George Mitchell to Speak at UMass Amherst Graduation Along with Charlayne Hunter-Gault

AMHERST, Mass. - Former U.S. Senator from Maine George J. Mitchell, who negotiated the latest agreement during the recent peace talks in Northern Ireland, will deliver an address at the University of Massachusetts undergraduate Commencement ceremony, to be held at 10:30 a.m. Sun. May 24 in Warren P. McGuirk Alumni Stadium. Mitchell will receive an honorary degree, along with broadcast journalist Charlayne Hunter-Gault, who will also address students at the ceremony.

Besides Mitchell and Hunter-Gault, six others will receive honorary degrees during the University’s Commencement ceremonies May 23-24. Three degrees will be awarded at Graduate School ceremonies May 23, and five will be conferred at undergraduate ceremonies May 24. The Graduate School ceremonies will be held at 10:30 a.m. Sat. May 23 in the William D. Mullins Memorial Center. Honorary degrees were last awarded at the graduate Commencement in 1990.

The honorary degree recipients are:

Abbott Lowell Cummings, Charles F. Montgomery Professor Emeritus of American Decorative Arts, Yale University; doctor of humane letters;

University alumnus Michael A. Dirr, professor of horticulture at the University of Georgia; doctor of science;

University alumnus Richard A. Goldstein, president and CEO of Unilever United States Inc.; doctor of laws;

Darlene Clark Hine, John A. Hannah Professor of History at Michigan State University; doctor of humane letters;

Charlayne Hunter-Gault, award-winning broadcast journalist, former national correspondent for "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer"; doctor of humane letters;

Mathilde Krim, founding co-chair and chairman of the board of the American Foundation for AIDS Research; doctor of science;

Former U.S. Senator George J. Mitchell, from Maine, independent chairman of the peace talks in Northern Ireland; doctor of laws;

Former Massachusetts Gov. William F. Weld; doctor of laws.

Cummings, Dirr, and Hine will receive their honorary degrees during the graduate Commencement on May 23. Honorary degrees will be conferred on Goldstein, Hunter-Gault, Krim, Mitchell, and Weld during the undergraduate ceremonies May 24.

Biographical Profiles of Honorary Degree Recipients

In 1968, Abbott Lowell Cummings was a founding faculty member of the New England studies program at Boston University, and in 1984 he was named Charles F. Montgomery Professor of American Decorative Arts at Yale University, where he taught until his retirement in 1993. After he retired from Yale, he moved to Deerfield, Mass., and became an adjunct faculty member in the UMass history department. Cummings is the author of six books on the art and architecture of early America. His "Architecture in Early New England," (1958) is considered the definitive work in the field.

Michael A. Dirr received his Ph.D. in plant physiology from UMass in 1972. Following his doctoral studies, he joined the faculty at the University of Illinois, Urbana. In 1978, he became a Mercer Fellow at the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University. The following year, he was named director of the University of Georgia Botanical Garden. He resumed his teaching career in 1981 and is currently professor of horticulture in the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences at the University of Georgia. In 1991, Dirr spent a six-month sabbatical as a Putnam Fellow at the Arnold Arboretum. Dirr has published hundreds of scientific and popular publications and has authored or co-authored at least seven books. The fourth edition of his "Manual of Woody Landscape Plants," is the most widely used teaching and reference text in the country.

Richard A. Goldstein received his bachelor’s degree in accounting from UMass in 1963, and went on to earn law degrees from Boston and Harvard universities. Goldstein practiced law in Boston and Washington, D.C., before joining Unilever in 1975 as a staff attorney for Lever Brothers Company. He held several executive positions with Unilever prior to being named president and chief executive officer of Unilever United States in 1989. Goldstein is a member of the University’s Chancellor’s Council and has lectured at the School of Management, where he serves as co-chair of the school’s current capital campaign.

