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Skidmore College


Commencement Speakers at Skidmore (1937 to present)



  • Janet Guthrie, pro race car driver and the first woman ever to compete in the Indianapolis 500 and the Daytona 500 , doctorate of laws
  • Cornel West, philosopher, author, activist, social critic and one of America's leading public intellectuals, doctorate of humane letters


  • Alan Lightman, acclaimed author, educator, physicist and social entrepreneur, doctor of letters
  • Joe Torre, Major League Baseball's chief baseball officer, celebrated former manager with four World Series wins and nine-time All-Star player, doctor of letters


  • Alison Bechdel, acclaimed author, cartoonist, MacArthur fellow and Tony Award winner, doctor of letters
  • Robert S.D. Higgins, world-renowned authority in the field of heart and lung transplant and surgeon-in-chief of Johns Hopkins Hospital, doctor of laws


  • Wes Moore, decorated Army combat veteran, youth advocate, author, and CEO of BridgeEdU, doctor of letters
  • Ann Rubenstein Tisch, founder and president of Young Women's Leadership Network, doctor of letters
  • Oprah Winfrey, a global media leader, philanthropist, producer and actress, doctor of letters


  • Emanuel Ax, internationally acclaimed Grammy-winning classical pianist, doctor of letters
  • Bernice Johnson Reagon, renowned activist, musician, and cultural scholar, doctor of letters


  • Julian Bond, social activist, leader in the Civil Rights movement, professor, politician, and writer, doctor of humane letters
  • Sallie W. (Penny) Chisholm '69, preeminent biological oceanographer, and professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, doctor of laws


  • Neil Shubin, best-selling author, paleontologist, and evolutionary biologist is the Robert R. Bensley Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago, doctor of laws
  • Janet Lucas Whitman, Class of 1959, chair of Skidmore board of trustees, trustee emerita and devoted Skidmore alumna, doctor of humane letters


  • David Brooks, political and cultural commentator, regular columnist for The New York Times, and analyst for National Public Radio, doctor of letters
  • Cynthia Blum Carroll '78, mining industry leader, Forbes magazine's "fourth most powerful woman in the world" in 2009, doctor of laws


  • Terence Blanchard, jazz trumpeter, bandleader, composer, arranger, and Golden globe-nominated film score composer, doctor of humane letters
  • Ron Chernow, prize-winning author of five previous books. His first, The House of Morgan, won the National Book Award. His two most recent books, Alexander Hamilton and Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, were both nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award in biography, doctor of letters
  • Suzanne Corbet Thomas '62, chair of the Board of Trustees from 2002 to 2008. Member of the board since 1989 and the ultimate Skidmore Ambassador, doctor of humane letters


  • Anne Bogart - American theater director, co-founder and artistic director of the SITI Company, doctor of humane letters
  • Colin E. Greene, a 2001 graduate of the University Without Walls Program, principal of the largest secondary school in Antigua, member of the Board of Education International, doctor of humane letters
  • James M. McPherson - The George Henry Davis '86 Professor of American History Emeritus at Princeton University, author, doctor of letters


  • Sir Clive Gillinson - executive and artistic director at Carnegie Hall and partner in the Academy Program with Juilliard School and the Weill Music Institute, doctor of humane letters
  • Gwen Ifill - journalist, television newscaster, and author, managing editor and moderator for Washington Week and senior correspondent for The NewsHour, doctor of letters
  • Gregory Howard Williams - president, University of Cincinnati and author of Life on the Color Line, doctor of letters


  • Carter F. Bales –Managing Partner Emeritus & Co-Founder, The Wicks Group of Companies, LLC, doctor of humane letters
  • Fred Wilson – artist and Luce Distinguished Visiting Fellow for the Program in Object Exhibition and Knowledge at the Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery, doctor of humane letters


  • Ruth J. Colvin, founder of Literacy Volunteers of America; dedicated educator, speaker, and author, doctor of humane letters
  • Rita R. Colwell, former director of the National Science Foundation; Distinguished University Professor at the University of Maryland, doctor of law
  • Bill T. Jones, world-renowned dancer and choreographer, doctor of humane letters


