Honorary Degree Recipients at Colgate Commencement Skip Navigation

Honorary Degree Recipients

Information about Honorary Degree Recipients for 2018 will be released during the spring semester.

2017 Commencement Speaker

Claudia Rankine

Nationally-renowned poet Claudia Rankine, a recipient of the 2016 MacArthur “Genius” Award,  will deliver the keynote address at Colgate’s 196th commencement Sunday, May 21, in Sanford Field House.

Rankine, the Frederick Iseman Professor of poetry at Yale University, is the author of five collections of poetry, including Citizen: An American Lyric and Don’t Let Me Be Lonely; two plays, including Provenance of Beauty: A South Bronx Travelogue; and is the editor of several anthologies, including The Racial Imaginary: Writers on Race in the Life of the Mind. More about Rankine
Claudia Rankine, Commencement speaker

Baccalaureate Speaker

Rev. Gayle Fisher-Stewart

The Baccalaureate speaker for the Class of 2017 will be the Rev. Gayle Fisher-Stewart, associate rector of Calvary Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C., where she is the founder of the Center for the Study of Faith in Justice.

Fisher-Stewart spent 20 years working as a police officer for the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Department before moving to the clergy, and she is known for her work focused on race, social justice, inequality, and policing. She has degrees from the University of Maryland, American University, the University of the District of Columbia, the Wesley Theological Seminary, and she is the author of Community Policing Explained: A Guide for Local Governments.
Rev. Gayle Fisher-Stewart, Baccalaureate Speaker

Additional Honorary Degree Recipients

Alan Lightman

Professor of the practice of the humanities at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
An American writer, physicist, and social entrepreneur, Lightman’s research in astrophysics has concerned black holes, relativity theory, radiative processes, and the dynamics of stars. He has written six novels, several collections of essays, a book-length narrative poem, several books on science, and his work has appeared in the AtlanticGrantaHarper’sthe New YorkerThe New York Review of Books, and Salon.

Nell Irvin Painter

Princeton University Edwards Professor of American history emerita
Painter is an artist, educator, and historian who has held fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the American Antiquarian Society. Painter earned a doctorate in history from Harvard University and an MFA in painting from the Rhode Island School of Design. Her work has been exhibited in numerous galleries, including the exhibition She Said, She Said: Art and Inspiration in the Work of Nell Painter and Lucille Fornasieri Gold, at the Brooklyn Historical Society in 2014.

Michele Klein Solomon ’83

Director of the Migration Policy and Research Department at the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and permanent observer to the United Nations for IOM
Klein-Solomon received a juris doctor and master of science in foreign service from the Georgetown University Law Center and the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service. Prior to joining IOM, Klein-Solomon was an attorney adviser with the U.S. Department of State, Office of the Legal Adviser.