Congressman John Lewis to Deliver 2007 Commencement Address
Release Date: 01-18-2007
Contact: University Communications Staff
Phone: (802) 656-2005 FAX: (802) 656-3203
John Lewis, a Georgia congressman since 1986 and a longtime passionate advocate for civil rights, will deliver the commencement address and receive an honorary degree from the University of Vermont next spring. Graduates will gather on the University Green on Sunday, May 20 for UVM’s 203rd commencement ceremony.
John Lewis has been called the “conscience of the U.S. Congress” by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. He has been a strong voice for civil rights throughout his life and helped to lead many of the seminal protests of the movement in the 1960s. At the age of 23, Lewis was an architect of and a keynote speaker at the historic March on Washington in 1963. His work as chair of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee during that era helped to inspire student activism nationwide, including a 1964 visit to UVM where he participated in the “Pride and Prejudice” Vermont Conference.
In addition to Lewis, honorary degrees will be presented to five other individuals in recognition of their achievement and service to the nation, the state, or the university. UVM’s other 2007 honorary degree recipients are listed below.
Henry Louis Gates, Jr., is an internationally renowned scholar of African and African-American history and culture. Since 1991, Gates has served on the faculty at Harvard University, where he is the W.E.B. Du Bois Professor of the Humanities and the director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African-American Research. A prolific author and writer/producer of television documentaries on African-American history, Gates has received a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant,” been honored with the National Humanities Medal, and was named to Time magazine’s “25 Most Influential Americans” list in 1997.
Jackie M. Gribbons, a UVM administrative leader across four decades, co-founded the university’s highly regarded graduate program in Higher Education and Student Affairs Administration and held many other leadership roles on campus. She was the last person to hold the title of “Dean of Women” at the university and as UVM’s first coordinator of Title IX helped to guide the university into a new era of equal opportunity in collegiate athletics.
Leonard Miller, a Burlington native and class of 1951 alumnus of the University of Vermont, is a retired Florida real estate developer and former mayor of Indian Creek Village, Fla. Miller and his wife, Carolyn, who passed away in 2006, have been major supporters of UVM’s Center for Holocaust Studies; their recent $5 million gift to the university will fund two endowed professorships in Holocaust Studies and renovation work in Billings Hall to establish a permanent home for the center.
Floyd Rourke is the retired chair, president, and CEO of Sandy Hill Corporation, a pulp and paper machinery company in Hudson Falls, N.Y. A longtime resident of the Glens Falls, N.Y. area, Rourke has played key leadership roles with many organizations and initiatives that have helped to build a strong network of healthcare and social services in the region. As chair of the Lake Champlain Cancer Research Organization, Rourke has been a strong advocate and longtime supporter of the Vermont Cancer Center, a joint effort of UVM and Fletcher Allen Health Care.
Thomas Slayton will retire this year from Vermont Life Magazine after 21 years as editor-in-chief of the publication. His leadership at Vermont Life was part of a distinguished career that spanned more than 40 years as a Vermont newspaper reporter, arts writer and editor. A regular commentator for Vermont Public Radio, Slayton is also the author of Sabra Field: The Art of Place and Finding Vermont: An Informal Guide to Vermont’s Places and People. Slayton is a UVM alumnus, class of 1963.
Image: Georgia Congressman John Lewis, a passionate advocate of civil rights, will address UVM's 203rd Commencement in May. (Photo courtesy of John Lewis)