  • Tom Brokaw, NBC News Special Correspondent and formerly the anchor and managing editor of "NBC Nightly News", doctor of letters
  • Linda Greenhouse, New York Times Supreme Court Correspondent since 1978, doctor of law
  • Nora Naranjo-Morse, distinguished sculptor, writer, and producer, doctor of humane letters


  • Douglas Greenberg PS '06, Professor of History, University of Southern California, and Executive Director of the university's Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education, doctor of humane letters
  • Thomas Kean, former Governor of New Jersey and past President of Drew University, doctor of laws
  • Arthur Mitchell, Founder and Artistic Director of the Dance Theater of Harlem, doctor of humane letters


  • Carolyn Patty Blum PS '05, authority in the areas of refugee and human rights laws, doctor of laws
  • Phil Ramone PS '05, recording industry producer, doctor of humane letters
  • Tim Russert, NBC Bureau chief and moderator of Meet the Press, political analyst, doctor of humane letters


  • David Halberstam, historian, biographer, journalist, doctor of humane letters
  • Bruce Lundvall, recording executive, involved in Skidmore Summer Jazz Institute, doctor of humane letters
  • Toshiko Takaezu, world renowned ceramist, faculty of Skidmore's Summer SIX art program, doctor of humane letters


  • Joan Layng Dayton '63, chair of Skidmore board of trustees, trustee emerita, leader and fundraiser, doctor of humane letters
  • Ellen V. Futter, president, American Museum of Natural History, former president of Barnard College, doctor of laws
  • Anne Deavere Smith, actor, playwright, author, and university professor, doctor of letters


  • Ken Burns, documentary filmmaker and historian, doctor of letters
  • Arline M. Fisch '52, noted jewelry maker and craft artist, doctor of humane letters
  • Harold Hongju Koh, scholar and professor of international law, former Asst. Secretary of State, doctor of laws
  • Sara Lee Lubin Schupf '62, philanthropist and leader in causes for women in science, Skidmore trustee, doctor of laws


  • Joseph L. Bruno '52, majority leader of NYS senate, doctor of laws
  • Frank McCourt, Pulitzer Prize winning author, doctor of letters
  • Julianne Cartwright Traylor '68, human rights educator and diplomat, doctor of humane letters


  • Trisha Brown, dancer and choreographer, doctor of humane letters
  • Guido Calabresi, Judge of the US Circuit Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, doctor of laws
  • W. Richard West, Director, Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian, doctor of letters
  • Oscar Tang, philanthropist, investment banker, Skidmore trustee and benefactor, doctor of humane letters


  • Kitty Carlisle Hart, actress, singer, and chair emerita of New York State Council on the Arts, doctor of letters
  • David Hyde Pierce, actor, Saratoga Springs native, doctor of humane letters
  • Arthur Zankel, investment-business leader, Skidmore trustee and benefactor, doctor of laws


  • Helen L. Porter, Skidmore first lady, restorer and historian of Scribner House, bachelor of arts
  • Myles A. Cane, attorney, venture-capital investor, chair of Skidmore board of trustees, doctor of laws
  • David H. Porter, classicist, and musician, fifth president of Skidmore College, doctor of letters
  • Susan Kettering Williamson '59, philanthropist, 26-year member of Skidmore board of trustees, doctor of humane letters


  • Jacqueline K. Barton, DNA researcher, professor at California Institute of Technology, doctor of laws
  • Peter S. Lynch, author, former portfolio manager of the Magellan Fund, doctor of laws
  • Anne Tonnesen Palamountain, civic leader, former Skidmore first lady, originator of annual polo benefit for scholarships, doctor of humane letters


  • Marian Wright Edelman, attorney, founder of Children's Defense Fund, doctor of laws
  • Charles Kuralt, essayist, journalist, originator of TV feature "On the Road," doctor of humane letters
  • Donna Shalala (non-commencement), professor, college president, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, doctor of laws


