Gulbrandsen receives honorary degree

Longtime Wellesley resident Natalie Webber Gulbrandsen ’41 was one of four distinguished recipients of honorary degrees at the 130th commencement on May 27.

Gulbrandsen was honored for her work with the International Association for Religious Freedom, of which she serves as president. The IARF brings together leaders from 83 religious groups in 36 nations to subscribe to the principles of openness and inclusiveness, and conducts interfaith dialogues and cultural exchanges. The London-based organization promotes human rights, interreligious cooperation, peace and justice.

Gulbrandsen previously was moderator of the Unitarian Universalist Association, an officer in the Girl Scouts organization and a member of numerous Wellesley civic groups.

In a citation read before the audience of some 2,500, Martha A. Crunkleton, dean of the faculty at Bates, praised Gulbrandsen’s selfless devotion to service:

“She has given generously to her local community, especially on behalf of children and those in need, through service to the Girl Scouts, the regional mental health association, the Unitarian-Universalist Association, the American Field Service, the League of Women Voters, the Wellesley Youth Commission, and many other agencies,” Crunkleton said. “A religious humanist who believes that the pluralistic faith of Unitarian Universalism gives her the freedom to continue her lifelong search for truth, Mrs. Gulbrandsen exemplifies the kind of servant leadership that has recently begun to be more publicly appreciated, even though our society has long relied on this leadership from remarkable women.”

Crunkleton went on to laud Gulbrandsen for “her commitment to truth and life of service to others, for her steadfast belief in the dignity of the individual and the ability of human beings to seek peace and freedom, and for her example of the ideals of a liberal arts education.”

Also receiving honorary degrees at commencement were the celebrated Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe, the Rev. Peter Gomes ’65, Plummer Professor of Christian Morals and minister of the Memorial Church at Harvard University and Edward O. Wilson, the famed Harvard scientist and Pulitzer Prize-winning author.