Bowdoin Announces 2012 Honorary Degree Recipients

Story posted February 16, 2012

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The College will award five honorary degrees at its 207th Commencement exercises Saturday, May 26, 2012. The ceremony takes place at 10 a.m. on the Quad in front of the Bowdoin College Museum of Art.

In observance of the 40th anniversary year of women at the College, this year's slate of honorands is made up entirely of women.

They include archaeologist Margaret W. Conkey, philanthropist Agnes Gund, television journalist Cynthia McFadden '78, human rights activist Humaira Awais Shahid and artist Carrie Mae Weems.

About the Recipients

Margaret W. Conkey is internationally known for her archaeological research on Upper Paleolithic art. She has been a pioneer in the development of rigorous theoretical frameworks for understanding issues of gender in human evolution and in the practice of the anthropological profession. A professor of anthropology emerita at the University of California–Berkeley, Conkey earned an A.B. at Mt. Holyoke College, and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees at the University of Chicago. She has been instrumental in bringing new technologies to the practice and teaching of anthropology as director of the Center for Digital Archaeology and the Archaeological Research Facility, and as co-founder of the Multimedia Authoring Center for Teaching in Anthropology. She is a member of the International Scientific Committee of the Grotte Chauvet Research Project, which guides research and preservation at the oldest and the most important cave art site known. She was named one of the “Fifty Most Important Women in Science” by Discover magazine.

Agnes Gund’s philanthropic activity matches her passionate advocacy for the arts in society. President emerita of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, she earned a B.A. in history at Connecticut College and an M.A. in art history at Harvard University. A collector of modern and contemporary art, she joined MoMA’s board in 1976 and served as its president from 1991 to 2002. In response to budget cuts in the New York City public school system that threatened arts programs, Gund founded the Studio in a School Association in 1977, which has brought artists into classrooms for more than 600,000 students in the city’s five boroughs. Gund has served as chair of the Mayor’s Cultural Affairs Advisory Commission of New York City, and has given generously of her time and talents as a board member for a host of organizations, including the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, the Foundation for Art and Preservation in Embassies, and the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center. In 1997 President Clinton presented Gund with the National Medal of Arts and in December President Obama announced his intention to nominate her to the National Council on the Arts.

Cynthia McFadden, Class of 1978, is the co-anchor for ABC television’s Nightline and Primetime Live. A summa cum laude graduate of Bowdoin and member of Phi Beta Kappa, she holds a J.D. degree from the Columbia University School of Law. As a Bowdoin student, she was a news editor for WBOR, a member of Masque & Gown, the Orient staff, the Curriculum Educational Policy Committee, the Governing Boards Education Program Committee, and the Alumni Council, and the recipient of the Woodbury Memorial Award for her scholarship and leadership. From 1986 to 1995 she was a member of the College’s Board of Overseers. Throughout her career, McFadden has conducted interviews with world leaders and covered stories on social issues that often go unreported in news media outlets, including the American government’s attempt to secure “loose” nuclear material worldwide, international trafficking in women and children, the forced sterilization of American citizens during World War II, and Medicaid fraud in Miami. Her work has been honored with Emmy, Peabody, Dupont and Foreign Press awards, among others.

Humaira Awais Shahid is a journalist and human rights activist in Pakistan, a former editor of The Post (Pakistan), and former parliamentarian for the Provincial Assembly of Punjab. Born and raised in Kuwait, Shahid earned an M.Phil. degree in English at the University of the Punjab in 1999. Following her graduation she joined the Khabrain Group of Newspapers and established a helpline there to report on the grievances of the underprivileged in society and to seek remedies for them. In 2002 she was elected to the Provincial Assembly of the Punjab, where she served on committees on Literacy and Non-Formal Basic Education, Violence against Women, and Private Sector Education Reform. She was the first parliamentarian to pass a law as a private member, in the face of sustained opposition from government departments. Her legislation, the Punjab Private Money Lending Act, 2007, prohibited interest-based private money lending in Punjab. She was successful in having laws repealed that permitted honor killings and forced marriages of women to atone for crimes committed by male family members.

Carrie Mae Weems is an internationally known photographer and visual artist based in Syracuse, New York. A native of Portland, Oregon, she studied photography and design at San Francisco City College. She earned a B.F.A. at the California Institute of the Arts in 1981 and an M.F.A. at the University of California–San Diego in 1984. Throughout her career she has created a complex and seamless body of work that draws on photographic images, text, audio, digital images, video, fabric, and installations. Weems’s art explores gender roles, family relationships, social histories, and cultural identity. In her words, “My responsibility as an artist is to work, to sing for my supper, to make art, beautiful and powerful, that adds and reveals; to beautify the mess of a messy world, to heal the sick and feed the helpless; to shout bravely from the roof-tops and storm barricaded doors and voice the specifics of our historic moment.” In 2002 she founded Social Studies 101, a collective of African-American artists from a number of cities, which recently has embarked on a multimedia public art project directed against violence within Syracuse.

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