MCLA Announces Keynote Speaker, Honorary Degree Recipients For 114th Commencement



NORTH ADAMS, MASS. - Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) will celebrate its 114th Commencement exercises on Saturday, May 18, beginning at 11 a.m., in the Amsler Campus Center Gymnasium.

This year's keynote speaker will be Diane Patrick, First Lady of Massachusetts, a lawyer, domestic violence advocate, educator and community volunteer, who will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree.

Also receiving honorary degrees this year will be Elizabeth Coleman Ph.D., president of Bennington College, who will receive an honorary Doctor of Humanities; John "Jack" Downing, president and chief executive officer of Soldier On, who will receive an honorary Doctor of Public Service; and Mardi Crane-Godreau '98 Ph.D., a member of the faculty at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, who will receive an honorary Doctor of Science.

In recognition of their awards, the honorary degree recipients will have books placed in MCLA's Freel Library in their names.

President Mary K. Grant said she is pleased to recognize the achievements of these remarkable individuals, all of whom eagerly anticipate being part of this year's celebration.

"We will be delighted to hear from Diane Patrick, whose distinguished law career and long record of public service establishes her as an inspirational role model and civic leader. We are thrilled to honor her, along with Liz Coleman, Jack Downing and Mardi Crane-Godreau," Grant said. "The achievements and many contributions to Berkshire County, the country, and the world of these remarkable individuals reflect the character and spirit of the accomplished, dedicated and engaged members of the Class of 2013, whom we also will celebrate."

MCLA Board of Trustees Chair Steve Crowe also applauded those who will be honored.

"Mrs. Patrick's public service and dedication to her community make her the perfect choice as this year's keynote speaker," Crowe said. "As president of Bennington College, Liz Coleman's organizational restructuring reinvigorated the campus's educational mission. Through his work with Soldier On, Jack Downing has provided homes, hope, and dignity to our region's homeless veterans. And, 30 years after earning her first bachelor's degree, Mardi Crane-Godreau graduated with her second degree from the College, which led her to a prestigious career in medicine as an educator and cancer researcher."

In 1972, Mrs. Patrick earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in early childhood education and graduated with honors from Queens College of the City University of New York. After teaching elementary school in New York City for five years, she entered Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, Calif., to study labor and employment law.

At Loyola, her academic performance and public service won Mrs. Patrick an American Jurisprudence Award and the school's Outstanding Graduate Award.  She received her Juris Doctor in 1980, and was admitted to the California Bar that same year.

In 1983, Mrs. Patrick joined the firm of O'Melveny and Myers, was asked to assist in the opening of its New York City office.  After moving to Massachusetts with her husband, Gov. Deval Patrick, she accepted a position at Harvard as University Attorney in the Office of General Counsel, where she spent six years before becoming Harvard's director/associate vice president for human resources.

In 1994, when Gov. Patrick was selected to head the U.S. Justice Department's Civil Rights division, Mrs. Patrick took a job with the Washington D.C. firm Hogan and Hartson, where she worked with both the education and labor and employment law practice groups. She joined the law firm of Ropes and Gray in Boston in 1995. As a partner at that practice, she has combined her passion for education and her background in labor and employment law.

Mrs. Patrick is an outspoken advocate for victims of domestic violence and those who suffer from mental health issues.

In 2012, she received Families for Depression Awareness' (FFDA) first-ever Distinguished Service in Mental Health Advocacy Award, created to honor individuals who have gone to extraordinary efforts to heighten public awareness of depressive disorders, empower families in need to seek treatment, and fight the stigma surrounding mental illness.

In addition, Mrs. Patrick is a concerned advocate in the Commonwealth's ongoing effort to end domestic violence, and has been actively engaged with families, agencies and law enforcement to support victims and to identify and address the root causes of domestic abuse.

Throughout her life and professional career, Mrs. Patrick has dedicated herself to various communities, and has served on the Boards of the United Way of Massachusetts Bay, Jane Doe, Inc., and Brigham and Women's Hospital, among others. She serves on the Board of the Posse Foundation and is an overseer at The Epiphany School.

The ninth president of Bennington College since 1987, Elizabeth Coleman's vision for the liberal arts and their role and reinvigoration in society has been widely recognized. She has spoken internationally on the topic, including at the 25th anniversary TED "Ideas worth Spreading" Conference.

Prior to assuming the presidency at Bennington, Coleman was the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the New School for Social Research in New York, where she founded and directed the school's first ventures in undergraduate education.

