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Bates announces speakers, honorary degree recipients for May 31 commencement

Four honorary degree recipients will speak at the 138th commencement at Bates College May 31, President Elaine Tuttle Hansen announced today.

They are former National Science Foundation Director Rita R. Colwell; Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David Levering Lewis; Bates Dean Emeritus of Admissions Milton L. Lindholm of the class of 1935; and retired investment bank executive, former diplomat and current chair of Lower Manhattan Development Corp. John C. Whitehead.

The 10 a.m. outdoor commencement ceremony takes place on the historic quad in front of Coram Library.

Rita R. Colwell is chairman of Canon US Life Sciences, Inc. and Distinguished University Professor at the University of Maryland at College Park and at Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health. Colwell currently is developing an international network to address emerging infectious diseases and water issues, including safe drinking water for both the developed and developing worlds.

As the 11th director of the National Science Foundation, serving from 1998 to February 2004, Colwell led the agency in strengthening its core activities and established major initiatives that embraced nanotechnology, biocomplexity, information technology and the 21st-century workforce.

Under her leadership, NSF funding increased to approximately $6 billion. As NSF director, she co-chaired the committee on science of the National Science and Technology Council.  Her particular areas of interest included K-12 science and mathematics education, graduate science and engineering education and the increased participation of women and minorities in science and engineering.

Prior to her NSF tenure, Colwell was president of the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute and professor of microbiology and biotechnology at Maryland. She was a member of the National Science Board from 1984 to 1990. Colwell has authored or co-authored 16 books and more than 700 scientific publications, and has served on editorial boards of numerous scientific journals. She produced the award-winning film Invisible Seas and is the recipient of numerous awards, including the American Institute of Biological Sciences Outstanding Service Award and the Central Intelligence Agency Civilian Recognition Award.

Colwell has held many advisory positions in the U.S. government, nonprofit science policy organizations and private foundations, as well as in the international science community. Colwell has been awarded 35 honorary degrees from institutions of higher education. A geological site in Antarctica, Colwell Massif, has been named in recognition of her work in the polar regions. Born in Beverly, Mass., Colwell holds a bachelor of science degree in bacteriology and a master of science in genetics from Purdue University. She earned her doctorate in oceanography from the University of Washington. Colwell will receive an honorary doctor of science degree.

Twice a Pulitzer Prize winner, biographer David Levering Lewis has been called “the finest American historian plying his trade” by noted scholar John Hope Franklin.

The Julius Silver University Professor and professor of history at New York University, Lewis received the Pulitzer Prize for biography in 1994 and 2001 for, respectively, his two-volume biography of W.E.B. Du Bois: Biography of a Race, 1868-1919 (1993) and W.E B. Du Bois: The Fight for Equality and the American Century, 1919-1963 (2000). “What means the most to me is that this person’s long life, the battles he fought and principles for which he stood are getting the attention they so eminently deserve,” Lewis said upon receiving the second award.

The Du Bois set also received the Bancroft Prize and the Francis Parkman Prize, both in 1994. Lewis wrote five other books — King: A Biography (1970); Prisoners of Honor: The Dreyfuss Affair (1974); District of Columbia: A Bicentennial History (1976); When Harlem Was in Vogue (1980); and The Race to Fashoda: European Colonialism and African Resistance in the Scramble for Africa (1988) — and compiled two editions: The Harlem Renaissance Reader (1984) and W.E.B. Du Bois: A Reader (1995). A Small Nation of People: W.E.B. Du Bois and African American Portraits of Progress (2003), co-authored with Deborah Ellis, was a commission from the Library of Congress. Currently the recipient of a coveted five-year John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, also known as a “genius grant,” Lewis has received fellowships from the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (twice) and the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation.

A native of Little Rock, Ark., and a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Fisk University, Lewis received his master’s degree in history from Columbia University and his doctorate in modern European and French history from the London School of Economics and Political Science. His investigations of comparative history have a special focus on 20th-century U.S. social history, with a strong emphasis on 19th-century Africa and 20th-century France. From 1985 to 1994, Lewis held the Martin Luther King Jr. Professorship in the Rutgers-New Brunswick history department, where he was University Professor from 1994 to 2003. He has taught at the University of Notre Dame, Howard University, University of California-San Diego and Harvard University. Lewis will receive an honorary doctor of humane letters degree.

