Willamette Announces Commencement Program

Distinguished lecturer the Rev. Dr. Peter J. Gomes; dean of the White House press corps Helen Thomas; Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Richard Read; U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski, and Oregon businessman and entrepreneur Thomas Neilsen will all participate in commencement ceremonies Sunday, May 18, at Willamette University.

Nobel Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu received an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Willamette April 10 when he visited the campus as an Atkinson Lecturer.

Gomes will deliver the keynote address at the May 18 College of Liberal Arts and School of Education commencement at 3:30 p.m. on the Quad. He will also receive an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree. Thomas and Read will both be awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree.

Murkowski will deliver the keynote address at the College of Law commencement at 11:30 a.m. on the Quad, and Neilsen will speak at the Atkinson Graduate School of Management commencement at 9 a.m. in Hudson Hall, Mary Stuart Rogers Music Hall.

Born in Boston, in 1942, the Rev. Peter J. Gomes is an American Baptist minister ordained by the First Baptist Church of Plymouth, Mass. Since 1970, he has served in the Memorial Church, Harvard University; and since 1974, as Plummer Professor of Christian Morals and Pusey Minister in the Memorial Church.

A member of the arts and sciences faculty and divinity faculty of Harvard University, Gomes holds degrees from Bates College and from the Harvard Divinity School and 14 honorary degrees. In 2001, Harvard University presented him with the Phi Beta Kappa Teaching Award. He is an honorary fellow of Emmanuel College and the University of Cambridge, England, where the Gomes Lectureship was established in his name. Widely regarded as one of America's most distinguished preachers, Gomes has lectured throughout this country and the British Isles. He has served as missioner to Oxford University, and in 2000, he delivered the University Sermon before the University of Cambridge, England. He gave the Millennial Sermon in Canterbury Cathedral, England.

Named Clergy of the Year in 1998 by Religion in American Life, Gomes participated in the presidential inaugurations of Ronald Reagan and of George Herbert Walker Bush. He has published seven volumes of sermons as well as numerous articles and papers in addition to his books, "The Good Book: Reading the Bible with Mind and Heart" and "Sermons: Biblical Wisdom for Daily Living."

Gomes is a trustee of Harvard University, Roxbury Latin School and Bates College. He is also the former acting director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for Afro-American Research, Harvard University; past president of the Signet Society, Harvard's oldest literary society; and former trustee of Wellesley College and the Public Broadcasting Service. He is a past president and trustee of the Pilgrim Society of Plymouth, Mass.

For 40 years, journalist Helen Thomas, often called the dean of the White House press corps, sat front and center at the news conferences of eight U.S. presidents. As United Press International (UPI) White House correspondent and bureau chief, Thomas reigned over the Washington press and accompanied eight presidents on their travels around the globe.

She left UPI in 2000 after having worked for the news organization for 57 years and is now a Shapiro Fellow at the George Washington School of Media and Public Affairs in D.C. and reports on the White House as a columnist for Hearst Newspapers.

Born in Winchester, Ky., and raised in Detroit, she attended public schools and graduated from Wayne State University. Upon leaving college, Thomas served as a copy girl on the now-defunct Washington Daily News. She joined UPI in 1943 and began White House coverage in 1961.

Thomas overcame many barriers against women journalists throughout her career. In 1959, she and other female journalists forced the then all-male National Press Club to let them attend a speech given to members by Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev. When the club finally opened its membership doors to women in 1971, Thomas became its first female officer. In 1972, she was the only woman print journalist allowed to travel with then President Nixon on his historic breakthrough trip to China.

She has the distinction of having traveled around the world several times with Presidents Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton and Bush during the course of which she covered every economic summit. "The World Almanac" has cited her as one of the 25 Most Influential Women in America.

Thomas has written three books, including her latest, "Thanks for the Memories Mr. President: Wit and Wisdom from the Front Row at the White House."

Richard Read, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, is The Oregonian's senior writer for international affairs and special projects. He became the first foreign correspondent for a Pacific Northwest newspaper when he opened The Oregonian's Asia Bureau in Tokyo in 1989.

While in Japan, he reported on Japan's economic rise, the war in Cambodia, conditions in Tibet, change in China and the economic opening of Vietnam and the Russian Far East. He is one of a handful of U.S. journalists to have reported inside North Korea.

In 2001, The Oregonian received journalism's most prestigious award, the gold-medal Pulitzer Prize for public service, for stories that Read and three other reporters wrote exposing abuses by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalizations Service.

In 1999, he received the Pulitzer Prize for explanatory reporting for a series of stories that explained Asia's economic crisis and its effect on the United States. The four-part narrative series also received the Overseas Press Club's award for best business reporting from abroad.

