Bates to bestow degree on Maya Angelou
The distinguished woman of letters Maya Angelou will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Bates College on April 3 as part of the college’s annual Founders Day Convocation.
Angelou, acclaimed poet, playwright, educator, historian, actress, civil rights activist, producer and director, will address the audience during the 11 a.m. program in Merrill Gymnasium.
Joining Angelou as an honoree will be Bates trustee Dr. Helen A. Papaioanou ’49, national chair of the recently completed Bates Campaign. She will receive an honorary Doctor of Science degree.
Bates President Donald W. Harward will also speak during the convocation, which marks the 142nd anniversary of Bates’ founding on April 5, 1855.
Angelou, Reynolds Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, lectures throughout the United States and the world on the African-American experience and the human condition.
Although her writing spans many genres, she remains best known as the author of the autobiographical works I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes and Wouldn’t Take Nothin’ for My Journey. She wrote and delivered the inspirational poem “On the Pulse of the Morning” at President Clinton’s first inauguration.
The author of 10 best-selling books and numerous magazine pieces, Angelou, a Missouri native who attended public schools in Arkansas and San Francisco, began her career in drama and dance. In 1952, she received a scholarship to study dance and then joined a 22-country European tour of Porgy and Bess.
After marrying a South African freedom fighter, Angelou lived in Egypt and Ghana, where she worked as a journalist. During the 1960s, at the request of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., she served as northern coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
Subsequently, she was appointed by President Gerald Ford to the American Revolution Bicentennial Council and by President Jimmy Carter to the Presidential Commission for International Women’s Year.
Through her work in script writing, directing and producing, Angelou has been a groundbreaker for African-American women in the film and television industries. She has made hundreds of television appearances and written and produced several prize-winning documentaries including Afro-Americans in the Arts, a PBS special that garnered the Golden Eagle Award.
Dr. Helen A. Papaioanou ’49 has served as a Bates trustee since 1965 and is retired from a medical career in pediatrics, allergy and immunology. Her life has been characterized by service to others, including her alma mater.
Papaioanou earned her medical degree in 1953 from Boston University and a master of science degree in internal medicine from the University of Michigan in 1968. She practiced in Kentucky, Massachusetts and Michigan, and in 1981 accepted the challenge of working with children in inner-city Detroit, serving as director of allergy at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan.
Upon her retirement from the hospital in 1991, she resumed her private practice and in 1993 was named one of the best doctors in the Detroit metropolitan area by Detroit Magazine. She has also lectured, held many teaching appointments and published a range of professional articles.
In 1991, Papaioanou was appointed national chair of the five-year, $50- million Bates Campaign — one of the few women to lead a major college or university fund-raising campaign — an effort that yielded the college’s largest fund-raising success ever, with $59.34 million raised through December 1996.