  • Johnnetta B. Cole, teacher, president of Spelman College, doctor of laws
  • Judith Pick Eissner '64, chair of Skidmore board of trustees, 24-year member of Skidmore board of trustees, doctor of humane letters
  • Paul Taylor, dancer, choreographer, doctor of humane letters


  • Ruby Puryear Hearn '60, biophysicist, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation vice president, doctor of laws
  • Walter J. Turnbull, founder and executive director of Boys Choir of Harlem, doctor of humane letters
  • Laurence Tisch, chair of the board of CBS, Inc., philanthropist, Skidmore benefactor, doctor of laws


  • Charles T. Close, portrait painter, doctor of humane letters
  • Sara Lawrence Lightfoot, educator and sociologist, doctor of laws
  • Gordon Parks, photographer and filmmaker, doctor of letters
  • Maya Angelou, poet and civil-rights activist, doctor of letters


  • Robert D. Ballard, explorer, geologist, oceanographer, engineer, doctor of laws
  • Bette Bao Lord, author, civic leader, expert on the Chinese-American experience, doctor of letters
  • Helen A. Thomas, Washington correspondent for the United Press International, doctor of humane letters


  • James E. McCabe, corporate executive, Skidmore administrator and trustee, doctor of laws
  • John S. Morris, minister, Union College president, Skidmore trustee, doctor of letters
  • Courtney Sale Ross '70, art curator, interior designer, filmmaker, doctor of humane letters


  • Vartan Gregorian, Brown University president, doctor of laws
  • Wilma Stein Tisch '48, philanthropist, Skidmore benefactor, doctor of humane letters
  • Milton J. Hinton, jazz bassist, doctor of humane letters


  • Nancy S. Graves, sculptor, painter, printmaker, film producer and stage designer, doctor of humane letters
  • Frank H. Rhodes, geologist, proponent of liberal arts, president of Cornell University, doctor of laws


  • Dolores E. Cross, educator, and financial-aid administrator, doctor of letters
  • Twyla Tharp, dancer and choreographer, doctor of humane letters
  • Arthur Miller, playwright, doctor of letters
  • David Riesman, sociologist and author, doctor of humane letters


  • Richard Wilbur, poet, essayist, translator, editor, doctor of humane letters
  • Lena Rose Spencer, founder of Caffe Lena folk-music coffeehouse in Saratoga Springs, doctor of humane letters
  • William Manchester, journalist, historian, teacher, author, doctor of letters
  • Joseph C. Palamountain, Jr., political scientist, fourth president of Skidmore College, doctor of laws


  • Charlayne Hunter Gault, print journalist, television correspondent, doctor of laws
  • David McCord, writer of children's verse, Harvard administrator, doctor of letters
  • Hannelore Hahn, author, founder of International Women's Writing Guild, doctor of letters
  • George H. Colton, businessman, Dartmouth administrator-fundraiser, Skidmore trustee, doctor of laws


  • Otto Whittmann, museum director, doctor of humane letters
  • Miriam J. Benkovitz, critic and biographer, Skidmore English professor, doctor of letters
  • Denis B. Kemball-Cook, oil company executive, Skidmore trustee, doctor of laws


  • Sophie Maslow, Martha Graham-trained modern dancer, choreographer, doctor of humane letters
  • Lewis A. Swyer, Albany businessman and civic leader, president of Saratoga Performing Arts Center, doctor of laws
  • Louise Beinetti Wise '40, Skidmore volunteer, trustee, and former administrator, doctor of humane letters
  • M. Elizabeth Peters Tidball, physiology researcher, advocate for women in the sciences, doctor of humane letters
  • John Kemeny, Hungarian-born mathematician-philosopher, co-author of Basic computer language, professor and president of Dartmouth College, doctor of humane letters
  • George Ladd Jr., director and president of Filene Foundation, Skidmore benefactor, doctor of humane letters


