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President's Blog

Commencement and Baccalaureate Speakers and Honorary Degrees

I am pleased to announce that journalist and New York Times-bestselling author Hampton Sides, acclaimed for his many works of nonfiction adventure, will give this year’s Commencement address. Mr. Sides’ widely admired works include five books, two of which have been made into films. His 2015 book, “Kingdom of Ice” has been heralded as a “best book of the year” by a number of publications. In addition, Mr. Sides serves as an editor-at-large for Outside magazine, and is a frequent contributor to publications that include National GeographicThe New York TimesNewsweek, The New Yorker, The American Scholar, and Men’s Journal. He has been Journalist-in-Residence at CC since 2014, teaching several blocks.

I am also pleased that Assistant Professor of Education Manya Whitaker has agreed to give the Baccalaureate address. Professor Whitaker attended Dartmouth College, where she received her bachelor of arts in psychology before attending Vanderbilt University, where she earned her MS and PhD in developmental psychology. In addition to several articles and book chapters, she is the author of the recent book “Learning from the Inside-Out: Child Development and School Choice.” In nominations, students noted Professor Whitaker’s “thoughtful and potent ways of communicating with faculty, staff, and students” and “her dedication to CC.”

In addition, on the recommendation of the Academic Events Committee and with the approval of the Board of Trustees, the college will award honorary degrees to Mr. Sides and the following individuals who have made outstanding contributions in their fields:

  • Brenda Bass ’77, distinguished professor of biochemistry at the University of Utah School of Medicine, has been a pioneer in the field of RNA research, particularly editing processes.  She was elected a fellow of The American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2011, is a 2015 inductee to the National Academy of Sciences, and has won extended “Pioneer” grant support from NIH and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Professor Bass has made several game-changing discoveries throughout her distinguished career.
  • David “Van” van Diest Skilling ’55, is an accomplished businessman, having been a pivotal leader at two different Fortune 500 companies. Currently, he is CEO of Skilling Enterprises and retired chairman and CEO of Experian Information Solutions, Inc. Prior to that, Mr. Skilling had a 26-year career at TRW Information Systems and Services. Throughout his life, Mr. Skilling has been a loyal alumnus of the college. He began visiting CC classes in 1989 as an executive-in-residence and has co-taught many blocks over the years. In 1994, Mr. Skilling was elected a trustee, and he served in this capacity until 2016, when he was named a life trustee. He served as chair of the Board of Trustees from 2002-08. Mr. Skilling is a noted philanthropist to education and other causes, and is a member of CC’s William Jackson Palmer Founders Society.

I look forward to honoring these individuals, along with our graduating seniors, at this year’s Commencement on Monday, May 22.

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