Noted speakers picked for 2014 commencement ceremonies

by University Communications,

A Pulitzer-Prize winning writer and the former chairwoman of The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde are receiving honorary degrees as part of Willamette University’s commencement celebration on May 11.

Taylor Branch and Kathryn Jones Harrison are both receiving an honorary doctor of humane letters degree during the College of Liberal Arts commencement ceremony, which begins at 3 p.m. on the Quad.

Branch, who is delivering the commencement address, is an American author and public speaker best known for his narrative history of the civil rights era, “America in the King Years.” The trilogy’s first book, “Parting the Waters: America in the King Years, 1954-63,” won the Pulitzer Prize and numerous other awards in 1989. He was also awarded the John S. Guggenheim Fellowship in 1983 and the MacArthur Fellowship in 1991.

Harrison, who now serves as ambassador-at-large for her tribal government, is best known for overseeing the tribe’s resurrection from termination. She also guided the development of gaming as a revenue source to fund tribal educational, health and cultural efforts. In 2012, the Oregon Historical Society named her a “History Maker.”

Graduate School Commencement Ceremonies

  • The College of Law commencement ceremony begins at 11:30 a.m. on the Quad. The commencement speaker is Amanda Marshall JD '95, the U.S. attorney for the District of Oregon. As the chief federal law enforcement officer in Oregon, she oversees the prosecution of all federal crimes and civil matters on behalf of the United States.
  • The Atkinson Graduate School of Management’s commencement ceremony starts at 9 a.m. on the Quad. The speaker and Beta Gamma Sigma honoree is James Cuno '73, chief executive officer of the J. Paul Getty Trust. The trust is a cultural and philanthropic institution based in Los Angeles, which is dedicated to critical thinking in the presentation, conservation and interpretation of the world’s artistic legacy.
    During the ceremony, Mike Hollern, chairman of the board at Brooks Resources in Bend, Ore., will also receive the Atkinson’s Glenn L. Jackson award. The award recognizes extraordinary entrepreneurial and civil leadership benefiting the State of Oregon.
  • The Graduate School of Education’s ceremony is set for June 14 at 2:30 p.m. in Smith Auditorium. The speaker is Linda Christensen, director of the Oregon Writing Project at Lewis and Clark College’s Graduate School of Education. She has worked as an editor and writer for “Rethinking Schools” for more than 25 years and has won numerous teaching awards, including the U.S. West Outstanding Teacher of the Western United States and the Humanitarian award from Willamette Writers.

More information about the university’s commencement ceremonies, including schedules, speaker biographies and live-streams, is available at