Bard College at Simon's Rock: the Early College
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Past Commencement Speakers

Our commencement speakers embody the creative intellect of the Simon's Rock community. They have embraced the challenge of forging an innovative path in their lives and careers.

Year Speaker Background Speech
2019 Jamaica Kincaid

Author and Harvard Professor

2018 April Ryan

White House correspondent, author, and CNN political analyst

Video  Text  All 2018 Speeches
2017 Lauren Duca

Award-winning writer and Teen Vogue contributing editor

Video  Text  All 2017 Speeches
2016 Paul Krugman P’13 Economist, author, columnist for The New York Times Video  Text  All 2016 Speeches
2015 Henry Alford ’80 Humorist, journalist, contributor for The New Yorker Video
2014 Nina Perales ’82

Civil rights attorney, vice president of litigation at 
Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund

2013 Ben Bernanke P’00 Former chairman of the Federal Reserve Video
2012 Philip Levine Former U.S. poet laureate Video
2011 Ronan Farrow ’99 Journalist, lawyer, diplomat, writer for The New Yorker Video  Text
2010 Christa Brelsford ’01 Oak Ridge National Laboratory fellow, humanitarian  
2009 John McWhorter ’83 Linguist, author, associate professor of English
and comparative literature at Columbia University
2008 Blenda Wilson Former president of California State University, Northridge  
2007 Robert Greifeld Former chairman of Nasdaq   
2006 Doug Ahlers, ’77 Online advertising and e-commerce pioneer  
2005 Eli Pariser ’96 CEO of Upworthy, former executive director of Video  Text
2004 Bernie Rodgers Retired faculty in literature at Simon’s Rock and
former dean of the College
2003 Benjamin Barber Political theorist and adviser, author  
2002 William Ferris Author, scholar, former chairman of the National
Endowment for the Humanities
2001 Peter Hedges  Novelist, playwright, film director, Academy
2000 John H. D’Arms Former president of the American Council of
Learned Societies; Roman scholar
1999 Aryeh Neier Co-founder of Human Rights Watch  
1998 Carol Gilligan Feminist, psychologist, ethics of care founder  
1997 Tina Packer and
Kristin Linklater
Co-founders of Shakespeare and Company  
1996 Joshua Lederberg
Molecular biologist and 1958 Nobel Prize
in Physiology or Medicine winner
1995 William Durden Former president of Dickinson College   
1994 David Levering Lewis Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer of W.E.B. Du Bois   
1993 Edward “Ted” Kennedy Massachusetts senator   
1992 Mike McGraw Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter  
1991 Chinua Achebe  Author, 2007 Man Booker International Prize winner  
1990 Miklos Haraszti  Journalist and human rights activist   
1989 William Schaufele Diplomat, U.S. Department of State official  
1988 Carolyn Heilbrun Author and first woman to receive tenure at Columbia University  
1987 Grace Paley Award-winning short story author, poet, political
activist, named first official New York State Writer
1986 Francine du Plessix Gray  Pulitzer Prize-nominated author, contributor for The New Yorker  
1985 John Ashbery Pulitzer Prize-winning poet   
1984 Joseph Murphy Former chancellor at the City University of New York  
1983 Victor Gotbaum Former president of the American Federation of State,
County, and Municipal Employees District Council 37
1982 Joseph Duffey Former chancellor of UMass Amherst   
1981 Marian Wright Edelman Founder of the Children’s Defense Fund   
1980 James Shannon  Former Massachusetts congressman and attorney general  
1979 G. Alexander Heard Former chancellor at Vanderbilt University and presidential advisor   
1978 Hans Morgenthau Political scientist, classical realist  
1977 Adele Smith Simmons  First female president of Hampshire College  
1976 Leroy Keith Jr.  Former chancellor of the Massachusetts
Board of Higher Education
1975 Richard Dyer-Bennet Folk singer  
1974 Anne Richardson

Former chairwoman of Reading Is Fundamental, the nation's largest organization promoting children's literacy

1973 Baird Whitlock  Former president of Bard College at Simon’s Rock  
1972 Baird Whitlock Former president of Bard College at Simon’s Rock  
1971 George Cabot Lodge P’67 Former Harvard Business School professor, politician  
1970 Franklin Patterson First president of Hampshire College