Award-Winning Author Anne Fadiman is 2012 Commencement Speaker

Islamic Studies Professor and Former Economics Professor also to be honored

HARTFORD, CT, April 26, 2012 – Anne Fadiman, whose book, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, won the 1997 National Books Critics Circle Award for General Nonfiction, will be the featured speaker at Trinity’s 186th Commencement on Sunday, May 20.

Fadiman is no stranger to Trinity, having addressed members of the Class of 2012 at the start of their first semester. Her book was required reading for the entering students. Fadiman is Yale University’s Francis Writer in Residence, the school’s first endowed appointment in nonfiction. She will receive an honorary Doctor of Letters degree for her tireless service to the profession of letters and her belief in the power of journalism to illuminate and improve the human condition.

Two other prominent individuals will receive honorary degrees. Ingrid Mattson, professor of Islamic Studies at the Hartford Seminary, where she founded the Islamic Chaplaincy Program, will receive an honorary Doctor of Law degree for her service to Islamic communities worldwide, her distinguished scholarship, and her commitment to fostering social progress in the Islamic world and cooperation between that world and other cultures.

Ward S. Curran, a former economics professor who is currently Secretary of the College, will be given an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree for his long and distinguished service to his profession, his students and to Trinity, where he first joined the faculty in 1960.

A onetime staff writer for Life magazine, Fadiman has written for many prominent publications, including The New Yorker, Harper’s, The New York Times and The Washington Post. A graduate of Radcliffe College at Harvard University, Fadiman has twice won National Magazine Awards.  

She was a founding editor of the prestigious Library of Congress magazine, Civilization, and from 1988 to 2004, she edited The American Scholar, the quarterly journal published by the Phi Beta Kappa Society. Under her editorship, that publication won three National Magazine Awards and was nominated eight other times. In 2003, she was chosen as editor of Best American Essays, a role that is filled by a different prominent writer each year.

In addition to winning the National Book Critics Circle Award, her 1997 work won the Salon Book Award, The Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the Boston Book Review Award. In the 15 years since it was published, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down has become an exemplar of contemporary nonfiction writing. The book is a scrupulously researched chronicle of the Lee family, Hmong refugees from Laos who settled in California, and their interactions with the American medical system.

Three years ago, the Young Adult Library Association selected the book as one of its recommended titles for all students. The Spirit Catches You is widely taught in universities as literary journalism and is widely read by health-care providers who serve patients from other cultures.

Fadiman is the author of two books of essays: Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader, published in 1998, and At Large and At Small: Familiar Essays, published in 2007. She also served as editor of the book, Rereadings: Seventeen Writers Revisit Books They Love, published in 2005.

Mattson is professor of Islamic Studies at the Hartford Seminary, where she founded the Islamic Chaplaincy Program and directs the Duncan Black Macdonald Center for the Study of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations. Mattson will speak at the May 19 Baccalaureate Ceremony.

As of July 1, Mattson will be the first London and Windsor Community Chair in Islamic Studies in the Theology Department at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario in Canada.

A convert to the Muslim faith, Mattson received her Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, where she focused on Islamic ethics and law, religious leadership, and the Qur’an. After completing her doctorate, she became active in Islamic education in her native Canada where, in 2001, she was elected vice president of the Islamic Society of North America. 

During that time, she was an adviser on the award-winning PBS documentary, Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet. In 2006, after serving two terms as vice president of the Islamic Society, she became the first female president of that organization. She was re-elected in 2008. 

That year she also became a member of the Council of Global Leaders of the C-100 of the World Economic Forum, and in 2009-2010 she served as a member of the Interfaith Task Force of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. 

Mattson is currently a Senior Fellow of the Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought in Amman, Jordan, and is frequently consulted by governments, media, and civic organizations on a host of Islamic issues. She is the author of many articles in which such issues as slavery, poverty, adoption, and charity serve as lenses to explore leadership, gender, and the relationship between Islamic law and society in contemporary Muslim communities. 

Her book, The Story of the Qur’an: its history and place in Muslim Life, was published in 2007 and has been applauded for both its accessibility and its scholarship. Praised by the Journal of Islamic Studies as “a stimulating and scholarly account of Islam, focusing on the Quran” it has become is a highly respected and widely used text.

Curran, a native of Springfield, IL, has had deep roots in the Trinity community, academically and athletically. A formidable tackle, he was a member of the undefeated 1955 football team. After graduating from Trinity in 1957, he earned his M.A. and Ph.D. at Columbia University. In 1960, while he was completing his doctoral research, he returned to Trinity and joined the economics faculty as an instructor. 

In the ensuing 52 years, he held the positions of  assistant  professor, associate professor, George M. Ferris Professor of Corporation Finance and Investments Instructor, and Ward S. Curran Distinguished Professor of Economics. He chaired the Department of Economics a number of times. 

During the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s, Curran held a number of special appointments at area universities. He was a visiting associate professor of economics and visiting professor of economics at Wesleyan University; a visiting lecturer at the University of Connecticut School of Law, where he taught the history of anti-trust regulation and law; and a visiting lecturer and visiting professor of economics at Yale, where he developed and taught a popular undergraduate introduction to finance that he replicated at Trinity.

Curran is an active member of the American Economic Association, the American Finance Association, and the Financial Management Association, for which he has been a member of the program committee three times and served as a referee for the journal, Financial Management. 

For three years in the mid-1970s, he was a staffing associate and consulting economist and was Trinity’s representative to the Sloan Study Project that produced the study, Paying for College, Financing Education at Nine Private Institutions, and which later expanded to become the Consortium on the Financing of Higher Education. 

From 1971 to 1973 he served as director of institutional planning for Trinity while he was also a member of the Governor’s Commission on the Master Plan for Higher Education in Connecticut. 

While managing the responsibilities of those myriad appointments and of his teaching, he also found time to produce a solid body of scholarly publications and, for four years during the 1980s, was the book review editor for The Financial Review

At the present time, Curran serves as Secretary of the College. Curran is held in high regard by generations of Trinity alumni.


Photo on home page by Matt Valentine.​