Doctor of Humane Letters & College of Liberal Arts Commencement Speaker
Author and historian
Taylor Branch is an American author and historian best known for his landmark narrative history of the civil rights era, "America in the King Years." The trilogy’s first book, "Parting the Waters: America in the King Years, 1954-63", won the Pulitzer Prize and numerous other awards in 1989. Two successive volumes also gained critical and popular success: "Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years, 1963-65", and "At Canaan’s Edge: America in the King Years, 1965-1968". Branch returned to civil rights history in his latest book, "The King Years: Historic Moments in the Civil Rights Movement."
In 2009, Branch published "The Clinton Tapes: Wrestling History with the President." This memoir tells of an unprecedented eight-year project to gather a sitting president’s comprehensive oral history on tape. The collaboration is a story in itself, born of mutual concern over the declining quality of raw material for presidential history. At the initiative of President Bill Clinton, Branch suspended work on the King books about once a month to meet secretly in the White House residence, nearly always late at night. They recorded candid observations for posterity. The book reveals a president up close and unguarded, perceived by an author struggling to balance many roles.
In the October 2011 issue of The Atlantic,Branch published an influential cover story entitled “The Shame of College Sports,” which author and NPR commentator Frank Deford said “may well be the most important article ever written about college sports.” The article touched off continuing national debate. Byliner.com, a pioneer e-book publisher, issued an expanded version of the article as a digital book and on-demand paperback, "The Cartel: Inside the Rise and Imminent Fall of the NCAA."
Branch began his career in 1970 as a staff journalist for The Washington Monthly, Harper’s, and Esquire. He holds honorary doctoral degrees from ten colleges and universities. Other citations include the Dayton Literary Peace Prize Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008 and the National Humanities Medal in 1999.
Doctor of Laws
Kathryn Jones Harrison
Tribal leader and community activist
Kathryn Harrison is the former Tribal Chairwoman of the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde. She was the first woman to serve in that position. She was born March 28, 1924, the descendant of an Alaskan Native (Eyak) mother Ella and Henry William Jones (Molalla), in Corvallis, Oregon. She graduated from Chemawa Indian School in 1942 and subsequently married Frank Harrison, with whom she had 10 children.
In 1972, she became the first Native American graduate of the nursing program at Lane Community College and started working at Sacred Heart Hospital in Eugene. Eventually, she became an alcohol rehabilitation counselor for the Confederated Tribes of Siletz, where she became instrumental in helping the Siletz Tribe regain federal recognition in 1977. In the early 1980s, Harrison returned to the Tribe of her father – the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde – and became instrumental in her second Restoration effort, helping Grand Ronde regain federal recognition in November 1983. Kathryn Harrison, her son, Frank and her daughter, Karen, testified before Congress about restoring the Grand Ronde Tribe, which was terminated in 1954.
Following Restoration, Harrison was elected to the Grand Ronde Tribal Council from April 1984 through September 2001, never losing an election. She served as chair of the Tribal Council for five years, helping to oversee the Tribe’s resurrection from Termination and helping guide the development of gaming as a revenue source to fund Tribal educational, health and cultural efforts.
Harrison, now 90, continues to be an occasional spokeswoman for the Grand Ronde Tribe. Her life was detailed in a book, “Standing Tall: The Lifeway of Kathryn Jones Harrison,” written by Kristine Olson.