Speakers and Award Recipients 2012

Speakers and Award Recipients 2012

Commencement Speaker

Dr. Thomas Frieden ’82, Doctor of Science

Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Administrator, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry

Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH, became director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and administrator of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry in June 2009. Dr. Frieden has worked to control both communicable and non-communicable diseases in the United States and around the world. From 1992 to 1996, he led New York City’s program that rapidly controlled tuberculosis, reducing cases of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis by 80 percent. He then worked in India for five years, where he assisted with national tuberculosis control efforts. The program in India has treated more than 10 million patients and has saved more than 1 million lives.

As commissioner of the New York City Health Department from 2002 to 2009, he directed one of the world′s largest public health agencies, with an annual budget of $1.7 billion and more than 6,000 staff. During his tenure, the number of smokers declined by 350,000, teen smoking decreased by half, and New York City became the first place in the United States to eliminate trans fats from restaurants, rigorously monitor the diabetes epidemic, and require certain restaurants to post calorie information prominently. The department also greatly increased colon cancer screening and eliminated racial/ethnic disparities in colon cancer screening rates.

Under Frieden′s leadership, the department established the largest community electronic health records project in the country. The project provided prevention-oriented electronic health records to physicians caring for more than a million New Yorkers, including more than half of the doctors caring for patients in Harlem, the South Bronx, and Bedford-Stuyvesant. The project is a model for efforts to expand electronic health-record use nationally.

A physician with training in internal medicine, infectious diseases, public health, and epidemiology, Frieden is especially known for his expertise in tuberculosis control. Frieden previously worked for the CDC from 1990 until 2002. He began his career at the CDC as an epidemic intelligence service officer at the New York City Health Department.

Frieden speaks Spanish and graduated from Oberlin College in 1982. He earned both his medical degree and master’s of public health degree from Columbia University and completed infectious disease training at Yale University. He has received numerous awards and honors and has published more than 200 scientific articles.

Baccalaureate Speaker

Daisy Khan

Executive Director of the American Society for Muslim Advancement

Daisy Khan is executive director of the American Society for Muslim Advancement (ASMA), a New York-based nonprofit dedicated to strengthening an expression of Islam based on cultural and religious harmony and to building bridges between Muslims and the general public. At ASMA, she has led numerous interfaith events like the theater production Same Difference and the Cordoba Bread Fest banquet. She has launched two flagship programs, Muslim Leaders of Tomorrow and Women's Islamic Initiative in Spirituality and Equity, which are global movements to empower Muslim youth and women.

Khan regularly lectures around the globe and has participated in panels with Christians, Jews, and Buddhists. She has appeared on numerous media outlets, including CNN, Al Jazeera, and BBC World’s Doha Debates, and she often contributes to documentaries on Islam and Muslims. She is a weekly columnist for the Washington Post’s “On Faith” and is frequently quoted in print publications such as Time Magazine, Newsweek, Chicago Tribune, and the New York Times.

Born in Kashmir, Khan spent 25 years as an interior architect for various Fortune 500 companies before committing to full time community service. She has received many awards, including the Interfaith Center’s Award for Promoting Peace and Interfaith Understanding, Auburn Seminary’s Lives of Commitment Award, the Annual Faith Leaders Award, and 21 Leaders for the 21st Century.


Honorary Degree Recipients

Martha Bergmark ’70, Doctor of Humanities

Founding president of the Mississippi Center for Justice

Martha Bergmark ’70 is the founding president of the Mississippi Center for Justice, a nonprofit public interest law firm based in Jackson, Mississippi. Since its founding in 2003, the center has worked toward the advancement of low-income families and individuals in the Deep South, launching advocacy campaigns to promote educational opportunities, financial security and foreclosure prevention, access to health and childcare, affordable housing and disaster recovery, and community economic development. Under Bergmark’s leadership, the center’s budget has increased twelvefold, allowing the organization to open additional offices in Biloxi and Indianola.

A Mississippi native and magna cum laude graduate of Oberlin College, Bergmark started her career working as a founding executive director of Southeast Mississippi Legal Services (now the Mississippi Center for Legal Services), which provides access to civil legal services for low-income persons and seniors. Bergmark then served as president and executive vice president of the Legal Services Corporation, which administers federal funding for legal aid programs, and as senior vice president for programs at the National Legal Aid and Defender Association in Washington, D.C.

