Giuliani to address grads Former NYC mayor speaker for Sept. 11 class

By Middlebury Campus

Author: Megan O’Keefe

Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani will speak at the graduation of the Middlebury College class of 2005 on May 22. Giuliani will also receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree. The prominent Republican, who was honored as Time magazine’s 2001 Person of the Year, is best known for his leadership following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Donald Sutherland, Charles Houston, Mary Patterson McPherson and Robert P. Moses will also be awarded honorary degrees during the commencement celebration.

Giuliani’s selection as speaker is intended in part to recognize the centrality of the Sept. 11 attacks to the collegiate experience of the class of 2005, who matriculated in September 2001. “One reason his Commencement speech will be especially meaningful to students in the Class of 2005 is that the September 11 attacks took place on what was the second day of classes for the current seniors – many of you will never forget what you were doing on that Tuesday morning three and a half years ago when you first heard that airplanes had crashed into the World Trade Center towers,” said Secretary of the College Eric Davis, who acts as the administrative liaison to the ad-hoc Honorary Degree Committee.

Prior to his election as mayor, Giuliani served in a number of positions in the federal government, including United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York. Giuliani was elected the 107th mayor of the City of New York in 1993 after an unsuccessful bid for the position in 1989. In 1997, he was re-elected by a wide margin. When Giuliani entered the job, more than a million New Yorkers were on welfare and violent crime and crack cocaine had devastated entire neighborhoods. During Giuliani’s eight years as mayor, New York City’s crime rate fell by 57 percent, and the FBI designated New York as America’s safest large city. Whole neighborhoods were redeveloped and 691,000 people were moved off of welfare.

It was on Sept. 11, 2001, however, that Giuliani became New York City’s icon and an American hero. After hearing that a plane had hit one of the Twin Towers, Giuliani rushed to the scene only to be nearly trapped in a command center as the second tower exploded. Leading a group of city officials and reporters away from the fallen towers through a torrent of dust and debris, Giuliani set up a makeshift command center in a firehouse where he made hundreds of rapid-fire decisions to coordinate the city’s emergency relief efforts. Giuliani’s commanding leadership and steady, reassuring presence on television held New York City together through its darkest hour. After manning the city’s emergency command center around-the-clock for three days, the mayor attended dozens of funerals across the city in the weeks after the attacks, consoling grieving families and leading congregations in raucous standing ovations for their fallen heroes.

“The world during our entire college career has been more or less defined by the events of that day and the ongoing aftermath,” said Brian Vickery ’05, member of the Honorary Degree committee. “We are very fortunate that Mr. Giuliani has agreed to speak, given that he was such an important figure to the entire nation at the time of the events.”

Davis stressed that Giuliani is being honored for his leadership prior to Sept. 11, as well. “By awarding him an honorary degree, we recognize his leadership as Mayor of the City of New York, especially but not limited to his actions following the Sept. 11 attacks,” he said. “Even if Sept. 11 had not happened, Giuliani would be recognized as one of New York’s most successful mayors of the past century, for all that he did to improve New York’s economic and cultural standing, and make both residents and visitors feel proud about New York.”

Giuliani left office at the end of 2001, and has since become president of Giuliani Partners, a New York-based consulting firm specializing in security, preparedness and crisis-management.

Giuliani, and the four other honorary degree recipients were selected, according to Davis, because as a group they “typify the range of human excellence that it is most appropriate for Middlebury to recognize at Commencement.”

Donald Sutherland, who will receive an honorary Doctor of Arts degree, is an actor who has appeared in more than 100 films during his distinguished 40-year career. Sutherland is the father of Angus Sutherland ’05, a member of the graduating class. Sutherland is noted for creating the role of Dr. Hawkeye Pierce in the 1970 film “MASH.” Among his other films are “The Dirty Dozen,” “Klute,” “Ordinary People,” “Cold Mountain” and “Animal House.” Davis noted, “We are most pleased to be able to recognize his contribution to motion picture art at the same time that his son Angus graduates from Middlebury.” Sutherland was made an officer of the Order of Canada in 1978, and later the French government made him an officer of the Ordres des Artes et Lettres.

Mary Patterson McPherson, vice president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, will receive an honorary Doctor of Letters degree. McPherson currently oversees Mellon’s liberal arts college program. The foundation has previously made several substantial grants to Middlebury College, including funding for the Center for Educational Technology (CET) and other programs that have introduced technology into the liberal arts curriculum. McPherson was made acting President of Bryn Mawr College in 1976 and was its president from 1978-1997. She has served on numerous boards of directors, is a member of the American Philosophical Society and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Charles Houston, now 91-years-old and a resident of Burlington, Vt., will be awarded an honorary Doctor of Science degree. An emeritus professor of epidemiology and environmental medicine at the University of Vermont, Houston is an authority on high altitude medicine and an accomplished physician who pioneered a forerunner to the Jarvick artificial heart. Houston is also a skilled mountaineer who helped plot routes that were used by the first teams to successfully summit K-2 and Mount Everest. Additionally, Houston once led the first Peace Corps project in India.

Robert Moses, who is being recognized for his work as a civil rights leader in the South in the 1960s and his more recent efforts as the founder and head of the Algebra Project, will be awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree. From 1964 to 1965, Moses led efforts in Alabama and Mississippi that ultimately won passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Today, Moses’ work with Project Algebra encourages African-American high school students to study mathematics and science, while developing innovative ways of teaching mathematics, particularly in schools with large African-American student populations.