Madeleine Albright, who reinforced America’s alliances, advocated for democracy and human rights and promoted American trade as well as its business, labor and environmental standards abroad while serving as the United States’ first woman secretary of state, will deliver Tufts University’s commencement address on May 17, 2015. She will also receive an honorary doctor of laws degree during the Sunday morning ceremony that will start at 9 o’clock on The Green on Tufts’ Medford/Somerville campus.
Albright was born in 1937 in Prague and as a child moved with her family to the United States. After earning a B.A. in political science at Wellesley College and a Ph.D. in public law and government at Columbia University, Albright was inspired by one of her former professors to enter politics.
She served on the staffs of Senator Edmund Muskie; President Jimmy Carter; Geraldine Ferraro, the first woman nominated for vice president by a major political party; and Michael Dukakis during his 1988 presidential bid. President Bill Clinton tapped her for the role of U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations in January 1993. According to The New Republic, she said that “U.S. leadership in world politics and in multilateral organizations is a fundamental tenet of the Clinton Administration.”
In December 1996, Clinton nominated Albright to be secretary of state. She was sworn in the following January, becoming, at the time, the highest-ranking woman ever to serve in the United States government. As secretary of state, Albright campaigned for human rights and fought to stop the spread of nuclear weapons. A champion of NATO, she sought to expand that organization’s membership. Albright also worked to bring peace to the Middle East.
Albright left her post as secretary of state in 2001. She has since written five New York Times best sellers, including Madam Secretary: A Memoir (2003) and her most recent book, Prague Winter: A Personal Story of Remembrance and War (2012). Known for her symbolic use of jewelry on the job, Albright also wrote Read My Pins: Stories from a Diplomat’s Jewel Box (2009). Albright currently serves as the co-chair of the Albright Stonebridge Group, a global strategy firm, and also launched a private investment fund, Albright Capital Management, in 2007. She is the chairwoman of the National Democratic Institute and the Truman Scholarship Foundation.
Albright’s many honors include receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Barack Obama in 2012.
The trail-blazing Albright is recognized for actively supporting other women seeking to follow her example, saying “once you have climbed the ladder of success … you don’t push it away from the building.”
“Madeleine Albright’s remarkable accomplishments and personal story truly speak to Tufts’ values of global leadership, public service and active engagement as a citizen of the world,” said Tufts President Anthony P. Monaco. “She delivered a memorable Fares Lecture at Tufts seven years ago, and we are absolutely delighted that she will be returning to the university for this year’s Commencement.”
In addition to Albright, leaders receiving honorary degrees at Tufts’ Commencement include:
Suzin Bartley, executive director of the Children’s Trust Fund. Established in 1988 by the Massachusetts Legislature, the Children’s Trust is the only state organization dedicated to preventing child abuse and neglect, supporting more than 100 family education programs and offering training and technical assistance to professionals who work with at-risk children and their families. Bartley will receive an honorary doctor of public service degree.
Joichi “Joi” Ito, activist, entrepreneur, venture capitalist and advocate of emergent democracy, privacy and Internet freedom. As director of the MIT Media Lab, he is currently exploring how radical new approaches to science and technology can transform society in substantial and positive ways. Ito will receive an honorary doctor of humane letters degree.
Joseph Neubauer, business and civic leader, Tufts trustee emeritus and alumnus of the Tufts School of Engineering. Neubauer, who emigrated to the U.S. from Israel as a teenager, became chairman and CEO of diversified food, facility and uniform services giant Aramark Corp. A member of many civic and philanthropic boards, he received the Corporate Citizenship Award from the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal, and was inducted into the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans, among other honors. Neubauer will receive an honorary doctor of public service degree.
Navanethem “Navi” Pillay, jurist and human rights advocate. She served as the United Nations high commissioner for human rights. A South African of Indian Tamil origin, she became the first non-white woman to open her own law practice in Natal Province and later the first non-white woman judge of the High Court of South Africa. She has served on many international tribunals, advocating for rights of women, gays, political prisoners, survivors of sexual assault and other marginalized groups. Pillay will receive an honorary doctor of laws degree at commencement and on May 16 will address Fletcher School graduates during their Class Day ceremonies.
Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, dancer, teacher and choreographer using cultural expression as a catalyst for social change. Zollar is the Nancy Smith Fichter Professor of Dance and Robert O. Lawton Distinguished Professor at Florida State University and the founder of Urban Bush Women, which brings the histories and stories of disenfranchised people to light through both a woman-centered perspective and the experiences of the African Diaspora community. Zollar will receive an honorary doctor of fine arts degree.