In 2003, Bergmark was named the Stern Family Fund’s Public Interest Pioneer and given a $200,000 grant from the fund to launch the Mississippi Center for Justice. As founder and director, Bergmark has worked to reform the state’s juvenile justice system and to restore Medicaid benefits to 50,000 elderly and disabled Mississippians. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Bergmark orchestrated a $132 million settlement to housing recovery for hurricane survivors previously excluded from Mississippi’s recovery programs. The center also leads a five-state, 12-program consortium of legal aid organizations providing representation to victims of the 2010 BP oil drilling disaster.

Bergmark received the 2010 ABA Section of Litigation’s John Minor Wisdom Public Service and Professionalism Award and was named a White House Champion of Change in 2011. She holds a cum laude degree from the University of Michigan Law School and an honorary doctorate from Millsaps College for her lifelong commitment to public service. She is the mother of two sons, including David Andalman, a 2001 graduate of Oberlin College.


James Burrows ’62, Doctor of Fine Arts

Award-winning television director, producer, and creator

James Burrows is one of television’s most respected and honored creative talents. Over his distinguished career, Burrows has received 10 Emmys, four Directors Guild of America Awards, and the 1996 American Comedy Awards’ Creative Achievement Award. In 2006, Burrows was inducted into the Academy of Television Arts and Science’s Hall of Fame, and he was honored by the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival with a Career Tribute award. He has received 21 nominations for the Director’s Guild of America Award, making him the most nominated director in the history of television at the guild.

Burrows’ success as the director of television pilots is legendary. He is currently at the helm of the second season of the CBS hit comedy Mike and Molly. The current primetime television schedule features three shows—Big Bang Theory, Mike and Molly, and Two and a Half Men—whose pilot episodes Burrows directed.

Burrows is best known as cocreator, executive producer, and director of the critically acclaimed series Cheers. The hit show, which aired for 11 seasons, is the most nominated series in the Television Academy’s history and is in third place for most Emmys received. Burrows has also received numerous awards for his work on Will & Grace, Frasier, Friends, Wings, Night Court, Taxi, and Dear John. In 1998, for the first time in 25 years, he returned to the stage to direct the highly acclaimed The Man Who Came To Dinner at the Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago, starring John Mahoney.

Born in Los Angeles and raised in New York, Burrows graduated from Oberlin College in 1962 and continued his education at Yale, where he earned a master’s degree in fine arts. Burrows and his wife, Debbie, have four daughters.


Margaret Cheney ’76, Doctor of Science

Professor of mathematics, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Margaret Cheney ’76 is a professor of mathematics at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, a position she has held since 1993. Her work deals primarily with inverse problems in acoustics and electromagnetic theory, as well as low-frequency electromagnetic imaging and remote sensing problems.

After graduating from Oberlin College with high honors in mathematics in 1976, Cheney did graduate work at the University of Illinois from 1976 to 1980 before receiving a PhD in mathematics from Indiana University in 1982. She then received her post-doctorate from Stanford University’s mathematics department in 1984, in an applied mathematics group led by famed mathematics professor Joseph B. Keller.

Cheney spent three years as an assistant professor of mathematics at Duke University before accepting her current position at Rensselaer. She has also held visiting appointments at NYU’s Courant Institute, the Minnesota Institute for Mathematics and its Applications, the Berkeley Mathematical Sciences Research Institute, the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division, and the UCLA Institute for Pure and Applied Mathematics.

Throughout her academic career, Cheney has received a number of honors and awards for her contributions to the field of mathematics. In 1986, she earned a Young Investigator Award, including a grant of more than $182,000, from the Office of Naval Research (ONR) for her research on three-dimensional inverse scattering. She also is a fellow of the Institute of Physics (UK) and a fellow of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics.

In 1991, Cheney received a National Science Foundation Faculty Award for Women in Science and Engineering. She was also a member of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute electrical impedance tomography group that received the 1993 ComputerWorld Smithsonian award in the medicine category. In 2000, Cheney received the Lise Meitner Visiting Professorship at the Lund Institute of Technology in Sweden.

From 1996 to 2004, Cheney sat on the board of trustees of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) and in 2006 was elected program director of SIAM Activity Group on Imaging Science, a position she held for two years. She currently serves on the editorial board of the SIAM Journal on Imaging Science, as well as the editorial boards of a number of other research publications.

Cheney has four patents under her name, and her research has appeared in approximately 90 publications. She has given more than 100 research lectures in the United States and Europe.

