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President of Grinnell College to speak at Winter Commencement

By Paige Pearcy, Daily News Editor
Published October 14, 2012

It’s almost like they’re switching places.

Raynard Kington, the president of Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa — University President Mary Sue Coleman’s alma mater — will address the graduating class of his alma mater at the University’s winter commencement ceremony on Sunday, Dec. 16.

Kington will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws in addition to serving as keynote speaker at the Crisler Center event. Before becoming the 13th president at Grinnell College, Kington was the Deputy Director of the National Institutes of Health.

A Baltimore native, Kington received a joint undergraduate and medical degree from the University through the now-defunct Inteflex program, which admitted high school students to attend the University for their undergraduate and medical degrees. He also received his MBA and Ph.D. from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

Kington said he plans to reiterate the value of receiving a degree from the University and inspire a multifaceted class of future leaders.

“I want students to go out with both the recognition of their accomplishment from which it’s commendable to be graduating from a great school like Michigan, but at the same time also to be prepared to take that knowledge that they’ve gained and use it to make the world better in whatever way: being good citizens, being good parents, good family members, workers, leaders in every way,” Kington said.

In an interview with The Michigan Daily, Coleman said she has heard Kington speak before and is excited he will be addressing the graduates this winter. Coleman called Kington, who is the first black and openly gay president of Grinnell College, a "groundbreaking individual."

“I’m very proud of him,” Coleman said. “He’s a very inspirational speaker… He’s very proud of his Michigan heritage and he’s done a fantastic job.”

Kington noted he was surprised when Coleman called and asked him to be the speaker.

“I had no idea what she was calling about,” Kington said. “It was a big surprise.”

Kington, who visited Ann Arbor sporadically while serving on an advising board for a study within the Institute for Social Research after graduating, said he still visits his former college town every few years.

During his time at the University he said he especially enjoyed the city’s diversity and smaller scale in comparison to his Baltimore upbringing.

“I liked all of the diversity that you had there with incredible entertainment, and great restaurants and lots of interesting things to do and at the same time a scale that wasn’t overwhelming,” Kington said. “I love the city; I had great faculty and teachers and that was wonderful. I was exposed to a lot of the world on that one campus.”

To be selected as a commencement speaker and honorary degree recipient, the University’s Honorary Degree Committee chooses nominees from a list, which is compiled throughout the year. Selections for speakers and honorary degree recipients are made from the committee’s list in the spring and winter.

Kington and the other honorary degree recipients must be approved by the University’s Board of Regents at their monthly meeting, which will be held on Friday at the University of Michigan - Flint campus.

At the meeting, honorary degrees are also being recommended to five others including Michael Boyd, Molly Dobson, Cornelia Kennedy, Joshcka Fischer and Dee Dee Bridgewater. Coleman said they are “all very distinguished people.” The regents will have to approve these recipients along with Kington on Friday.

Boyd is the former director of the Royal Shakespeare Company and helped to foster partnerships with the University to develop their shows during his time with the British-based company. Boyd is being recommended for a Doctor of Humane Letters.

“During all of the time when Michigan has had this special relationship with the RSC, Michael has been involved,” Coleman said. “It’s wonderful that we’re going to be able to honor him.”

Dobson, a University alum, is a philanthropist and volunteer in Ann Arbor as well as the 2007 Community Foundation Award winner from the Council of Michigan Foundations. Dobson was selected to receive a Doctor of Laws.

Kennedy, also a University alum, is the senior judge of the 6th circuit U.S. Court of Appeals and is nominated to receive a Doctor of Laws. Kennedy is the first woman to be a Chief Judge of a U.S. district court.

Joshcka Fischer previously taught at the University and will receive a Doctor of Laws. Fischer is a German politician who helped spur the rise in popularity of the Green party in Germany. He served as the Germany’s Foreign Minister from 1998 until 2005.

Dee Dee Bridgewater, a Flint native, was selected to receive a Doctor of Fine Arts. Bridgewater is a singer and songwriter who has won three Grammy Awards and a Tony Award. She will have her degree conferred at the University of Michigan - Flint’s Winter Commencement on Sunday, Dec. 9.


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