2017 Commencement Speaker
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Former supreme allied commander for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and retired four-star Admiral James Stavridis, will address the class of 2017 at this year’s Commencement ceremony, which will begin at 10 a.m. on Sunday, May 21 at Old West.
At the ceremony, the college will also confer honorary degrees on Stavridis, former U.S. Congressman James Gerlach ’77 and AARP Foundation President Lisa Marsh Ryerson. Brett Jenks, president and CEO of Rare, a global conservation organization that creates climate-smart solutions for people and nature, will be awarded the Sam Rose ’58 and Julie Walters Prize for Global Environmental Activism. This award is Dickinson’s highest honor for environmental advocacy.
From 2009-2013, Stavridis led the NATO alliance in global operations as supreme allied commander with responsibility for Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, the Balkans, cybersecurity and piracy off the coast of Africa. He wrote a memoir of his time with NATO, entitled “The Accidental Admiral.” The book was released in 2014. One of his other books, among eight on the themes of leadership, maritime affairs, Latin America, ship handling and innovation, “The Leader’s Bookshelf,” was published in March 2016.
Starvridis retired from his 37 years of service with the Navy in 2013. He then became the 12th Dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, which is his present position.
He has a Ph.D. in international relations from the Fletcher School.
Additionally, he chairs the board of the U.S. Naval Institute. He monthly pens columns for TIME magazine, and is a chief international security analyst for NBC News.
Furthermore, in 2016, Starvridis was considered by former secretary of state and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton for vice president. Following the election, he was considered for the position of secretary of state by President Donald Trump.
Gerlach will receive a Doctor of Political Science honorary degree. He currently serves as president and chief executive officer of the Business-Industry Political Action Committee (BIPAC), which is the oldest bipartisan business political action committee in the nation. From 2003-2015, Gerlach represented Pennsylvania’s sixth district. He garnered numerous legislative accomplishments while in Congress.
Ryerson is set to receive a Doctor of Social Services honorary degree from Dickinson College for her efforts as president of AARP Foundation to help vulnerable older adults meet their basic needs. Ryerson joined AARP Foundation in 2013 following an 18-year positon as president and CEO of Wells College in Aurora, N.Y.
Jenks will be in brief residence at Dickinson during the following semester and will give a public lecture. He will also be awarded $100,000. During his career, Jenks has led and continues to lead Rare’s international missions to equip people in biologically diverse countries with the tools and motivation they need to sustainably manage their resources.