  • Donald E. Reutershan, insurance executive and Skidmore trustee, chair of Skidmore board of trustees, doctor of laws
  • Delbert C. Staley, chair and CEO of New York Telephone Company, doctor of laws
  • Gloria Wasserman Sachs '47, designer of women's clothing, doctor of letters
  • James C. Cooney, chief of security, master of letters
  • David McCullough, social historian and author, doctor of humane letters


  • John J. Martin, author, New York Times dance editor and critic, doctor of humane letters
  • Dorothy Dehner '52, painter and sculptor, doctor of humane letters
  • Virginia Weiffenbach Kettering, Dayton, Ohio, civic and cultural leader, health-care philanthropist, doctor of laws
  • Henry D. Paley, educator, president of Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities of New York State, doctor of laws


  • John Cheever, writer of short stories and novels, doctor of letters
  • Nell Nugent '60, Broadway producer, doctor of humane letters
  • Florence Howe, professor, founder of National Women's Studies Association, doctor of letters
  • Benjamin L. Hooks, director of National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, doctor of laws


  • Arnold Bernhard, investment analyst, Skidmore trustee and benefactor, doctor of humane letters
  • F. William Harder, banker, Skidmore parent, trustee, and benefactor, doctor of laws
  • Elizabeth Holtzman, U.S. Representative from New York, doctor of laws


  • George I. Davis, insurance executive, 25-year Skidmore trustee, doctor of letters
  • Catherine Filene Shouse, civic and cultural leader, creator of Wolf Trap Farm Park for the performing arts, doctor of humane letters
  • Joseph H. Hirshhorn, financier, art connoisseur, doctor of humane letters
  • Anne Wexler '51, political activist, assistant to U.S. President Jimmy Carter, doctor of laws


  • Daniel Patrick Moynihan, U.S. Senator from New York, doctor of laws


  • F. Donald Myers, educator, superintendent of Saratoga-Warren Counties Board of cooperative Education Services, doctor of laws
  • Ewald B. Nyquist, commissioner of education and president of the University of the State of New York, doctor of humane letters


  • Dr. Carl Sagan, astronomer, astrophysicist, author, doctor of humane letters


  • Charlotte W. Fahey, Skidmore chemistry professor, doctor of humane letters
  • Helen Hayes, actress, doctor of letters
  • Sabra J. Hook, Skidmore biology professor, doctor of humane letters
  • Margaret Paulding, Skidmore physical education professor, doctor of humane letters


  • Avery R. Fisher, musician and philanthropist, doctor of humane letters
  • Harold C. Martin, literary scholar, president of Union College, doctor of letters
  • Mary Parkman Peabody, civil rights activist (mother of Marietta Tree, grandmother of Frances FitzGerald), doctor of laws
  • Marietta Peabody Tree, former ambassador to the United Nations, doctor of laws
  • Frances FitzGerald, Pulitzer Prize-winning nonfiction writer, doctor of letters


  • Dr. Aileen Ward, English professor
  • John Keats, biographer, doctor of letters
  • Catherine Mackin, newspaper and television journalist, master of letters


  • E. Alice Moshier '22, Skidmore faculty member, doctor of humane letters
  • Everett V. Stonequist, Skidmore sociologist, author, housing activist, doctor of laws
  • Constance Eberhardt Cook lawyer, crusader for equal rights, New York State legislator, doctor of laws


  • Katherine Scranton Rosendaal, Skidmore trustee, chair of Skidmore board of trustees, civic leader at local, state, and national levels, doctor of humane letters
  • Violette Verdy, French-born New York City Ballet soloist, doctor of humane letters
  • Edward Villella, New York City Ballet soloist, choreographer, doctor of letters


  • Melissa Hayden, New York City Ballet soloist, ballet teacher, doctor of letters
  • Charles E. Goodell, U.S. Senator from New York, doctor of humane letters


  • Helen Frankenthaler, New York City abstract painter, doctor of humane letters
  • Ruth G. Weintraub, political scientist, early advocate of graduate education for women, doctor of laws
  • Roger L. Stevens, real estate magnate, producer of Broadway plays, doctor of humane letters


