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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

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Kerry-Ann Hamilton
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k_hamilton@howard.edu

Howard University Announces 2009 Commencement Honorees
Veteran Journalist Gwen Ifill Commencement Oratrix

WASHINGTON (April 24, 2009) – Howard University will hosts its 141st Commencement Convocation on Saturday, May 9, at 10 a.m., on the upper quadrangle of the main campus. The University will award honorary degrees to four distinguished national and international leaders in fields including business, education, government, and the arts.

This year’s honorees are: Johnnetta Betsch Cole Ph.D., director of the National Museum of African Art, Doctor of Humane Letters; Laurence John Fishburne III, critically acclaimed actor, producer and director, Doctor of Humanities; His Excellency Festus Gontebanye Mogae, former president of the Republic of Botswana, Doctor of Laws; and Ronald A. Williams, chairman and chief executive officer of Aetna Inc., Doctor of Humanities.To view full biographies visit Honorary Degree Recipients.

Renowned journalist and author Gwen Ifill will deliver the keynote address and will also receive a Doctor of Humane Letters. Ifill is the moderator and managing editor of “Washington Week,” the longest-running prime-time news and public affairs program on television. She is also the author of the bestseller “The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama,” and moderated the vice presidential debates during the presidential elections in 2004 and 2008.

Graduation exercises will be broadcast live over Howard University’s WHUR 96.3 FM Radio and WHUT, Howard University’s public broadcast station. In the event of inclement weather, the ceremony will take place at Burr Gymnasium, 6th and Girard Streets, N.W.

About the Honorees

Johnnetta Betsch Cole, Ph.D., is the director of the National Museum of African Art, the only museum in the United States dedicated to the collection, conservation, study and exhibition of traditional and contemporary African art. Cole served on a number of boards, including TransAfrica Forum and the Scholarly Advisory Board of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. She is professor emeritus of Anthropology, Women’s Studies and African American Studies and was president of Bennett College for Women, Greensboro, NC and Spelman College in Atlanta. She has been awarded 54 honorary degrees from colleges and universities and won numerous awards. Cole earned a doctorate degree (1967) and a master’s degree (1959) in anthropology from Northwestern University, and a bachelor’s degree (1957) in sociology from Oberlin College.

 

Laurence John Fishburne III began his acting career at the age of nine and over the years has branched out into acting, producing and directing, making numerous appearances on television, film and theater. His recent films include “21”, “Mission Impossible III” and “Akeelah and the Bee.” Fishburne returned to Broadway in 2008 performing a one-man show, “Thurgood,” about the life of Thurgood Marshall. His performance earned him a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Solo Performance, an Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Solo Performance and a Tony nomination for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play. Off stage he served as an ambassador for UNICEF and in 2007 Harvard University honored Fishburne with an Artist of the Year Award for his outstanding contributions to American and international performing arts, as well as his many humanitarian contributions.


His Excellency Festus Gontebanye Mogae is the third and former president of the Republic of Botswana. Grounded in economic affairs he served on various parastatal boards including the Board for Water Utilities, Botswana Housing Corporation, and Botswana Meat Commission, and was once alternate governor and governor of Botswana’s International Monetary Fund and International Bank for Reconstruction and Development respectively. His Excellency has received numerous recognition and awards from countries such as France, The Ivory Coast and United States for his outstanding contribution ranging from Botswana’s tourism to women’s development and welfare. Mogae was awarded the highest honor of the Republic of Botswana, Naledi Ya Botswana – Gaborone.

Ronald A. Williams is chairman and chief executive officer of Aetna Inc., a leading diversified health care benefits company. He was an early advocate in calling for an individual coverage requirement to expand access to health care and provide assistance to those who truly cannot afford it. Williams also lends his time and expertise to a number of organizations, such as the Council for Affordable Quality Healthcare, which he currently chairs. He is a trustee of The Conference Board and the Connecticut Science Center Board. In January 2007, he was elected to the Board of Directors of American Express Company, and in October 2008, he was elected vice chairman of The Business Council. At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he serves on the MIT North America Executive Board. Williams is a graduate of Roosevelt University and holds a master of science in Management from the Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.



 

 

 

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