May 14, 2012
Marymount Manhattan’s 63rd Commencement to Honor Ruth Gruber, Peter H. Baker and Sheila Barry Tacon '56
Megan Youngblood, M.S., Assistant Director, Office of Institutional Advancement, (212) 517-0658, email@example.com
New York, N.Y.—Marymount Manhattan College will hold its 63rd Commencement on Friday, May 18, 2012, at 2:30 p.m., in the New York City Center, located at 131 West 55th Street. Photojournalist and humanitarian Ruth Gruber, devoted faculty and staff member Peter H. Baker and human rights advocate Sheila Barry Tacon ’56 will receive honorary degrees.
Rocco Landesman, the tenth chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), will deliver the 2012 Commencement Speech. This year’s valedictorian Jessica Summers ’12, communication arts major, and senior class speaker Robert Torres ’12, theatre arts major, will address their classmates during the ceremony. President Judson R. Shaver, Ph.D., will present remarks and award the 2012 honorary degrees.
Prior to joining the NEA, Landesman was a Broadway theater producer.He pursued his undergraduate education at Colby College and the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and earned a doctorate in Dramatic Literature at the Yale School of Drama. He served as an assistant professor at Yale until 1977, when he started a private investment fund. In 1987, he became president of Jujamcyn, a company that owns and operates five Broadway theaters: St. James, Al Hirschfeld, August Wilson, Eugene O'Neill, and Walter Kerr theaters. Before and after joining Jujamcyn, Landesman produced some of Broadway’s most notable shows shows, including Big River (1985 Tony Award for Best Musical), Angels in America: Millenium Approaches (1993 Tony Award for Best Play), Angels in America: Perestroika (1994 Tony Award for Best Play), and The Producers (2001 Tony Award for Best Musical). President Obama appointed him chair of the National Endowment of the Arts in 2009.
Ruth Gruber will be granted a Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa. Born in Brooklyn, Dr. Gruber graduated from New York University at age 18, received her M.A. in German and English Literature from the University of Wisconsin, and in 1931, completed her doctorate in Germany at age 20, making her the youngest Ph.D. in the world at the time.
Dr. Gruber served as special assistant to Secretary of the Interior Harold L. Ickes during and immediately after World War II. In 1944, she was selected for a secret mission to escort one thousand Jewish refugees from Italy to Oswego, N.Y., and given the rank of simulated general in order to guarantee protection under the Geneva Convention in case she was captured. Once on U.S. soil, Gruber advocated for residency for the refugees, who faced deportation in light of strict quotas on Jewish immigration to the United States from Eastern Europe. Her book about the experience, Haven: The Unknown Story of 1,000 World War II Refugees, became the basis for a 2001 CBS miniseries.
After the war, she returned to journalism, covering the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry on Palestine for the New York Post and working as a foreign correspondent for the New York Herald Tribune, traveling with the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine through Europe and the Middle East. She covered not only the squalid conditions of Displaced Persons camps, but also the story of a ship called Exodus 1947 that carried 4500 Holocaust survivors as it was fighting the British in the Mediterranean. Gruber’s photo documentation of the ordeal informed her book, Exodus 1947: The Ship that Launched a Nation, as well as the film Exodus and several documentaries.
Later, Gruber spent nearly a year writing her National Jewish Book Award-winning biography, Raquela: A Woman of Israel. She went on to write about the rescue of Ethiopian Jews in her highly acclaimed book Rescue: The Exodus of the Ethiopian Jews.
Gruber has received Na’amat USA’s Golda Meir Human Rights Award, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Society of Journalists and Authors, and several other prestigious awards from the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance for her work.
Peter Harte Publius Baker
Peter Harte Publius Baker will be granted a Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa. Baker came to teach at Marymount Manhattan College a year after the College received its independent Charter from the New York Regents, and for 50 years he has served the College in a number of roles, with panache, passion, and commitment.
He grew up in Milton, Mass., where he became a member of the Secular Franciscan order, a commitment he has maintained throughout his lifetime. After receiving an Artium Baccalaureatum in Classics from the College of the Holy Cross, he took a Master of Arts in Philosophy from Fordham, and did further studies at Fordham and later New York University. He joined the faculty at Marymount Manhattan College in philosophy in 1962.
Baker was a teacher at Marymount Manhattan until 1998, a responsibility he carried out with energy and dedication while also taking on a number of leadership roles. One of the architects of the faculty charter for participation in the governance of the College, he also piloted the critical thinking core of the two-semester freshman writing course, and set up the first organized Academic Advisement Office. For five years, he served as Chair of the Division of Sciences, and three times, he chaired or co-chaired the College's preparation for the re-accreditation visit from the Middle States Association. Twice, he served as interim chief academic officer, and since 1999 he has served as the College's Vice-President for Institutional Research and Planning.
From 1988 until 2005, Baker directed a state-funded program for high school students of color, the Science and Technology Entry Program, in partnership with the Settlement College Readiness Program (SCRP) in East Harlem. From 1992 until 2008, he was a member of the Board of Directors of Settlement College Readiness, serving as chair for the last six years and overseeing the merger of SCRP with Union Settlement Association. He was a member of the Union Settlement Board from 2008 until 2010. In 2008, Queen Elizabeth II approved his appointment as a Serving Brother in the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem, a chivalric order led by the Queen, which supports the St. John's Ambulance world-wide and the Jerusalem Eye Hospital.
Sheila Barry Tacon ’56
Sheila Barry Tacon ’56 will be granted a Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa. Raised in the Bronx, Barry Tacon attended MMC on scholarship; her studies in history and political science cemented her dedication to social justice work. Graduating in 1956 as MMC’s first Fulbright Scholarship winner, she departed for Denmark, where she studied socialism and health care and served as President of the International Student Movement for the United Nations.
Barry Tacon worked in Public Relations at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP) and studied international law at Columbia University. She later joined the United Nations in a professional post at a time when there were only a few young women professionals in the Secretariat, conducting research for the Trusteeship Council and working on disarmament issues for the Department of Political and Security Council Affairs. Her passion continued to flourish in both a position with the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions and her participation in grassroots efforts to start a foundation for establishing an International Criminal Court.
In 1974, Barry Tacon joined what would be the central institution of her career, UNICEF, where she worked closely with the Executive Board and non-governmental organizations (NGO). She was part of the vanguard policy movement that led to assistance policies that viewed women in their own right and promoted empowerment strategies and support actions in education and income generation. Because of her work, by the mid-1980s, women and children were beginning to be considered subjects, not objects, as participants in the development process.
Barry Tacon’s career has been international in scope. In Kenya, she undertook a research project on the survival of women and children on behalf of UNICEF, and in Guatemala she worked with Childhope, an organization dedicated to helping marginalized children. Later, as the UNICEF Representative in Botswana, she promoted children’s rights. There, she began an HIV/AIDS prevention and support program and brought civil society organizations together to support women and child priorities.
Marymount Manhattan College is an urban, independent, liberal arts college. The mission of the College is to educate a socially and economically diverse student body by fostering intellectual achievement and personal growth and by providing opportunities for career development.