  • George Boyd, Skidmore trustee, principal donor of Bolton Hall, doctor of humane letters
  • Edward Brooke, U.S. Senator from Massachusetts, doctor of laws
  • Agnes Gelinas, Skidmore professor of nursing, doctor of humane letters
  • Helen Filene Ladd '22, Skidmore philanthropist, doctor of humane letters


  • Jacqueline Grennan, teacher, former Sister of Loretto, president of Missouri's Webster College, doctor of laws
  • Frances Steloff, founder of Gotham Book Mart in New York City, endower of Skidmore lecture series, doctor of humane letters
  • Frank Sullivan, humorist, New Yorker columnist, author, doctor of humane letters


  • Richard Eberhart, poet and professor of English, founder of Poet's Theatre, doctor of letters
  • Ada Louise Huxtable, architecture and design critic, "lover of cities", doctor of humane letters


  • Esther Raushenbush, Sarah Lawrence College president-elect, doctor of humane letters


  • Margaret Fonde Jonsson, Dallas civic leader and first lady, Skidmore benefactor, master of letters
  • Margaret Chase Smith, U.S. Senator from Maine, first woman elected to both branches of Congress, doctor of humane letters


  • Vera Micheles Dean, authority on international development, research director of Foreign Policy Institute, doctor of humane letters


  • Doris Spector Rome '47, physician, director of cytology laboratory at Albany Medical Center, doctor of humane letters


No speeches given


No speeches given


  • Leona Baumgartner, public-health advocate, first woman to serve as New York City's Commissioner of Health, doctor of laws


  • Margaret Mead, anthropologist and ethnologist, doctor of letters


  • Josephine Young Case, poet, novelist, teacher, Skidmore trustee, chair of Skidmore board of trustees, doctor of letters
  • Marie Blain Moore, Skidmore first lady, master of letters


  • Lillian Moller Gilbreth, industrial engineer, time-motion researcher, mother of 12, doctor of laws
  • James Hazen Hyde, founder of the Fédération de L'Alliance Française, doctor of laws


  • Margaret Clapp, Wellesley College president, doctor of laws


No speeches given


  • Kathryn Starbuck, practitioner and teacher of law, public-affairs activist, secretary of Skidmore College, doctor of laws


  • Katherine Gillette Blyley, Keuka College president, former member of Skidmore English faculty, doctor of laws
  • Barbara Bliss Southerland '30, founder, teacher, and principal of Union School, Port-au-Prince, Haiti, master of letters


  • Margaret Bridgman, Skidmore dean, nursing-education consultant, doctor of letters
  • Irene Ward McClellan, Skidmore nursing program benefactor, doctor of letters


  • Louise Pearce, Women's Medical College president, doctor of laws
  • Helene Scherff Taylor '22, librarian, master of letters


  • Esther Lucile Brown, director of Studies in the Professions at Russell Sage Foundation, doctor of laws


  • Elsie Bond, administrator with State Charities Aid Association, doctor of laws
  • Pauline Eggleston Mandigo, president of Phoenix News Bureau, doctor of letters


  • Elizabeth Ames, executive director of Yaddo artist's retreat, doctor of letters
  • Mary Donlon, chair of New York State Workmen's Compensation Board, doctor of laws


  • Sarah Gibson Blanding, Vassar College president, doctor of laws


No speeches given


  • Helen McKinstry, physical-education pioneer, president of Russell Sage College, doctor of laws


  • Hazel Stiebeling '15, international leader in nutrition research, doctor of laws
  • George Dinsmore Stoddard, authority on child development, New York State commissioner of education, doctor of laws


  • Ada Louise Comstock, Radcliffe College president, doctor of laws


  • Caroline Beach Slade, social worker, women's and children's advocate, novelist, master of letters


  • Myral M. Sutherland, Mary McClellan Hospital superintendent, master of letters


No speeches given


No speeches given


  • Henry T. Moore, second president of Skidmore College, doctor of laws