Darlene Clark Hine is John A. Hannah Professor of History at Michigan State University and editor of "Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia" (1993). Her honors and awards include grants from the Ford and Rockefeller foundations and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Hine has published numerous articles, chapters, and other publications on subjects focusing on black women in the health professions, women slaves, and black historiography. She has written, co-authored, or edited many books, including "A Shining Thread of Hope: The History of Black Women in America," with Kathleen Thompson (1998); "Speak Truth to Power: Black Professional Class in United States History" (1996); and "Hine Sight: Black Women and the Re-Construction of American History" (1994).

For nearly 20 years, Charlayne Hunter-Gault was national correspondent for "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer," broadcast nightly on the Public Broadcasting Service. She left that position in 1997 to move to South Africa and currently reports from there. In 1961, Hunter-Gault was one of the first two black students admitted to the all-white University of Georgia, where she received her degree in journalism in 1963. She held positions with The New Yorker, WRC-TV in Washington, D.C., and The New York Times prior to joining the MacNeil/Lehrer Report in 1978 as its first woman anchor. The recipient of numerous awards, including two national news and documentary Emmy awards, Hunter-Gault also received the prestigious George Foster Peabody Award for Excellence in Broadcast Journalism for her work on the NewsHour’s "Apartheid People" series on contemporary life in South Africa. Her personal memoir, "In My Place," was published in 1992.

Mathilde Krim was born in Italy and earned her bachelor’s degree and her Ph.D. from the University of Geneva, Switzerland, but has lived and worked in the U.S. since 1958. In 1983, she founded the AIDS Medical Foundation, which, after combining with a similar organization in California, became AmFAR, the American Foundation for AIDS Research. AmFAR is a national, nonprofit organization dedicated to the support of AIDS research, prevention, and public policy. Krim is AmFAR’s founding co-chair and chairman of its board. A prominent geneticist and virologist, Krim joined the research staff at Cornell University Medical School in 1958 when she first arrived in this country. In 1962, she became a research scientist at the Sloan-Kettering Institute for Cancer Research in New York City, and from 1981-85, was director of its Interferon Laboratory. In addition to her role as a scientist, Krim is active in health education and is outspoken on the issue of discrimination against AIDS victims.

George J. Mitchell was appointed U.S. Senator from Maine in 1980 to complete the unexpired term of Sen. Edmund S. Muskie, who resigned to become Secretary of State. He was elected to a full term in the Senate in 1982 in a come-from-behind victory, and went on to serve 14 years. Voted "the most respected member" of the Senate for six consecutive years, Mitchell left the Senate in 1995 as majority leader, a position he had held since 1989. During his tenure, he led the successful 1990 reauthorization of the Clean Air Act, and he was the author of the first national oil spill prevention and clean-up law. Mitchell also was instrumental in the passage of the 1991 transportation bill to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure and played a major role in enacting the nation’s first child care bill. He was a principal author of the low income housing tax credit program and led the Senate to ratification of the North American Free Trade Agreement and creation of the World Trade Organization. A graduate of Bowdoin College and Georgetown University Law Center, and the author of three books, Mitchell is currently special counsel with the Washington, D.C., law firm of Verner, Liipfert, Bernhard, McPherson and Hand. At the request of the governments of Britain and Ireland, he served as chairman of the International Commission on Disarmament in Northern Ireland, and recently brokered a political settlement in the peace talks in Northern Ireland.

William F. Weld served as governor of Massachusetts from 1991-97. He is generally credited with working with legislators to eliminate a large budget deficit and balance four state budgets without raising taxes or borrowing, as well as improving the state’s business climate by reducing taxes and state regulations on business. Weld also served as national co-chair of the Privatization Council and led trade missions to numerous countries including China, Hong Kong, Japan, Canada, Mexico, Israel, Ireland, and the United Kingdom. Prior to becoming governor, Weld was U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts during the Reagan administration from 1981-86. He served from 1986-88 as Assistant U.S. Attorney General in charge of the criminal division of the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., resigning in protest over what he believed was the improper handling of the Wedtech corruption case by then Attorney General Edwin Meese. Weld is currently counsel to McDermott, Will and Emery in the firm’s Boston and New York offices.