Judy Woodruff, co-anchor and managing editor of PBS NewsHour, will be the speaker for Muhlenberg College’s 169th Commencement ceremony on Sunday, May 21, 2017.

Ms. Woodruff will also receive an honorary degree, along with John C. Mather, a senior astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, founder of Urban Bush Women, and Leonard Zon ‘79, a Muhlenberg alumnus and founder & director of the Stem Cell Program at Children’s Hospital Boston.

Woodruff’s career spans more than three decades of political and news coverage at CNN, NBC and PBS.

“Her long and wide-ranging career is fully consistent with the highest standards of journalism and fully supportive of critical thinking and higher education more broadly,” said President Williams.

Her assignments have included senior correspondent and “Inside Politics” anchor for CNN; chief Washington correspondent, senior correspondent, anchor of the award-winning documentary series “Frontline with Judy Woodruff,” principal reporter for “Nancy Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime” and co- anchor of “PBS NewsHour” for PBS; White House correspondent for NBC; and anchor of a monthly program for Bloomberg Television, “Conversations with Judy Woodruff.”

“Judy Woodruff has been reporting, from start to finish, every aspect of what may be one of the most impactful presidential elections in our nation’s history, whatever one’s politics,” described President Williams. “In the process, she has covered both Republicans and Democrats and the issues important to and views reflective of the range of the members of the Class of 2017 in what is, quite likely, the first presidential election in which they will have cast their votes.”

Woodruff is also a founding co-chair of the International Women’s Media Foundation, an organization dedicated to promoting and encouraging women in communication industries worldwide. Woodruff has previously been honored as the recipient of the Cine Lifetime Achievement award, the Edward R. Murrow Lifetime Achievement Award in Broadcast Journalism/Television and the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Television Political Journalism.

To get a firmer grasp on how the College selects the recipients of the honorary degrees as well as the commencement speaker, The Weekly spoke with Ken Butler.

“Each January, the President puts out a call for the nomination of outstanding individuals for consideration of honorary degrees for the following year’s Commencement… The Call for Nominations goes to the College’s faculty and management staff, our Trustees, our alumni and to the graduating class… Individuals may be nominated in any of the following categories: Academia; Arts/Culture; Business; Humanitarian/Philanthropy; Journalism; Public Service/Activism; Religious and Spiritual Leadership; or Science and Technology.”

Once the candidates have been nominated, their names are sent to The Board of Trustees’ Nominations and Governance Committee which forms a Subcommittee which is co-chaired by Vice President for Advancement, Rebekkah Brown ‘99, and the Dean of Academic Life, Bruce Anderson. The other members of the Subcommittee include the President, two members of the Faculty Nominating Committee, two members of the graduating class (the Class President and another class member of their choosing), a Trustee and Ken Butler.”

Biographies are compiled on each individual and brought to the Subcommittee for review. From the list, which Butler adds can “grow quite large,” the Subcommittee continues to narrow the list down and selects individuals who they “feel will bring the highest honor to the College through their association with Muhlenberg.”

Butler continued on: “This list then goes to the Nominations and Governance Committee of the Board, which can make any edits it sees fit. They, in turn, present it to the Board of Trustees, who give their final approval.”

At the end of the day, it is President Williams who makes the final decision on who is to receive the honorary degrees, and who, of those individuals, will be the Commencement Speaker.

As outlined by Butler, the President’s goal is to “[try] to balance the representation from the different categories and choose the person as speaker who will have something meaningful and impactful to impart to our seniors on the Commencement Day.”

Additionally, beginning this year, the recipients of the honoree degrees will provide an open lecture available to all Muhlenberg students, faculty, and staff. “The President’s Office has engaged each of the four recipients to speak about a subject of their own choosing on Saturday afternoon, May 20, following the Senior Meeting,” said Butler.

An email will be sent out to the campus comm

unity on April 24th containing the schedule and RSVP form for Commencement and the weekend’s activities.

Lastly, “the College hopes that everyone will take advantage of the opportunity to hear and interact with the four very special people [they’ve] invited to campus for our 2017 Commencement weekend.”

Ali is a history and political science double major entering her third year of college. She has been published several times on Ireland's largest online newspaper, thejournal.ie, and continues her passion for storytelling as a senior news writer for The Weekly. Taking her own sabbatical from campus, Ali is currently in Washington DC for the semester before she heads off to the University of Edinburgh in the spring.


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