This year’s commencement podium will be graced by not one, but three graduation speakers – Myles Brand, John A. Williams and Kenneth Olden.
All have connections to UR and all will be receiving honors. Williams and Olden will be receiving honorary degrees from UR.
Brand – the current National Collegiate Athletic Association President and UR alumnus – will be receiving the Charles Force Hutchison and Marjorie Smith Hutchison Medal, for distinguished contributions by an alumnus.
Brand earned his doctorate in philosophy from UR in 1967. Since then he has held a multitude of administrative positions at universities throughout the United States. He is best known for his term as the Indiana University President, where he served from 1994-2002. While at Indiana, Brand received wide publicity for his war-of-words and eventual dismissal of legendary basketball coach Bobby Knight.
“He seems a little dry for a university speaker,” senior Tim Sweeney said. “He didn’t seem to handle the Bobby Knight situation that well.”
In January 2001, Brand delivered a speech to the National Press Club entitled, “Academics First: Reforming Intercollegiate Athletes,” which focused on the disconnect between collegiate education and athletics and the subsequent consequences. He has also written extensively on a variety of higher education topics, including undergraduate education.
“I hope it helps the university community realize the importance of college athletics,” senior Bob Johnsen said. “It will continue to strengthen this university’s athletic program.”
Currently the director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Services and the National Toxicology program, Olden is the first African-American to become director of one of the 18 institutes of the National Institutes of Health.
Olden spent his undergraduate years studying biology at Knoxville College and then went on to earn his master’s degree at the University of Michigan. He received a doctoral degree from Temple University, with research done at UR. His post-graduate work has focused on cell surface molecules and their role in cancer.
In 1994, Olden was elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, and then went on to win the City of medicine award two years later. He went on the next year to be presented with an inaugural award by the National Association of Physicians for the Environment for his leadership in protecting health and the environment.
Olden’s achievements also include being honored in 2000 at the Jubilation Concert, put on by the children’s Health Environment Coalition for his leadership in children’s environmental health research.
William’s connection to UR came later in his career, when he donated all of his publications and private papers to the university in 1986. A distinguished African-American author, Williams began his education not far from here at Syracuse University, where he earned a degree in journalism and English. He soon published his first book, “The Angry Ones.”
Since his first success in 1960, he has been the author of 21 books – both fiction and non-fiction. He served as the Paul Robeson Professor English at Rutgers University, until his retirement in ’94, and has been honored with induction into the Literary Hall of Fame.
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