Commencement 2012: Honorary Degree Recipients

U.S. Senator Michael Bennet ’87, a leading advocate for education reforms that support great teaching, delivered the Commencement address at the university’s 180th Commencement on May 27.

Other honorary degree recipients at Commencement are also in the Wesleyan family: Glenn Ligon ’82, a multi-talented, nationally recognized artist; and Cecile Richards P’13, whose leadership of Planned Parenthood has helped to make the world safer and healthier.

Michael F. Bennet was elected to his first full term as U.S. Senator for Colorado in November 2010. He is a pragmatic and independent thinker who embodies the values of the western state he represents, and whose work has contributed to good in the world, in the best of the Wesleyan tradition.

As Superintendent of Denver Public Schools, he led an innovative and inclusive reform effort that turned around failing schools and produced strong gains in reading, math, writing, and science. Senator Bennet also served as chief of staff to then-Denver Mayor, now Colorado Governor, John Hickenlooper ’74, Hon. ’10, where he helped balance a historic budget deficit and make city government more responsive to the people of Denver.

After graduating from Wesleyan, he earned a law degree from Yale Law School, where he was editor-in-chief of the Yale Law Journal. He worked as managing director of the Anschutz Investment Company, where he oversaw the restructuring of more than $3 billion in corporate debt.

He has many family connections to Wesleyan: most immediately, his sister Holly Bennet ’94 and father Douglas Bennet ’59, Hon. ’94, who served as president from 1995 to 2007.

Glenn Ligon has created a body of work that explores questions of race, sexuality, history, representation, and language—issues that resonate on this campus. He is particularly noted for a series of text-based paintings, made since the late 1980s, which draw on the writings and speech of individuals such as Jean Genet, Zora Neale Hurston, Gertrude Stein, James Baldwin, and Richard Pryor. His subject matter covers a wide range—from the Million Man March and the aftermath of slavery to 1970s coloring books and the photography of Robert Mapplethorpe.

As President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, Cecile Richards is a national leader in health care and social justice.

Since joining Planned Parenthood in 2006, she has ensured that it played a significant role in the development of health care coverage and services for women under the Affordable Care Act, led a highly effective campaign to preserve access to Planned Parenthood preventive care, doubled the number of individuals who support the organization to more than 6 million, and introduced a youth initiatives program that trains young people to be effective leaders and advocates for health care.

Her husband is Kirk Adams ’73 and their daughter, Hannah Adams, is a member of the class of 2013.  Connect with wesleyan