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The Dickinsonian

The student news site of Dickinson College.

The Dickinsonian

The student news site of Dickinson College.

The Dickinsonian

Smerconish heads bill at Commencement; All award recipients announced

Left to Right: Radio and TV host Michael Smerconish will deliver Dickinson’s 2024 commencement address, while singer Renée Fleming will be among several honoree degree recipients, and scientist Katharine Hayhoe will receive the Rose-Walters Prize for Global Environmental Activism.

Renowned political commentator and author Michael Smerconish will deliver Dickinson’s 2024 Commencement address.  

The college will award honorary degrees to Judith Rogers  ’65 and Maureen Newton Hayes ’65, two groundbreaking alumni; Renée Fleming, a Grammy-award-winning vocal performer; and David Thornburgh, a staunch advocate for voting rights. 

Pioneering climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe will receive the Sam Rose ’58 and Julie Walters Prize for Global Environmental Activism during the ceremony.   

Michael Smerconish – Doctor of Public Affairs

Michael Smerconish is a radio and TV host, who currently hosts a daily nationwide morning radio program on SiriusXM’s POTUS channel and the weekly CNN program “Smerconish,” which airs at 9am on Saturdays.

He was a longtime columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News, and these columns were reprinted in newspapers across the country. His website,, offers news and opinion from varying perspectives, which says it is where “independent viewpoints not tethered to partisan perspective are welcomed and showcased.”

Smerconish is the author of seven books, the latest being “Clowns to the Left of Me, Jokers to the Right: American Life in Columns.” His one-man live performance, “Things I Wish Knew Before I Started Talking,” debuted on Hulu and is currently streaming on Amazon, Apple and Google.

After getting involved with politics early in life, at the age of 29, Smerconish was appointed by President George H. W. Bush as a regional administrator to the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Renée Fleming – Doctor of Music 

Singer Renée Fleming has won five Grammy awards for her vocal performance and garnered substantial recognition for her advocacy on behalf of research that combines the arts, health and neuroscience.  

She has performed at Buckingham Palace, the Super Bowl and The Metropolitan Opera, and shared the stage with a litany of stars including Andrea Bocelli, Elton John, Paul Simon and Joan Baez. Fleming’s movie credits include the soundtracks of Oscar-winning films “The Shape of Water” and “The Lord of the Rings.”  

In 2023, in addition to a Grammy award for Best Classical Vocal Solo, she was honored for her lifetime achievement by the Kennedy Center. Fleming’s career accolades include the 2023 Crystal Award from the World Economic Forum in Davos, the Fulbright Lifetime Achievement Medal and national honors from Germany, Sweden and France. 

Her book project, “Music and Mind: Harnessing the Arts for Health and Wellness” will be published this spring by Random House, discussing themes she has highlighted leading a collaboration between the Kennedy Center and the National Institutes of Health.  

David Thornburgh – Doctor of Public Policy 

David Thornburgh, a renowned voting rights advocate, will be honored for his longstanding commitment to protecting democracy and his dedication to promoting good government in Pa and throughout the United States. 

Thornburgh serves as the chair of Ballot PA, a campaign fighting against the state’s closed primary system. He is senior advisor to the Committee of Seventy, Pennsylvania’s largest organization committed to good government, where he served as president and CEO for over 7 years. He also teaches as a professor of practice in the Master of Public Policy program at Temple University.  

Through the Committee of Seventy, Thornburgh has been heavily involved with equitable redistricting practices, for which he was recognized by Gov. Tom Wolf, who named him chair of the state’s Redistricting Reform Commission in 2019. 

Thornburgh previously led the University of Pennsylvania’s Fels Institute of Government and was Executive Director of the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia. His work has been recognized by LEADERSHIP Philadelphia, the Eisenhower Fellowship and the Philadelphia Business Journal, and he has written opinion pieces in publications like the Philadelphia Inquirer, Politico and CNN.  

Judith Rogers ’65 and Maureen Newton Hayes ’65 – Doctor of Humane Letters 

Judith Rogers and Maureen Newton Hayes will be honored as the first women to integrate Dickinson residential halls upon their arrival at Dickinson in 1961. They persevered through discrimination and hatred on an almost entirely white campus in the early 1960s and became groundbreaking leaders at Dickinson and in the Carlisle community. 

Rogers, who came to Dickinson from her home state of New Jersey, founded a local chapter of the Congress of Racial Equity, a national youth-led civil rights organization, fundraised to send students (including herself) to work on building schools in Sierra Leone through Operation Crossroads Africa. To boot, she became an upper-class counselor in a first-year dormitory, breaking yet another racial barrier in campus residences.  

After she graduated with honors in sociology and a minor in English, Rogers completed her Master of Social Work at New York University. A licensed clinical social worker, Rogers served in the Department of Psychiatry at Harlem Hospital for twenty-five years, finding time to help found non-profit organizations that provided services to African refugees and asylum seekers in New York City.  

“Dickinson was a life-changing experience that prepared me for a life of service and led me to become a citizen of the world,” Rogers said.  

Newton Hayes made her own impact on Dickinson deeply felt. Hailing from Philadelphia, she managed Dickinson’s yearbook, the Microcosm, and became the first woman in Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, the first Black woman in Phi Delta Epsilon, and the first Black woman in Wheel and Chain. 

After completing her biology major and chemistry minor, Newton Hayes went on to Women’s Medical College in Philadelphia for further study and became an analytical chemist. Since then, she has worked in pharmaceutical sales and started several of her own businesses. Like Rogers, she resides in New York City, where she actively volunteers with her church and Vanguard Theater, a local food pantry and book drive.  

“Life after Dickinson has been adventurous and rich,” Newton Hayes said. “I truly believe my education gave me a very broad view of the world, and I am grateful.” 

Katharine Hayhoe – Rose-Walters Prize Recipient 

Chief scientist for The Nature Conservancy and a distinguished professor in Public Policy and Public Law at Texas Tech University, Katharine Hayhoe will be recognized for her research on the impacts of climate change on the planet and society.  

Named a United Nations Champion of the Earth, she has served as a lead author on the Second, Third, and Fourth U.S. National Climate assessments. She is also the principal investigator for the U.S. Department of the Interior’s South-Central Climate Adaptation Science Center and the National Science Foundation’s Global Infrastructure Climate Network.  

Her current research focuses on translating high-level climate projections to local- and regional-scale impacts. Hayhoe’s two most recent books, “Saving Us: A Climate Scientist’s Case for Hope and Healing in a Divided World” and “Downscaling Techniques for High-Resolution Climate Projects: From Global Change to Local Impacts” were both published in 2021. 

Hayhoe has been named one of TIME’s 100 most influential people and a fellow of the American Geophysical Union. She has received the National Center for Science Education’s Friend of the Planet Award, the American Geophysical Union’s Climate Communication Prize, among many other accolades.

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