Financier-Turned–Human-Rights Activist Bill Browder to Deliver Colgate University 2024 Commencement Address

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Founder and CEO of Hermitage Capital Management, head of the Global Magnitsky Justice Campaign, and author of Red Notice Bill Browder will deliver the commencement address at Colgate University’s 2024 Commencement on Sunday, May 19.

Browder was the largest foreign investor in Russia until 2005, when he was denied entry to the country and declared “a threat to national security” for exposing corruption in Russian state-owned companies.

In 2008, Browder’s lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, uncovered a massive fraud committed by Russian government officials that involved the theft of $230 million (U.S.) of state taxes. Magnitzky testified against state officials involved in this fraud and was subsequently arrested, imprisoned without trial, and systematically tortured. Magnitsky spent a year in prison under horrific detention conditions, was repeatedly denied medical treatment, and died in prison on November 16, 2009, leaving behind a wife and two children.

Since then, Browder has sought justice outside of Russia and started a global campaign for governments around the world to impose targeted visa bans and asset freezes on human rights abusers and highly corrupt officials. The United States was the first to impose these targeted sanctions with the passage of the Sergei Magnitsky Accountability Act in 2012, followed by the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act in 2016.

Since then, Canada, the United Kingdom, the Baltic states, the European Union, and, most recently Australia have passed their own versions of the Magnitsky Act. Browder is currently working to have similar legislation passed in other countries worldwide, including New Zealand and Japan, among others.

Browder’s first book, Red Notice, A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man's Fight for Justice (2015), chronicles Browder’s years spent in Russia, the Russian government’s attacks on Hermitage Capital Management and his responses to Russian corruption, and his support of the investigation into the death of his attorney Sergei Magnitsky. A TV series based on the book is in development.

His second book Freezing Order: A True Story of Money Laundering, Murder, and Surviving Vladimir Putin’s Wrath, was released in 2022.

At the May 19 commencement ceremony, Colgate will also honor Browder with an honorary doctorate, alongside Angela Ferguson; Mohsin Hamid; Michael J. Herling ’79, P’08,’09,’12; and Tod Machover. 

Angela Ferguson

Angela Ferguson poses in front of a rack holding multicolored dried ears of corn strung together

Supervisor of the Onondaga Nation Farm and coordinating committee member at Braiding the Sacred, Angela Ferguson, a member of the Eel Clan, resides just off the Onondaga Nation lands in Central New York. Although much of her time is spent growing and preserving traditional foods of the Indigenous people, the art of “traditional cooking” using the techniques and tools from her ancestors is a skill she has learned and shares with other Haudenosaunee communities. 

Ferguson is one of Braiding the Sacred’s original founders. The organization coordinates gatherings in many different Indigenous communities to create opportunities for relationship building and knowledge sharing among traditional Indigenous corn growers throughout Turtle Island — what many Indigenous people call North America. These three-day events include the consumption of traditional food for the entirety of the gatherings, talking circles focused on corn and the relationships each community has with corn, and either planting or harvesting a corn field in the host community based on time of year. Rematriation of seeds back to their original tribes/nations/homelands is a significant part of Braiding the Sacred’s mission. Ferguson is leading the way in stewarding a seed collection in Onondaga of more than 4,000 Indigenous varieties of corn, beans, and other heirloom foods that were previously held by the late Carl Barnes, Cherokee

Mohsin Hamid

Portrait of Mohsin Hamid leaning his head on one hand, wearing a black jacket and blue-and-white checked shirt

Mohsin Hamid is the author of five novels, including the international bestsellers Exit West and The Reluctant Fundamentalist, both of which were shortlisted for the Booker Prize, as well as Moth Smoke, How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, and his most recent, The Last White Man. Hamid’s books have been translated into more than 40 languages, adapted for film, and awarded numerous prizes.
Hamid speaks and writes on topics ranging from literature, culture, and the arts to migration, technology, business, and politics. He has lectured at universities and conferences on six continents. His essay collection Discontent and Its Civilizations brings together some of his writings for the New York Times, the Guardian, the Financial Times, the New York Review of Books, and other publications.
Hamid studied international relations at Princeton University and law at Harvard University, and worked as a management consultant. He has spent about half his life in Lahore, Pakistan, where he was born, and much of the rest in London, New York, and California.

Michael J. Herling ’79, P’08,’09,’12

Portrait of Michael Herling wearing a blazer and light blue button down

The chair of Colgate University’s Board of Trustees, Michael Herling is founding partner of Finn Dixon & Herling LLP, a law firm in Stamford, Conn. He also serves as the non-executive chair of the board of The Brink’s Company and is a member of the Board of Directors of The Interlake Steamship Company. As a longtime active volunteer for Colgate, he chaired the search committee that hired Brian W. Casey as its 17th president, and served as the chair of the Presidents’ Circle Membership Committee and for 10 years on the Alumni Council. During his tenure on the Board of Trustees, he has, among other things, served as its vice chair and chaired the committee on athletic affairs. He also served on the Task Force on Academic Freedom and Freedom of Expression.

Active in his community, Herling has served on the Board of Directors of The Business Council of Fairfield County (Connecticut), as the past chair of the Board of Stamford Hospital, and as the past president of the Board of Trustees of the Darien Library, among others. He earned a JD from Stanford Law School in 1982. His wife, Nancy ’81, also served as a member of the Alumni Council, and each of their three sons, Doug ’08, Scott ’09, and Will ’12, graduated from Colgate. 

Tod Machover

Portrait of Tod Machover. He is smiling from the side, wearing a black t-shirt and has one hand to his forehead

Called “America’s most wired composer” by the Los Angeles Times and “a musical visionary” by the New York Times, composer/inventor Tod Machover has led a career marked by a commitment to pushing the boundaries of traditional artistic and cultural norms. Machover is Muriel R. Cooper Professor of music and media at the MIT Media Lab, where he also directs the Opera of the Future group and is academic head of the Media Arts & Sciences graduate program. 

Before coming to MIT, Machover studied with Elliott Carter and Roger Sessions at The Juilliard School, and was the first Director of Musical Research at Pierre Boulez’s IRCAM in Paris. Machover also serves as visiting professor of composition at the Royal Academy of Music in London.

Machover’s compositions, commissioned and performed by elite ensembles, opera houses, and esteemed soloists worldwide, have received numerous prizes and awards, including a Chevalier of Arts et Lettres accolade from the French Culture Ministry and being named Musical America’s Composer of the Year. Machover is known for developing new technologies for music, from Hyperinstruments that enhance performance expressivity, to Hyperscore that opens musical creativity for everyone, to numerous sonic strategies for promoting health and wellbeing. 

Machover is especially celebrated for his groundbreaking operas including the AI-infused VALIS (1987), the audience-interactive Brain Opera (1996), and the robotic Death and the Powers (2010), a Pulitzer Prize finalist. His Schoenberg in Hollywood (2018) was performed in Shenzhen, China, in November 2023, and he is currently working on his next opera, The Overstory, based on Richard Powers’ Pulitzer Prize–winning novel. Machover lectures and writes frequently about music and its widest potential, and two co-authored book chapters – AI and Musical Discovery (MIT Press) and Composing the Future of Health (Viking) – were both published in spring 2024.