Read, 44, was born in St. Andrews, Scotland, and raised in Massachusetts. He graduated from Amherst College in 1980 with a B.A. in English literature. He joined The Oregonian the next year.

In 1986, he received a fellowship from the Henry Luce Foundation, which sent him to Bangkok, Thailand, to work for a year as a reporter for The Nation, a local newspaper. Read moved to Japan in 1987, where he freelanced for The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, Euromoney and many other publications.

Read is also the recipient of a Nieman fellowship for journalists at Harvard University and was an Eisenhower Exchange Fellow in 1997. Currently, Read is a columnist for Northwest Airlines' in-flight magazine. In 2000, he received the Oregon Governor's Award for Achievement in International Business, and in 1999 and 2002 he was named the state's International Citizen of the Year.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu has spent much of his life fighting for justice and racial harmony in South Africa and throughout the world. He played a leading role in South Africa's struggle against apartheid and in helping to oversee its demise. He was chosen by President Nelson Mandela to chair South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission and investigate the crimes committed by all sides during the apartheid regime.

Born Oct. 7, 1931, in Klerksdorp, a town 70 miles west of Johannesburg, Archbishop Tutu grew up in a country ruled by segregation. Under these laws, he was educated at inadequate schools. Originally planning to become doctor, the young Tutu turned down a place at medical school due to lack of funds. He instead qualified as a teacher although he later resigned in protest at the introduction of the discriminatory Bantu Education Act. This early courageous stance was to set the pattern for the rest of his extraordinary career.

Following his resignation, Archbishop Tutu went to theological college and was ordained in 1961. He became the first black Anglican dean of Johannesburg in 1975, and in 1976, was named bishop of Lesotho.

He was appointed bishop of Johannesburg in 1985 and then became the first black Anglican archbishop of Cape Town in 1986. Yet even as archbishop, Tutu had to carry a pass and lived in his house illegally - in a whites-only suburb. Archbishop Tutu developed a reputation as a churchman-politician who was outspoken about the abuse of power and injustice in South Africa. The world recognized his quest for a non-violent end to apartheid in 1984 when he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. He has also received dozens of honorary doctorates and peace awards, including the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation's Distinguished Peace Leadership Award in 1990.

Archbishop Tutu is recognized throughout the world as a spiritual church leader, a distinguished peace activist, a compassionate man of the people, an individual highly respected by international political leaders and a passionate orator.

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski began her term as Alaska's sixth United States Senator Dec. 20, 2002. A third generation Alaskan, she was born and raised in Southeastern Alaska, attended high school in Fairbanks, and has lived in Anchorage for more than 25 years. She has spent a lifetime working throughout Alaska and on Alaskan issues. Murkowski, the first Alaskan-born senator to serve the state, is only the 33rd female to serve the United States Senate since its founding in 1789.

A member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Murkowski chairs its subcommittee on Water and Power, and serves on its subcommittees on Energy, and Public Lands and Forests. She also is a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, serving on the subcommittees of transportation and infrastructure, and fisheries, wildlife, and water. In addition, the senator serves on the Veterans Affairs Committee and the Indian Affairs Committee.

Prior to joining the U.S. Senate, Murkowski was elected to three terms in the Alaska State House of Representatives, beginning in 1998. She won subsequent re-elections in 2000 and 2002. Her State House colleagues selected her as House Majority Leader for the 2003-2004 term.

Murkowski graduated from Georgetown University with a degree in economics in 1980, and earned her law degree from the Willamette College of Law in 1985. She has been a member of the Alaska Bar Association since 1987, served as an Anchorage District Court attorney for two years, and worked in private practice with an Alaska commercial lawfirm for eight years prior to her work as a sole practitioner.

Tom Neilsen, chairman of Neilsen Manufacturing Inc. in Salem, Ore., graduated from Atkinson Graduate School of Management at Willamette University in 1986 with Beta Gamma Sigma and Pi Alpha Alpha honors. He serves as president of the board of directors of the Historic Elsinore Theatre and has been a member of the Willamette University board of trustees and executive committee since 1993.

He served as president of Salem Economic Development Corp. in 1987, president of Salem Chamber of Commerce in 1988 and mayor of the City of Salem from 1989-90. He has also served on the Salem Hospital board of directors and executive committee from 1993-99, the board of directors of Climax Machine Tools, Newberg, Ore., from 1995-20, and on the United Way board of directors and executive committee from 1996-99.

Neilsen was recognized as the Associated Oregon Industries Business Leader of the Year in 1989, as Salem First Citizen in 1991, Oregon Manufacturing Entrepreneur of the Year in 1996 and his business, Neilsen Manufacturing, was selected as the National Family Business of the Year in 2000.