In 1994, Coleman led Bennington College through an organizational restructuring to reanimate Bennington's vanguard educational mission.~Since then, Bennington College has experienced record fiscal health and launched new pioneering curricular programs-among them a distinguished low-residency graduate program in writing and the ambitious Center for the Advancement of Public Action, which invites students to put the world's most pressing problems at the center of their education.

Coleman serves on the boards the Neurosciences Institute in California and the National Association of Independent Schools. She has served on the boards of the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute, the Council for a Community of Democracies, the European College of Liberal Arts in Berlin, and the Committee for Economic Development, and has been consultant to the Annenberg Corporation.

A scholar of Shakespeare and Henry James, Coleman graduated with honors from the University of Chicago and received her Ph.D. with distinction from New York City's Columbia University. She has received honorary degrees from the University of Vermont and Hofstra University.
Coleman, who in June will retire from the presidency of Bennington College after 25 years of leadership, will next serve as director of the Center for the Advancement of Public Action through June 2015. 

Jack Downing assumed leadership of Soldier On in 2001, when he became the president and CEO of the organization - the region's leader in providing comprehensive services and affordable housing to low-income, homeless veterans with complex needs. Since that time, Soldier On has expanded from a $600,000 budget serving 250 veterans to a budget of $8.5 million, serving a total of 1,800 veterans per year.

Under his watch, veterans in our region have access to safe emergency shelter, transitional and permanent supportive housing; support services that help veterans access VA and community resources to meet their medical and mental health, financial planning, transportation, employment, and housing needs.

In May of 2011, HUD's HOME Investment Partnership Program awarded Soldier On with the Door Knocker Award for the Gordon H. Mansfield Veterans Community in Pittsfield.

Downing has demonstrated leadership on both a local and national scale by enhancing vital partnerships on behalf of veterans, with organizations such as the Department of Veterans Administration, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Department of Labor, the Massachusetts Department of Veterans Affairs and District Attorney's Office, as he has worked with these organizations to streamline the processes through which veterans must receive quality care.

He has testified before the United States Congress on several occasions on behalf of homeless veterans, and, in 2010, Downing was appointed a member of the Joint Civilian Orientation Committee (JCOC) of the US Department of Defense.  He is one of the 80 members chosen by the Secretary of Defense to attend Pentagon briefings in Washington D.C.

Downing's prior career positions have included: Director of Aftercare/Reintegration for the Berkshire County Sheriff's Department, founder of the Offenders' Advocacy Project in Counseling, Director of Social Services for the Action for Opportunity Program, and an instructor in criminal justice at Berkshire Community College. He has served on the Board of Directors in several agencies including: the Berkshire County Chapter of the American Red Cross, the, the Berkshire County Neighborhood Youth Corps, the Berkshire Athenaeum and the Eastern Regional Advisory Board of the US Catholic Charismatic Renewal.

After earning a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Vermont, an 18-year career as a Pan American World Airways flight attendant and over a decade in marketing and public relations, Mardi Crane-Godreau decided to return to school to earn a second Bachelor of Arts degree - this time an inter-department study degree in biology and chemistry at then-North Adams State College, now MCLA.

According to Crane-Godreau, the College was a natural choice because of its close proximity to her home in southern Vermont. In August 1998, she was accepted into a doctoral program at Dartmouth Medical School, where she studied mucosal immunology and endocrinology. She graduated with her Ph.D. in 2004, and served as Class Day Speaker for the Medical School graduation celebration.  

Following two post-doctoral fellowships, Crane-Godreau was appointed assistant professor at the now Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth where she is a member of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology. In addition, she is an investigator at Norris Cotton Cancer Center, and the director of the Cigarette Smoke Exposure Analysis Laboratory (CSEAL) at Dartmouth Medical School, a shared facility for the study of second-hand cigarette smoke.

Beyond bench research, Crane-Godreau plays an active role in collaborative research studies that specifically relate to diseases caused by exposure to second-hand smoke exposure, especially as it has affected the health of former and current flight attendants. 

Her publications reflect broad interest in tobacco smoke-induced diseases, especially those effecting innate and mucosal immunity.

Crane-Godreau, who has served on the Geisel School of Medicine Alumni Council since 2012, is involved in active collaborations with colleagues in the United States and abroad. In addition, she is working to make QiGong, a traditional Chinese meditative exercise, more widely available through new research and educational initiatives. 

According to Grant, Dr. Crane-Godreau embodies the value of life-long learning.
For more information, go to commencement.