Willamette announces 2017 Commencement speakers, honorary degree recipients

by Adam Torgerson,

In a career spanning more than 35 years, Leonard Pitts, Jr. has been a college professor, a radio producer and a lecturer. He’s one of the most popular newspaper columnists in the country and author of a series of critically-acclaimed books. Pitts will deliver the commencement address for Willamette University’s College of Liberal Arts and receive an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters on May 14 at 3 p.m.

During the commencement ceremony, the university will bestow honorary degrees upon two people whose service had a profound community impact: Delores “Dee” Pigsley and Gerry Frank.

Confederated Tribes of the Siletz Chair Pigsley will receive an Honorary Doctor of Laws for more than 40 years of leadership and service to others. Elected chair in 1986, her work as tribal councilor in the late 70s was critical to the tribe’s successful repatriation effort following the 1954 federal declaration that the Siletz was no longer recognized as a sovereign Indian nation.

Frank is a fourth-generation Oregonian with deep roots in Oregon’s civic, political and mercantile history. As chief of staff for 20 years to former U.S. Senator Mark Hatfield and as a board member and trustee to dozens of Oregon institutions, Frank has strengthened and supported the state’s communities for decades. For his service, Frank will be awarded an Honorary Doctor of Public Service.

Willamette Law and MBA

Willamette MBA candidates will cross the stage first on May 14, following an address from Sandra McDonough, president and CEO of Portland Business Alliance. The Atkinson Graduate School of Management ceremony begins at 9 a.m.

Commencement for the university’s College of Law will begin at 11:30 a.m. and features an address by Michael D. Levelle, president of the Oregon State Bar and Willamette Law alumnus from the class of 1990.

For more information about all of the university’s commencement ceremonies, including schedules, speaker biographies and live-streams, go to willamette.edu/events/commencement.

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