Teresa Heinz Kerry, chairman of the Howard Heinz Endowment and the Heinz Family Philanthropies; and Diane Ackerman, author of nonfiction works including An Alchemy of Mind and A Natural History of the Senses , as well as collections of poetry and several children's nature books. Honorary degrees will also be conferred upon retiring faculty members Robert E. Bennett, professor of classics, and Charles A. Piano, professor of Spanish.
The Baccalaureate speaker this year will be Royal W. Rhodes, the Donald L. Rogan Professor of Religious Studies. Rhodes, who joined the Kenyon faculty in 1979, teaches courses mainly on the history of Christianity. His other interests include liberation theology, Third World religious experience, monasticism (East and West), and religion and the arts. In 1993, he received the Senior Cup, presented to the person who "had done most for the Senior Class and community," and in 1994 he was presented with the Trustees Award for Distinguished Teaching. The Baccalaureate service will take place on Friday, May 19, at 1:30 p.m.
John Kerry, the junior United States senator from Massachusetts since 1985, was the Democratic nominee for president in 2004. The election was especially closely contested in Ohio, and citizens in Gambier--including many students who were voting for the first time--waited as long as ten hours to cast a vote.
Volunteering for military service in 1966, after he graduated from Yale University, Kerry served two tours of duty in Vietnam. He received the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, and three Purple Hearts for his service, and was promoted from ensign to full lieutenant before being honorably discharged. Returning to the United States in 1970, Kerry joined Vietnam Veterans Against the War, and in 1971 he testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Kerry's active political career began in 1982, when he was elected lieutenant governor of Massachusetts. He now serves on four Senate committees, including the foreign relations and finance committees, and twelve subcommittees.
Teresa Heinz Kerry is deeply involved in many causes through her work with the Heinz Endowment and the Heinz Family Philanthropies, which she has headed since the death of her first husband, U.S. Senator John Heinz. Under her leadership, the funds have become widely known for developing innovative strategies to protect the environment, improve education and the lives of children, reduce the cost of prescription drugs, promote the arts, and help women achieve financial security. Heinz Kerry was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2001, and she was presented with the Albert Schweitzer Gold Medal for Humanitarianism in 2003. Born in Mozambique to Portuguese parents, Heinz Kerry first came to the United States to join the staff of the United Nations after studying at the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa and the University of Geneva.
In recognition of her literary achievements, Diane Ackerman has received numerous awards, among them the Lavan Poetry Prize, the John Burroughs Nature Award, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. She has taught at Columbia and Cornell universities, as well as at the University of Richmond. A Natural History of the Senses inspired a PBS television series, which Ackerman hosted, and she has published critically acclaimed essays in National Geographic , the New Yorker , and the New York Times . Her most recent works of nonfiction include An Alchemy of Mind , a "poetics of the brain" based on the latest neuroscience, and Cultivating Delight: A Natural History of My Garden .
Bennett, whose contributions to Kenyon range far beyond the classics department, is retiring after thirty-nine years on the faculty. In addition to regularly serving as chair of classics, he has taught dozens of courses in three different departments, has served as academic dean and associate provost, and has performed in both the Community Choir and local theatrical productions. Piano, who has taught at the College for thirty-seven years, is an expert in Latin American literature as well as language teaching and testing. He was a founding member of Kenyon's International Studies Program, played a leading role in the College's adoption of the Kenyon Intensive Language Model, and directed the Great Lakes Colleges Association Latin American Program in Bogota, Colombia, for seven years.