Trinity Announces Featured Speaker, Honorary Degree Recipients for 192nd Commencement

Renowned Educator, Cultural Anthropologist, and Author Johnnetta B. Cole to Speak at Commencement on May 20

​Hartford, Connecticut, March 5, 2018 – Renowned educator, cultural anthropologist, and author Johnnetta B. Cole will be the featured speaker at Trinity College’s 192nd Commencement on Sunday, May 20. Cole made history in 1987 when she became the first African American woman president of Spelman College. Her appointment in 2002 to the presidency of Bennett College was historic as well—Cole is the lone individual to have served as president of the only two historically black colleges for women in the country. More recently, she served as director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art (2009–17).

Johnnetta B. Cole
A much sought-after speaker, Cole is the recipient of numerous honors and accolades, including a degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, from Trinity College in 1998. She has authored or edited several books, and she serves as a consultant with Cook Ross, a Maryland firm that advises organizations in the areas of diversity, inclusion, cultural competency, leadership development, and organizational change management. Cole is a graduate of Oberlin College and earned her master’s and doctorate degrees in anthropology from Northwestern University.

Receiving honorary degrees from Trinity this year will be Walter Harrison, president emeritus of the University of Hartford; Ralph V. Katz, founding chair of the Department of Epidemiology and Health Promotion at New York University College of Dentistry; and William Palmer Scully, civic leader and investment management professional. Harrison, who will be honored by the University of Hartford at its commencement on the same day, will receive his honorary degree during Trinity’s Alumni Reunion in June, when he and his Class of 1968 classmates will celebrate their 50th Reunion.

Biographical information about this year’s honorary degree recipients is below.

Walter Harrison, Trinity
College Class of 1968

 Walter Harrison, Trinity College Class of 1968

(to be awarded the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa)

While a student at Trinity, Harrison explored his passion for American literature, earning his B.A. in English before going on to receive an M.A. in English at the University of Michigan and a Ph.D. in English at the University of California, Davis.

As the longest-serving president of the University of Hartford (1998–2017), Harrison oversaw tremendous growth in the student population and in the quality and rigor of academic offerings at the university. Under his leadership, the University of Hartford nearly tripled its endowment and transformed its physical campus. Harrison serves on many Hartford boards, including Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center, Hartford Promise, Hartford Stage, and Capitol Squash. For his longtime leadership as an advocate for intercollegiate athletics, he was honored in 2014 with the NCAA President’s Gerald R. Ford Award. In 2016, he received an honorary degree from Goodwin College in recognition of his dedication to Hartford.

Ralph V. Katz, Trinity
College Class of 1965
 Ralph V. Katz, Trinity College Class of 1965

(to be awarded the degree of Doctor of Science, honoris causa)

A biology major at Trinity, Katz went on to earn his D.M.D. from Tufts University School of Dental Medicine, and both his M.P.H. in dental public health and Ph.D. in epidemiology from the University of Minnesota.

Professor and founding chair of the Department of Epidemiology and Health Promotion at the New York University College of Dentistry, Katz is known for his exceptional teaching and for his groundbreaking research. He co-authored “The Tuskegee Legacy Project,” which shined a light on the recruitment and retention of minorities in biomedical research studies. In 2001, he received an $8.3-million award from the National Institutes of Health to establish the NYU Oral Cancer Research on Adolescent and Adult Health Promotion Center. The center investigates why African Americans and Hispanics have a higher incidence of oral cancer and higher mortality rates from this disease than others. His numerous honors include the NYU Distinguished Teaching Award, the university’s highest honor.

William Palmer Scully,
Trinity College Class of 1961
 William Palmer Scully, Trinity College Class of 1961

(to be awarded the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa)

After earning his B.A. in economics at Trinity College, Scully studied at New York University and became a Chartered Financial Analyst. His investment management career included securities analysis and institutional sales at Wall Street firms Francis I. DuPont and F. Eberstadt, where he became a partner, and, later, at Smith Barney, where he was a vice president. He co-founded Twin Oaks Partners, a performance-based hedge fund that met with tremendous success.

In addition to his business achievements, Scully has devoted himself to volunteer and philanthropic pursuits in the fields of education, health care, and the arts. At Trinity, he has endowed five scholarships honoring Trinity classmates who later served in the Vietnam War and a scholarship honoring a former dean of students. He also established endowed funds to support Trinity golf and men’s basketball. In Vero Beach, Florida, where he and his wife reside, Scully is the primary donor to the Scully Endoscopy Center and one of two major donors to the Scully-Welsh Cancer Center. His volunteer leadership roles include serving as vice chair of the Indian River Medical Foundation and as vice president of the board of the Riverside Theatre.

For more information on Commencement Weekend, including a full schedule of events, please visit the college’s website here.