Billie Jean King to Speak at UVM’s May Commencement Ceremony
- By Thomas Weaver
Tennis champion Billie Jean King, a pioneer in women’s sports, will deliver the address to graduates at the University of Vermont’s 2011 Commencement ceremony on Sunday, May 22.
One of Life magazine’s 100 most important Americans in the 20th century, Billie Jean King is a legend both for stellar tennis and breaking barriers for female athletes. In 1972, after capturing every Grand Slam singles title, King became the first woman to be named Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year. After setting an earnings record for female athletes, she successfully advocated for equal prize money at a time when men were winning three times that of women. Most famously she routed former champion Bobby Riggs in three straight sets, a message to athletes and spectators, young and old. King has worked tirelessly on and off the court for social justice and equity around gender and GLBT issues. Among many honors for her service King was awarded the 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.
In addition to King, the university will confer honorary degrees upon Letitia C. Biddle, Major General Michael D. Dubie, Bruce Lisman, Keith M. Miser, Dr. Thomas J. Sullivan, Professor Emerita Marion Brown Thorpe, and Simon Pearce.
Letitia C. Biddle, UVM Class of 1983, is the executive director of the Churchill Institute for Leadership Development, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing school leaders with best practices in leadership, management and curriculum. Biddle, who graduated from the University of Vermont with a bachelor’s degree in elementary and special education, founded the institute after working to reestablish the Gesu School in Philadelphia, a model for inner-city schooling nationwide. Biddle’s career in education also includes public school teaching; co-founding The Academy in Manayunk, a school for children with moderate to severe learning disabilities; and serving as chairperson for Arthur Ashe Youth Tennis and Education, an organization that helps provide opportunities for children, many of whom are from under-served, at-risk, and multicultural populations.
Major General Michael D. Dubie, UVM Class of 1982, has spent the last 30 years in high-ranking military leadership positions and is currently the Adjutant General of the State of Vermont, serving as the senior uniformed officer in the state responsible for the nearly 4,000 members of the Vermont Army and Air National Guard. He also serves as inspector and quartermaster general and head of the State Military Department, including Veterans Affairs. Dubie, who is president of the Adjutants General Association of the United States, began his military career in 1979 in the Army Reserve Officer Training Corps program at UVM.
Bruce Lisman, UVM Class of 1969, began an immensely successful career on Wall Street shortly after his graduation. Starting as a file clerk, he became a highly regarded global equities expert who grew a relatively small business into a worldwide enterprise with more than $2.5 billion in revenues. He became chair of JP Morgan Chase’s Global Equity Division before retiring in 2009. As a UVM trustee and chair of the board of trustees, Lisman guided the university through important transitions, including the search for UVM’s current president, initiation of a comprehensive fundraising campaign, and adoption of an enduring approach to the university’s strategic planning and budgeting.
Keith M. Miser is a national leader in the field of higher education student affairs—a practitioner, thinker, teacher, and mentor who has significantly advanced his field. Miser’s career began at the University of Vermont, where he served the university in several roles across seventeen years, from 1971 to 1988. Originally hired as director of residential life, Miser would later assume the posts of dean of students and associate vice president for administration. He is currently executive director of the Center for Global Education and Exchange and the special assistant to the chancellor for International Programs at the University of Hawai`i at Hilo.
Simon Pearce is a glassblower, master craftsman, and visionary business leader. The Vermont company that bears his name makes handmade tableware world-renowned for blending clear glass and graceful forms with practical designs intended for daily use. Following a passion for skilled hand labor and old-world techniques, in 1971, Pearce opened his own glassblowing workshop in Kilkenny, Ireland. In 1981, he moved his business and family to a historic mill in Quechee, Vermont. Today, Simon Pearce employs nearly 400 people, with workshops in Vermont, Pennsylvania and Maryland, two restaurants, and nine retails stores including one on Park Avenue, New York.
Marion Brown Thorpe, UVM Class of 1938, was greatly influenced, both as a teacher and a friend, by UVM’s first woman faculty member, Bertha Terrill. Thorpe acquired from Terrill not only the academic foundation upon which she would build her own legacy as a teacher and scholar, but also the leadership skills that would bind her to generations of UVM students. With a degree in home economics education from UVM and a master’s degree from Syracuse University, Thorpe joined the faculty in home economics education at her alma mater and taught for 33 years. Her students found in her not only an inspiring teacher but also a friend and mentor for life.
Thomas J. Sullivan (1939-2010), UVM Class of 1962 and UVM College of Medicine Class of of 1966, chose radiology as his specialty and, following a residency at the Medical Center Hospital of Vermont (currently Fletcher Allen Health Care), Dr. Sullivan worked at hospitals across Vermont during the 1970s. He ultimately joined the faculty at Dartmouth Medical School, retiring in 2006. Sadly, Dr. Sullivan passed away in December 2010 after he was selected to receive this honorary degree. He was a role model for aspiring physicians, and will be remembered for his relentless passion for improving health care and health education. His transformative gifts in support of the education he valued so greatly will ensure a legacy of unparalleled altruism and exceptional generosity that will impact physicians, medical students, and nursing and health sciences students for generations to come.
The main commencement ceremony will be held on the University Green at 9 a.m. on Sunday, May 22. Graduation ceremonies for individual schools and colleges will be scheduled later in the day.