Eric Holder, Jr. to Speak at Virtual Commencement 2021

The in-person ceremonies scheduled for May 15, along with pre-recorded speeches, will be part of an all-class virtual Commencement ceremony on May 23. Eric H. Holder, Jr., 82nd Attorney General of the United States, will receive an honorary degree and address 2021 graduates in a pre-recorded speech.

Eric Holder, Jr., 82nd Attorney General of the United States, will receive an honorary degree and address 2021 graduates in a pre-recorded speech during an all-class virtual Commencement ceremony on May 23, 2021. The event will be broadcast on Facebook Premiere.

Holder will receive an honorary Doctor of Justice Administration. Holder, Jr. has served in government for more than 30 years, having been appointed to various positions requiring U.S. Senate confirmation by three U.S. presidents. In 1988, President Ronald Reagan nominated him to be a superior court judge for the District of Columbia. President Bill Clinton nominated Holder to serve as U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia in 1993. Confirmed by the Senate later that year, he became the first African American to head the country’s largest U.S. attorney’s office.

Holder served as the 82nd Attorney General to the United States. He is the third-longest-serving attorney general in U.S. history, and the first African American to hold the position. Time magazine names Holder one of its 2014 “100 Most Influential People,” noting that Holder “worked tirelessly to ensure equal justice.”

The college will also award honorary degrees to three individuals. 

Esther T. Benjamin, Doctor of International Education

Esther Benjamin will receive an honorary Doctor of International Education. Benjamin has served as a global executive to the public, private, and civil society sectors for more than 25 years. She currently serves as the CEO and executive director of World Education Services (WES), a social enterprise dedicated to helping international students, immigrants and refugees achieve their educational and workplace goals in the U.S. and Canada. Benjamin previously served as the CEO for Africa Operations with Laureate Education, the global leader in providing access to high-quality, innovative institutions of higher education.

Benjamin also served in the Obama and Clinton administrations. Under President Obama, Benjamin was associate director for global operations for the Peace Corps overseeing programs in nearly 80 countries. Under President Clinton, Benjamin served as a White House fellow working with labor secretary Alexis Herman on international policies and programs. Benjamin is a 2021 honoree of the One to World Annual Fulbright Awards for her contributions to international education and global cooperation. 

David McCormick, Doctor of International Relations

David McCormick currently serves as the CEo of Bridgewater Associates, a global investment firm with more than $160 billion in assets. As CEO he oversees the firm’s strategy, governance and business operations. He joined Bridgewater in 2009 and previously served as the firm’s president before becoming CEO in 2020. 

Prior to his role at Bridgewater Associates, McCormick served under the George W. Bush Administration as the U.S. Treasury under secretary. He was the country’s top economic diplomat during the 2008 financial crisis. Following his time as U.S. Treasury under secretary, McCormick went on to serve as deputy national security advisor for international economic policy, during which time he was the principal White House advisor to President Bush for international economic policy and acted as the president’s personal representative and lead negotiator for the Group of Eight industrialized countries.

From 1999 to 2005 McCormick was a technology entrepreneur, serving as CEO and then president of two publicly traded software companies, FreeMarkets, Inc. and Ariba, Inc. He was named a Distinguished Service Professor of Information Technology, Public Policy and Management at Carnegie Mellon’s Heinz College. He is a trustee for The Hospital for Special Surgery and the Aspen Institute, and he is chairman of the Atlantic Council’s International Advisory Board. 

A Pennsylvania native, McCormick is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point and has a Ph.D. from the School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. He is a former Army officer and a veteran of the Gulf War.

Varshini Prakash, 2021 Recipient of The Sam Rose ’58 and Julie Walters Prize at Dickinson College for Global Environmental Activism

Varshini Prakash is executive director and co-founder of Sunrise Movement, a grassroots organization of young people working to stop climate change and create good-paying jobs in the process. Sunrise Movement was founded in the summer of 2017 by Prakash and a handful of other like-minded activists. “We were just young people who were fed up with seeing politicians kicking the can down the road, sweeping what is the greatest threat facing our generation under the rug and refusing to deal with the reality of the crisis at hand,” Prakash told NPR. 

The group gained recognition and support after it organized a sit-in at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Washington, D.C., office in 2018 with backing from U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as an organization focused on growth through grassroots organizing and political action with candidate endorsements. Now one of the largest youth movements in the country, Sunrise is leading the charge for the Green New Deal, a constellation of public policy proposals to address climate change while creating jobs and reducing economic inequality. 

As the daughter of immigrants from India, Prakash noted that the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami was a key catalyst in her involvement in climate action. Prakash has used her growing public profile to tirelessly advocate for Sunrise’s principles. Her work has been featured by The New York Times, The Washington Post, BBC News and MSNBC among others. 

Prakash was named to Forbes 30 under 30 list for law and policy and to the Time magazine’s 100 Next, a list of rising stars shaping politics, popular culture, science and more. She is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

The college will also host a series of in-person Graduate Recognition Ceremonies on May 15 to give seniors the opportunity to participate in the revered traditions of hearing their names announced and walking down the steps of Old West while adhering to the most current health and safety guidelines.