Former U.S. poet laureate to deliver commencement address at Smith

  • Rita Dove speaking with attendees at an event titled “Legacies: A Conversation with Sandra Cisneros, Rita Dove and Joy Harjo” at Arizona State University Dec. 2, 2017. Dove, a former U.S. poet laureate and a Pulitzer Prize winning poet, will deliver the commencement address at Smith College’s graduation ceremony May 20. Creative Commons/Gage Skidmore

For the Gazette
Published: 2/21/2018 10:06:15 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Former United States poet laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner Rita Dove will deliver the commencement address at Smith College’s graduation ceremony on May 20.

Dove, who won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1987 and served as U.S. poet laureate from 1993-95, is also slated to receive an honorary degree from the school.

Along with the commencement speaker, former president of Smith College Carol Christ, Columbia Law School professor Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, Academy Award winner and 2002 Smith College graduate Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and former president of Greenfield Community College Robert L. Pura will also be awarded honorary degrees.

In choosing a recipient for an honorary degree, Smith College’s website says that they “will consider women who are exemplars of excellence in a wide range of fields, both academic and non-academic. The college will also consider women and men who have had special impact on Smith College, on the education of women, or on women’s lives.”

Any member of the Smith College community may nominate a person to be the commencement speaker or for an honorary degree. A committee chaired by the President of Smith College and composed of three student leaders, three faculty members and three staff members recommends honorees to the Board of Trustees. The President also meets with student leaders of the graduating class to discuss potential commencement speakers.

An author of nine books of poetry, Dove has been the recipient of 25 honorary doctorates, received the 2011 National Medal of Arts from President Barack Obama and also served as the poet laureate of Virginia from 2004-2006.

Dove’s Pulitzer Prize winning book of poetry, “Thomas and Beulah,” is split into two parts and tells the semi-fictionalized story of her grandfather and grandmother, respectively.

Dove’s most recent book, “Collected Poems 1974-2004”, was awarded the 2017 NAACP Image Award. Her 1996 play “The Darker Face of the Earth” was produced at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. and abroad at the Royal National Theatre in London, England.

The graduation ceremony will be held on Sunday, May 20 at 10 a.m.


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