Williams taps Michael Bloomberg as commencement speaker

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.  

WILLIAMSTOWN -- Entrepreneur, philanthropist, and three-term New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg will be returning to his Massachusetts roots this spring as the Williams College commencement speaker.

Williams announced Tuesday that Bloomberg will deliver the principal address on Sunday, June 8, at its 225th commencement exercise. Earlier this month, Harvard University announced that it had selected Bloomberg to give the main address during its May 29 commencement.

Bloomberg, 72, was born in Boston and raised in a middle class home in Medford. He earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering from Johns Hopkins University in 1964 and his MBA from Harvard in 1966.

"Looking forward to becoming an honorary Eph this June @WilliamsCollege," was the message posted Tuesday from Bloomberg’s Twitter account, @mikebloomberg.

Bloomberg will receive an honorary degree from Williams along with other honorees and guest presenters.

On June 7, religious scholar and author Karen Armstrong will be the Williams Baccalaureate speaker, and Stanford University physics professor and former U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu will participate in a conversation on campus.

Also to be honored during Williams commencement exercises will be Greg Avis (’80), outgoing chairman of the Williams board of trustees and founding managing director of the venture capital and private equity firm Summit Partners, and Vishakha Desai, former president and CEO of the Asia Society, now a special adviser on global affairs at Columbia University.

According to The Williams Record, the college’s independent student newspaper, the recipients are selected by the trustees, faculty, staff and students on the Williams Honorary Degrees Committee.

In its report on Tuesday, The Williams Record noted that Bloomberg, who left office in December, "leaves behind a legacy of extensive and often controversial reform."

Article Continues After Advertisement

The Harvard Crimson, one of the university’s main student publications, reported in an editorial: "Within minutes of the university’s announcement that former mayor of New York City Michael R. Bloomberg would deliver Harvard’s commencement address for the class of 2014, expressions of disquiet emerged from the student body. The objections center on controversial security measures such as the "stop-and-frisk" policy and the surveillance of Muslim groups during Bloomberg’s time as mayor of New York City."

The Crimson editorial went on to say, "Michael Bloomberg is not a dull choice, and that reality is part of what makes him somebody worth listening to."

2014 Williams College honorary degree candidates at a glance:

Karen Armstrong

Article Continues After These Ads

The former nun and British author has published more than 20 books on religious affairs, including "A History of God," "The Battle for God," "Holy War, Islam: A Short History," as well as two memoirs.

She has addressed members of Congress and the Council on Foreign Relations, lectured to policymakers at the U.S. State and Defense departments, and participated in the World Economic Forum. She is an ambassador for the U.N. Alliance of Civilizations, a trustee of the British Museum and a fellow of the Royal Academy of Literature.

Greg Avis (’80)

Avis has served as a Williams trustee since 2001 and has led the board since 2008. Williams credits Avis for guiding the college’s response to the global financial crisis and its transition in administrative leadership, including by chairing of the Presidential Search Committee of 2009. Avis is a founding managing director of the venture capital and private equity firm Summit Partners, and has served on the boards of more than 40 growth companies. He also teaches mathematics at Eastside College Preparatory School in East Palo Alto, Calif. Williams previously honored him with a 2006 Bicentennial Medal.

Michael R. Bloomberg

Article Continues After Advertisement

As an entrepreneur, Bloomberg rose through the ranks at Salomon Brothers, and in 1981 founded Bloomberg LP, a leading multibillion-dollar global financial information technology. He served three consecutive terms as mayor of New York, elected in November 2001 and leaving office in December 2013. Bloomberg Philanthropies focuses on public health, arts and culture, the environment, education, and government innovation. In 2014, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed Bloomberg to be U.N. Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change.

Steven Chu

Chu is the William R. Kenan Jr. professor of humanities and sciences and professor of physics and molecular and cellular physiology at Stanford University. He holds 10 patents and has published more than 250 scientific and technical papers.

For his work developing the theory of laser cooling of atoms, he was co-recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1997.

In 2009 he became the first scientist to hold a cabinet position when he was appointed U.S. Secretary of Energy. During his 4-year tenure, he undertook several innovative clean energy initiatives and was tasked by President Obama to assist BP in stopping the Deepwater Horizon oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico and the government of Japan in managing tsunami-damaged nuclear reactors at Fukushima-Daiichi.

Vishakha Desai

A public intellectual and scholar of Asian art, Desai is special advisor for global affairs to the president of Columbia University and professor of professional practice in Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs. She serves as a senior advisor for to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation and has held various senior positions at the Asia Society, including president and CEO from 2004 to 2012. Desai was a curator and head of public programs and academic affairs at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and has taught at Columbia, Boston University, and the University of Massachusetts.

In 2012, President Obama appointed her to serve on the National Commission on Museums and Libraries. She is an advisory trustee of the Brookings Institution and a trustee of the Bertelsmann Foundation USA and Citizen’s Committee for New York.


If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.

Powered by Creative Circle Media Solutions