Arriving at Bates in December 1944, Director of Admissions for Men Milton L. Lindholm, a 1935 Bates graduate, was first charged with planning the post-World War II rebuilding of the student body, and his earliest classes would include older war veterans alongside traditional students. By his 1976 retirement as dean of admissions, he was admitting the children of these alumni yet the characteristics Lindholm sought for Bates never changed: “Motivation, imagination, initiative, strong personality and character,” he once said. “To his admissions work he brought intelligence, friendliness, understanding, a discerning eye and a willingness to devote endless hours to Bates,” said the late Charles F. Phillips, Bates president from 1944 to 1967. He was one of the “sages” of college admissions, according Lindholm’s one-time assistant Dick Steele, who “year after year…ran extremely selective admissions operations without alienating faculty, alumni, trustees or students.”

Steele, who went on to become admissions head at Vermont, Carleton, Duke and Bowdoin, said that “Milt succeeded because he was always fair and was genuinely sympathetic to those who do not quite make the competition.” Lindholm was famous for playing calculated hunches, and Bates alumni of the Lindholm era often say with pride, “Milt took a chance on me.” In Bates alumni affairs, he has served as class president, honorary national chair of Bates’ second capital campaign and chair of Reunion committees. In 1981, he received the first Alumni Distinguished Service Award. Over the years alumni established three endowed funds in honor of Lindholm and his wife, Jane Ault Lindholm ’37, including the Milton L. Lindholm Scholar-Athlete Award.

In 1989, the admissions building at Bates was named for Lindholm and on his 90th birthday in 2001 the Maine Legislature congratulated him in a Legislative Sentiment. His local and state service includes chairing the Lewiston School Committee, serving as a director of Central Maine Medical Center and an appointment by then-Maine Gov. John McKernan to the state Committee on Judicial Responsibility and Disability. A longtime trustee of Kents Hill School and Maine Central Institute, he is a member of the latter’s Hall of Fame. A longtime member of the Maine Chapter of the National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame, he received that group’s Distinguished American Award, given to a former player who carried the lessons learned on the football field into a life of service to the community. Lindholm will receive an honorary doctor of humane letters degree.

At the time approaching his 80th year, John C. Whitehead philanthropist, retired bank executive and former diplomat was called upon in November 2001 to chair the newly created Lower Manhattan Development Corp., www.renewnyc.com. Charged with the daunting task of directing the rebuilding of post-September 11 Lower Manhattan, this new state agency could have set in motion “a plodding, obtuse process…with little public participation,” The New York Times observed. Whitehead, however, helped to set a different tone, demanding the agency’s independence from politics and championing the community’s ownership of the process.

What evolved, lauded the Times, “was a grand public discussion about architecture, public space and the nature of memory,” culminating in acclaimed architectural designs for a new Freedom Tower and World Trade Center site memorial; other initiatives, meanwhile, focus on business revitalization, transportation infrastructure and community quality of life. Supporting the public weal has long been a current in Whitehead’s professional life. He rose to business prominence in a 38-year career with Goldman, Sachs & Co. in New York City, retiring as senior partner and co-chairman in 1984, then served as deputy secretary of state under President Reagan, 1985-89, receiving the Presidential Citizen’s Medal upon leaving that post. Returning to New York, he has served a broad and prominent range of financial, civic, educational and charitable organizations.

A spirited philanthropist, Whitehead is a Haverford College graduate who earned his master’s in business from Harvard Business School, later receiving honorary degrees from both institutions, as well as Pace, Rutgers, Amherst and Seton Hall, among others (the latter’s school of diplomacy and international relations was named for Whitehead in 2002). He has chaired the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the United Nations Association, the International Rescue Committee, International House and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. He is current co-chairman of the Greater New York Councils of Boy Scouts and a director of The Nature Conservancy. A World War II Navy veteran, Whitehead participated in European and Pacific invasions, including Normandy, Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Whitehead will receive an honorary doctor of laws degree.



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