A member of the Oberlin College swimming and diving team, Cheney was a three-time national qualifier and is regarded as one of the best divers in school history. She was also a four-year member of the Oberlin tennis team and was inducted into the John W. Heisman Club Athletics Hall of Fame in 2011.


Stanley Cowell ’62, Doctor of Music

Award-winning jazz pianist and composer and chair of the Jazz Studies Program at Rutgers University

Classically trained jazz pianist and composer Stanley Cowell ’62 is chair of the Jazz Studies Program at Rutgers University, Mason Gross School of the Arts. He currently performs and lectures as a solo pianist and in ensemble formations in jazz clubs and concert clubs across the country. Over the course of his decades-long career, Cowell has worked with such renowned jazz artists as Max Roach, Abbey Lincoln, the Heath Brothers, Sonny Rollins, Clifford Jordan, Miles Davis, Stan Getz, Bobby Hutcherson, and Harold Land.

A native of Toledo, Ohio, Cowell began his career at the age of 15 as a featured soloist with the Toledo Youth Orchestra in Kablevsky’s Piano Concerto No. 3. He then received his Bachelor of Music degree from the Oberlin conservatory in 1962, followed by a Master of Music degree from the University of Michigan in 1966. He also studied at the Mozarteum Akademie in Salzburg, Austria; Wichita State University; and the University of Southern California.

In 1971, he founded pioneer artist-owned record label Strata-East with jazz trumpeter Charles Tolliver, which released over 60 albums in the 1970s. The following year, Cowell organized the Piano Choir, a group of seven renowned New York-based keyboardists. That same year, he became a founding member of the Collective Black Artists, Inc., a nonprofit company aimed at bringing African American music and musicians to the mainstream public.

From 1974 to 1984, Cowell toured, recorded, and conducted workshops with the Heath Brothers (Albert, Percy, and Jimmy) as their featured pianist, performing in venues throughout North America, Europe, and Asia. He then served as a professor at CUNY Herbert Lehman College in the Bronx, New York, teaching music history, jazz history, piano, improvisation, electronic music, arranging, and jazz band from 1981 to 1999.

In 1990, Cowell received a Meet the Composer/Rockefeller Foundation/AT&T Jazz Program grant for the creation of Piano Concerto No. 1 in honor of jazz pianist and fellow Toledo native Art Tatum. He served on the board of the Charlin Jazz Society, a jazz concert production company based in Washington, D.C., from 1990 to 1996.

His piece, Asian Art Suite, was commissioned in 2005 by the Philadelphia Museum of Art, expanded in 2007, performed by the Rutgers Symphony in 2009, by Prince George's Philharmonic (MD) in 2010, and by the Toledo Symphony in 2011. Cowell has more than 37 recordings under his name on Black Lion, Strata-East, ECM, Concord Jazz, SteepleChase, DIW, and Venus labels. His recent performances include New York's Lincoln Center, Canada, Lebanon, Sweden, Italy, Germany, and Japan.

He and his wife, Sylvia, also produce concerts and music education events under the Piano Choir, Inc.


Ntozake Shange, Doctor of Fine Arts

Groundbreaking writer and performance artist

Ntozake Shange is a renowned poet, performance artist, playwright, novelist, children’s book author, and educator. Her works have had a major influence in the worlds of literature, theater, women’s studies and African American culture. Her ground breaking 1970s choreopoem, for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf, ran on Broadway, toured internationally, won the Off-Broadway Theatre OBIE award, and was nominated for a Tony Award.

Shange, born Paulette L. Williams, earned a bachelor’s degree from Barnard College and a master’s degree from the University of Southern California. Shange has the remarkable gift of transforming her work from one form to another-from fiction to opera. Her plays have been produced coast-to-coast as well as in Europe, from the Kennedy Center to the Lorraine Hansberry Theater in San Francisco, and the Apollo Theatre in London’s West End. She has received critical as well as commercial success with works including Nomathemba, Daddy Says, Spell #7, Mother Courage, From Okra to Greens/A Different Kinda Love Story, and A Photograph: Lovers-in-Motion. Shange has worked with dancers/choreographers Mickey Davidson, Dyane Harvey, and Dianne McIntyre, and she has maintained a longtime creative relationship with several musicians, include Billy Bang, Kahil El’Zabar, Craig Harris, Billy “Spaceman” Patterson, and David Murray. She received Emmy nominations for a television movie version of for colored girls and for Standing in the Shadow of Motown.

