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Commencement Honorands Announced


Five remarkable leaders will offer words of wisdom to Smith graduates

Published February 22, 2024

Five distinguished leaders in the arts, academia, journalism, social justice, philanthropy and business will be recognized with honorary degrees from Smith College during Commencement on Sunday, May 19, 2024. In a break from tradition, there won’t be one keynote speaker at this year’s ceremony. Instead, each honorand will offer a few words of wisdom and congratulations to graduates.  

Honorary degrees will be awarded to:

The Honorands and Their Accomplishments

María Luisa Arroyo Cruzado

Born in Manatí, Puerto Rico, and raised in Springfield, Massachusetts, María Luisa Arroyo Cruzado is a poet and feminist intersectional educator. Arroyo Cruzado was the inaugural poet laureate of Springfield, Massachusetts, from 2014 to 2016; a 2016 New England Public Radio Arts & Humanities Award recipient; a 2019 Rising Star Teaching Fellow at the Desert Nights, Rising Stars Conference; a 2021 Assets for Artists grant recipient; and a 2022 ValleyCreates Project Evolution Grant recipient. Understanding four languages and cultures of experiences feeds her imagination, her poems and her essays. She can easily move from ghazals to ekphrastic poems and from code-switching poems to multicultural/multilingual poems. Pursuing her Ph.D. in comparative literature as a Clark Diversity Fellow at Binghamton University, Arroyo Cruzado teaches creative nonfiction in the M.F.A. program at Bay Path University and teaches German and Spanish online to adult students.

Ruth E. Carter

Springfield, Massachusetts, native and two-time Academy Award–winning American film costume designer, Ruth E. Carter was the first Black person to win the Costume Design category. Her award for Black Panther in 2018 was also the first Oscar recognition for Marvel Studios. In 2022, Carter became the first Black woman to win multiple Academy Awards in any category and the first costume designer to win for the first film and its sequel, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Her designs fuse traditional and contemporary while incorporating technology to deliver fashion and function, creating Afrofuturistic pieces that empower the female form, honor ancient cultures and invoke a deep sense of representation. Through her career, Carter has collaborated with directors Spike Lee, Steven Spielberg, Ava DuVernay, Ryan Coogler and others. A recipient of the Costume Designers Guild's Career Achievement Award, Carter has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and is a member of the board of governors for the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. Ruth E. Carter is a graduate of Hampton University, Virginia (HBCU) and was recently honored there with a doctorate. She holds an additional honorary doctorate from Suffolk University in Massachusetts.

Ertharin Cousin

Ertharin Cousin is the CEO and managing director of Food Systems for the Future, a nutrition impact investment fund; a Distinguished Fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs; a Bosch Academy, Robert Weizsäcker Fellow; and a visiting scholar at the Stanford University Center on Food Security and Environment. In 2009, Cousin was confirmed as the U.S. ambassador to the UN Agencies for Food and Agriculture in Rome. From 2012 until 2017, Cousin led the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), guiding the 14,000-member team in feeding more than 80 million people each year. Prior to her global hunger work, Cousin helped lead the domestic fight to end hunger in the United States, including service as the executive vice president and chief operating officer of America’s Second Harvest (Feeding America). Cousin is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago, the University of Georgia Law School and the University of Chicago Executive Management.

Jill Lepore

Jill Lepore is the David Woods Kemper ’41 Professor of American History and Affiliate Professor of Law at Harvard University and a staff writer at The New Yorker. Her books include These Truths: A History of the United States, an international bestseller named one of Time magazine's top 10 nonfiction books of the decade, and a trilogy of books detailing a political history of early America. The latter trilogy garnered the Bancroft Prize, the Ralph Waldo Emerson Award, the Berkshire Prize, the Anisfield-Wolf Award for the best nonfiction book on race, Time magazine’s Best Nonfiction Book of the Year, and the Mark Lynton History Prize. Since 2005, Lepore has been contributing to The New Yorker, writing about American history, law, literature and politics. Lepore received a B.A. in English from Tufts University in 1987, an M.A. in American culture from the University of Michigan in 1990, and a Ph.D. in American studies from Yale University in 1995. (Photo by Stephanie Mitchell for Harvard University.)

Reeta Roy

President and CEO of Mastercard Foundation, Reeta Roy holds nearly three decades of global experience across the private and philanthropic sectors. As the inaugural divisional vice president of global citizenship and policy at Abbott Laboratories and vice president of the Abbott Fund, its corporate foundation, Roy forged partnerships with international organizations to scale evidence-based approaches to addressing issues ranging from HIV in Africa to maternal mortality in Afghanistan. At the Mastercard Foundation, Roy has focused its work on Africa and serving young Indigenous Canadians. Today, the foundation deploys over $8 billion to improve education, deepen financial inclusion and build resilience in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the next decade, the foundation will advance a bold strategy, Young Africa Works, that will enable 30 million young Africans to access dignified and fulfilling work, while directing 75% of the foundation's partnerships and funding to African organizations. As a leader, Roy continues to believe in the potential of philanthropy to drive impact, finding inspiration and perspective by listening to the journey of others.