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Respected Journalist Gwen Ifill to Deliver Simmons College Commencement Address May 15

Author & Human Rights Advocate Greg Mortenson is Afternoon Speaker

BOSTON (April 16, 2009) — Gwen Ifill, the moderator and managing editor of "Washington Week" and one of the country's most respected journalists, will deliver the main commencement address for Simmons College Friday, May 15, at the Bank of America Pavilion in Boston.

A 1977 alumna of Simmons, Ifill will speak at 10:30 a.m. as the keynote speaker for the morning ceremony celebrating the 104th Commencement.

(Reporters note: Times are subject to change. To assure seating, contact Allyson Irish at 617-521-2324 or 781-696-2850, or if you plan to attend.)

A journalist for more than 30 years, Ifill's career includes both print and broadcast media. She is the first woman and the first African American to host a prominent political talk show on national television, and is the senior correspondent for PBS's "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer." This year, Ifill released her first book, The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama, which looks at the new generation of African-American politicians in the U.S.

During the course of her career, Ms. Ifill has received honorary degrees from several colleges and universities, including one from Simmons in 1993. She also is the recipient of broadcasting excellence awards, including honors from the National Press Foundation, Ebony magazine, the Radio Television News Directors Association, and American Women in Radio and Television.

Greg Mortenson, co-founder of the nonprofit Central Asia Institute and co-author of the New York Times bestseller Three Cups of Tea, will speaker at 1:30 p.m. for the afternoon graduate ceremony, during which Simmons will confer master's and doctoral degrees. Since a 1993 climb on Pakistan's K2, Mortenson has dedicated his life to promoting community-based education and literacy programs — especially for girls — in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Mortenson has helped to establish more than 61 schools, which provide education to more than 25,000 children, including 14,000 girls.

Mortenson has received numerous humanitarian awards including the highest civil award given by the Pakistan government, the Sitara-e-Pakistan ("Star of Pakistan"), given to him this spring. He also was recognized by ABC News in March as "Person of the Week."

During the Commencement ceremony, Simmons will award honorary degrees to:

•    Greg Mortenson

•    Dr. Bereket Habte Selassie, the William Leuchtenburg Professor of African Studies and professor of law at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and a lifetime advocate for human rights and democracy, particularly in Eritrea, Africa

•    Dr. Rosa Elena Bello, a committed healthcare, adult education, and women's issues activist in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

•    Erma Brooks, a devoted lifetime educator, particularly focused on diversity, who has worked in various Boston-area schools including Simmons College
•    Mitsuye Yamada, a poet, educator, and activist who has devoted her life to issues of global human rights and social justice

Simmons College is a nationally recognized private university in Boston.  It includes an undergraduate college for women and graduate programs for women and men in social work, health sciences, library and information science, and the liberal arts, as well as the nation's first MBA program designed specifically for women.