Other awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship, Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund, the Pushcart Prize, NAACP Image Award for her lifetime contribution to the arts, Legacy Magazine Award for Women of Strength and Courage, the Humanitas Award, and the Simon Wiesenthal Center Museum of Tolerance Award.

Her other works include the novels Betsey Brown, Liliane, Sassafrass, Cypress & Indigo, and Some Cry, Some Sing, which she coauthored with her sister, Ifa Bayeza. Her latest book, lost in language & sound: or how if found my way to the arts (St. Martin’s Press) includes the poem “why i had to dance.”




Award for Distinguished Service to the Community

Richard Dunn

Active leader in Oberlin community development

For more than five decades, Richard J. Dunn has played a prominent role in the Oberlin community. As an active civic leader, Dunn has held positions in the city, the college, the business communities, and the greater Lorain County area, while serving on the boards of several organizations.

After graduating from Dartmouth College and the Cornell University Graduate Schools, Dunn served as Oberlin city manager from 1958 to 1963. With City Council president Bill Long, Dunn led several civic improvement initiatives, including the Oberlin Community Improvement Corporation and the construction of the reservoir and water treatment plant.

In 1961, Dunn spearheaded local efforts to charter the first constitutionally approved fair housing ordinance, which led to the construction of low-income housing throughout the community. The ordinance inspired the creation of a statewide fair housing law that was enacted in 1965.

Dunn, along with his wife and three children, left Oberlin in 1963 to work for a manufacturing firm in Belleville, New Jersey. He and his family returned in 1968, and he became president of Gilford Instrument Laboratories of Oberlin, a manufacturer of medical equipment located in the industrial park he helped start as city manager.

In 1983, Dunn joined the college’s development office as associate vice president for external affairs. The following year, he was promoted to vice president of development and alumni affairs. Under Dunn’s leadership, the development office adopted innovative fundraising strategies and raised substantial amounts of money for the college, surpassing its initial goal of $80 million by the time Dunn left the office in 1991.

Since his retirement, Dunn has served on the boards of various community organizations, including the Allen Hospital, Lorain County Metro Parks, and the Lorain County Regional Planning Commission. He is a former chair of the Zion Community Development Corporation, which aims to revitalize the southern and southeast areas of Oberlin through a wide variety of neighborhood activities.

From 2002 to 2003, Dunn served as chair of the Kendal at Oberlin board of directors. During his term, he help to establish Kendal at Home, an offshoot of the Kendal at Oberlin program that provides affordable health care services in the home. He and his wife are founding board members of the Firelands Association for the Visual Arts, where he also served as president. He currently is active with Oberlin Main Street - Chamber.


Alumni Medal

Daniel Gardner ’89

Civic leader, educational and environmental advocate

Daniel Gardner’s passionate interest in civic engagement has led to leadership in community, economic, and environmental issues at the local, state, and national levels.

As mayor and president of Oberlin City Council from 2004 to 2008, Gardner ’89 engineered a landmark tax sharing agreement with a neighboring township, completed the first update to the city’s Comprehensive Plan since 1974, partnered with Oberlin Schools on a wholesale, progressive reform of the local tax system, and developed many policies and initiatives to make Oberlin a carbon-neutral community. Under his guidance, the city moved from running a budget deficit to annual surpluses and achieved the highest possible bond rating for a city its size.

From 1995 to 2003, he was the assistant to the president for community affairs at Oberlin College, where he directed the Oberlin Partnership, an initiative designed to leverage college resources to create a better quality of life in the city. He was also founding director of the Bonner Center for Service and Learning, where he established many of its programs that remain today.

Previously, Gardner was an executive with the Education Commission of the States (ECS), an organization that assists governors, state legislators, state education officials, and others develop policies and programs to improve the quality of education at all levels. His major accomplishments with the ECS Campus Compact project included establishing a national center for Historically Black Colleges and Universities involved in community service efforts, and introducing service learning as a strategy for education reform to state education policy makers throughout the nation. In 1992 and 1993, he founded Ohio Campus Compact, a consortium of college and university presidents committed to fulfilling the civic mission of higher education.

Gardner has presented speeches and workshops on college and community relationships at dozens of conferences and meetings, including the National Governors Association. He has served extensively on the boards of local and statewide organizations.

Currently, Gardner is training to be a certified financial planner with the intent of serving social entrepreneurs, enabling “people who do good to do well.” Gardner earned a bachelor’s degree in religion from Oberlin College in 1989. He lives in Oberlin with his wife, Ellen Sayles, and children Lucy and Henry.