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Dance and Jazz Legends Among Honorary Degree Recipients at Hamilton College

By staff  |  Contact staff
Posted April 29, 1998
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Arthur Mitchell, founder, director and choreographer of the Dance Theatre of Harlem, and jazz legend Bob Wilber are among the five people who will receive honorary degrees at Hamilton College's 186th commencement on Sunday, May 24.

The other recipients include Taft School Headmaster Lance Odden, long-time securities industry executive Keith Wellin and Carnegie Endowment for International Peace President Jessica Mathews, who will deliver the annual commencement address.

The ceremony will take place at 10:30 a.m. on the Main Quadrangle, or, in the event of inclement weather, in the Margaret Bundy Scott Field House.

The baccalaureate address will be delivered on Saturday, May 23, by Jean D'Costa, who is retiring as the Leavenworth Professor of English after 18 years on the Hamilton faculty. That ceremony will take place at 3 p.m., also on the Main Quadrangle.

Jessica Mathews, Washington, D.C.

Doctor of Laws

A 1967 magna cum laude graduate of Radcliffe College, Mathews is the president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. She received her Ph.D. degree in molecular biology from the California Institute of Technology in 1973, and subsequently moved to Washington where she began a career in public service as a congressional science fellow for the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She continued in Congress as a professional staff member of the House Interior Committee, and in 1975-76 served as national issues director for Congressmen Morris Udall's presidential campaign.

From 1977 to 1979, Mathews was director of the Office of Global Issues on the staff of the National Security Council at the White House. She spent the next three years as a member of the editorial board of The Washington Post, covering energy, the environment, science, technology, arms control, health and other issues.

For the next 11 years, beginning in 1982, Mathews was director of research and then vice president for the World Resources Institute, an internationally known center for policy research on domestic and international environmental and natural resource management issues. She returned to government service for a year in 1993 as deputy to the undersecretary of state for global affairs and then served from 1993 to 1997 as a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

A New York City native, Mathews is currently a trustee of the Brookings Institution, the Inter-American Dialogue and the Surface Transportation Policy Project, a national coalition of groups working on domestic transportation issues, of which she is a co-founder.

Arthur Mitchell, New York, N.Y.

Doctor of Fine Arts

Upon learning of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968, Arthur Mitchell decided to do something to provide the children in Harlem with the opportunities he had been given. With financial assistance from the Ford Foundation, Mitchell and Karel Shook, his mentor and ballet instructor, founded Dance Theatre of Harlem as a school of the allied arts and professional dance company. Today, 29 years later, Mitchell serves DTH as artistic director and president.

After attending New York City's High School of Performing Arts and the School of American Ballet on a full scholarship, Mitchell became the first African-American male to become a permanent member of a major ballet company when he joined the New York City Ballet in 1955. During his 15-year career with the company he quickly rose to the position of principal dancer, and became well-known for special roles choreographed for him by the late George Balanchine.

In 1968, Mitchell was asked to organize the American Negro Dance Company representing the United States at the first World Festival of Negro Arts in Senegal. A year later, at the request of the U.S. International Association, he founded the National Ballet Company of Brazil.

Among his many honors and awards, Mitchell has received the National Medal of Arts, the highest honor awarded by the president of the United States in the arts and humanities.

Lance Odden, Watertown Conn.

Doctor of Humane Letters

Lance Odden is one of the nation's leading secondary school administrators, having served as headmaster of The Taft School in Watertown, Conn., since July 1972. A 1957 graduate of Phillips Academy, Odden received his bachelor's degree in history from Princeton University in 1961 and his master's degree, also in history, from the University of Wisconsin in 1967.

Odden has held many leadership positions in secondary education. He is currently a trustee and member of the Executive Committee of the National Association of Independent Schools, and is a former president of the Headmasters Association, the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, and the Connecticut Association of Independent Schools.

In 1976, Odden started The Taft Educational Center, which introduces secondary school teachers, many from the nation's most distressed school districts, to improved teaching methods. More than 7,000 teachers have benefited from this program since its inception.

Odden is also a former chairman of the board and member of the Executive Committee of A Better Chance program, a national organization that recruits academically motivated s

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