Nyad to Speak at Commencement

By Emily Singer

The College has announced that Diana Nyad will deliver the 2014 commencement address on Sunday, May 25. At the age of 64, Nyad made history last year when she became the first person to swim the 110-mile stretch between Havana, Cuba and Key West, FL without the protection of a shark cage.

Nyad will also receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from the College.

“Diana Nyad is a bold and fearless athlete whose determination is truly inspiring,” President of the College Ronald D. Liebowitz  said in a press release. “Her mental strength and her belief in never giving up on her goals make her a role model for others who wish to pursue their dreams, no matter how daunting.”

Nyad is a prolific long-distance swimmer, having swam around the island of Manhattan in under eight hours at age 26. She also set the world record for both men’s and women’s distance swimming by traversing the 102 miles between North Bimini Island, Bahamas and Juno Beach, Florida in just 27.5 hours.

In the 1980s, Nyad took a hiatus from swimming and worked in broadcast journalism, serving as senior correspondent for Fox Sports News and hosting her own show on CNBC. She has published two books about her long-distance swimming career, has written for the New York Times, Newsweek magazine and NPR’s “All Things Considered.” More recently, Nyad was named to National Geographic magazine’s 2014 “Adventurers of the Year” list and competed on Dancing with the Stars.

The College will also be honoring five other men and women with honorary degrees: former Board of Trustees Vice Chair and former executive of State Street Corporation William H. Kieffer III ’64, Grammy-award winning singer and social justice advocate Angelique Kidjo, acclaimed underwater explorer Carl Douglas ’88, former President Emeritus of Yale University Richard Levin and retired chairman and CEO of Colgate-Palmolive Reuben Mark ’60.

Keiffer has served as emeritus trustee since 2008, and has held various volunteer leadership positions at the College over the past 50 years. He has served as vice chair of the Board of Trustees and led the Monterey Institute of International Studies (MIIS) Board of Governors for nine years. Kieffer is currently co-chair of the 2015 Middlebury Language Schools Centennial Celebration. He will receive a Doctor of Humane Letters degree.

Kidjo’s blend of Afropop, Congolese rumba, jazz, rhythm and blues, gospel and Latin music earned her the Grammy award for Best Contemporary World Music in 2007. She is a native of Benin and has worked as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador since 2002. Kidjo also performed at the College in the fall. She will be receiving an honorary Doctor of Arts degree.

Douglas, a recipient of a Doctor of Letters, founded Deep Sea Productions, a publishing and documentary film company that has chronicled the discovery of over 100 underwater ruins. Douglas also serves as chairman of Sweden’s largest private marine survey company.

Levin will also receive a Doctor of Letters. During his time as President Emeritus at Yale from 1993-2013, he launched the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization and collaborated with the National University of Singapore to found the first liberal arts college in Asia.

Mark, who will be receiving a Doctor of Laws, was the longest-serving leader in Colgate-Palmolive’s history as a public company. He served on the College’s Board of Trustees from 1985 to 1994 and has been an avid proponent of faculty scholarship, teaching and development.

The 2014 Middlebury College commencement ceremony will be held on the lawn behind Voter beginning at 10 a.m. on Sunday, May 25.