Congratulations, Class of 2011!
For its 106th Commencement Celebration on Friday, May 20, Simmons College welcomed two speakers whose work has helped to improve the landscape of Boston and Massachusetts in law and education.
The 10 a.m. undergraduate ceremony was held at the Bank of America Pavilion, and featured recently retired Chief Justice Margaret H. Marshall, the first woman to serve as Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. The 2 p.m. ceremony for master's and doctoral degree students featured Dr. Carol R. Johnson, superintendent of Boston Public Schools (BPS).
Chief Justice Marshall is the first woman Chief Justice and the second woman to have served on the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court — the oldest appellate court in the Western Hemisphere, with a history of more than 300 years.
A native of South Africa, Chief Justice Marshall was a student leader who opposed apartheid and later was unable to return to her home country because of her opposition efforts. After receiving a master's degree from Harvard, and a J.D. from Yale Law School, Chief Justice Marshall practiced law for 16 years and became a partner in the Boston-based law firm Choate, Hall & Stewart; she was appointed to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in 1996. Chief Justice Marshall was the author of the 2003 historic ruling approving same-sex marriage in Massachusetts. The landmark decision Goodridge v. Massachusetts Department of Public Health declared that same-sex marriages were a lawful extension of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights, the state's Constitution. Chief Justice Marshall received an honorary degree from Simmons.
Dr. Johnson became superintendent of Boston Public Schools in 2007, and has spent much of her tenure focused on closing the achievement and access gap, and helping to graduate students who are prepared for college and careers. Dr. Johnson earned her master's and doctorate degrees from the University of Minnesota. Her career includes experience as a teacher, principal, and administrator. Under her leadership, the BPS has achieved the lowest dropout rate in two decades. Most recently, BPS students have outperformed their urban peers in math on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Dr. Johnson received an honorary degree from Simmons.
During Simmons's Commencement ceremony, Simmons College Board of Trustees Chair Lauren Brisky and President Helen G. Drinan also awarded honorary doctoral degrees to the following individuals:
- Millicent Gorham — A Simmons College alumna, Gorham is executive director of the National Black Nurses Association, which represents 150,000 African American nurses in the United States.
- Rebecca Haag — CEO and president of AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts; a powerful advocate for HIV prevention, treatment, and care.
- Representative Byron Rushing — a member of Massachusetts House of Representatives; a longtime champion of human and civil rights, and the creation of economic housing and health care opportunities for all.
- Lois Silverman — founder of Concentra Managed Care; founding chair of the Commonwealth Institute in Boston; chairwoman of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. She is an honorary trustee at Simmons.