HARTFORD, CT, April 10, 2013 – Bridget Mary McCormack, a 1988 graduate of Trinity who was elected justice of the Michigan Supreme Court in November 2012, will be the featured speaker at Trinity’s 187th Commencement on Sunday, May 19.
In winning election, McCormack bucked a statewide trend as she was the only liberal to win a seat on a court that has a 4-3 conservative majority. McCormack’s hard fought victory is the latest achievement in a distinguished career in which she has taught at two law schools, and worked for the Legal Aid Society and the Office of the Appellate Defender in New York.
In addition to McCormack, honorary degrees will be given to three other deserving individuals. Margaret Ann Farley, the Gilbert L. Stark Professor Emerita of Christian Ethics at the Yale University Divinity School and the author or co-editor of seven books, will receive an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree. Michael Stanley Dukakis, a former three-term governor of Massachusetts and the 1988 Democratic candidate for president, will be awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree. And Elizabeth Kolbert, author of Field Notes from a Catastrophe, the book that the Class of 2013 read at the start of their college career four years ago, will receive an honorary Doctor of Letters degree.
An honors major in political science and philosophy, McCormack’s years at Trinity “foreshadowed a notable career in public service,” President James F. Jones, Jr., said in a message to the campus community. While an undergraduate, McCormack was cited by The Hartford Courant as one of its Outstanding Youth Leaders for her role in expanding the College’s Community Outreach Program. The Courant noted that McCormack “reaches out to others with a rare clarity of purpose and social vision.”
During her campaign for Michigan’s high court, which included a political advertisement by the cast of The West Wing, McCormack won the endorsements of 10 out of 10 state newspapers. A video of the ad posted on YouTube received more than 1 million views. In it, the cast discussed McCormack’s “platform to bring integrity and fairness for ordinary people to the court,” according to The Michigan Daily.
McCormack’s sister, Mary Catherine McCormack, who starred in The West Wing in its last three seasons, was a member of Trinity’s Class of 1991. Her brother, Will McCormack ’96, appeared in The Sopranos on HBO.
Prior to her election to the bench, McCormack taught criminal law and legal ethics at the University of Michigan Law School in Ann Arbor and oversaw the law school’s clinical programs as associate dean of clinical affairs. She launched a pediatric advocacy law clinic and a domestic violence clinic. In addition, she founded the Michigan Innocence Clinic, a non-DNA clinic representing wrongfully convicted prison inmates.
A graduate of the New York University School of Law, where she was a Root-Tilden Scholar, McCormack worked first as trial counsel for the Legal Aid Society and then in the Office of the Appellate Defender in New York. She taught at Yale Law School before joining the faculty of the University of Michigan Law School in 1998.
McCormack will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree.
Farley, who will deliver this year’s Baccalaureate address, is an ethicist and retired professor who taught Christian ethics at Yale Divinity School from 1971 to 2007. A member of the Sisters of Mercy, Farley is the first woman appointed to serve full-time on the Yale School board. She is co-director of the All-Africa Conference: Sister to Sister, an organization that facilitates the work of women in sub-Saharan Africa responding to the AIDS pandemic, and a past president of the Catholic Theological Society of America.
Farley has published more than 100 articles and chapters of books on topics of ethical methodology, medical ethics, sexual ethics, social ethics, historical theological ethics, ethics and spirituality, justice and HIV/AIDS.
The recipient of 11 honorary degrees, Farley was awarded the 1992 John Courtney Murray Award in Religion for her book, Just Love. She was a founding member of Yale-New Haven Hospital’s Bioethics Committee, and served for eight years as co-director of the Yale University Interdisciplinary Bioethics Center. She received her B.A. and master’s degrees from the University of Detroit, followed by M.Phil. and Ph.D. degrees from Yale.
Dukakis served four terms in the Massachusetts House of Representatives between 1962 and 1970 and was elected governor in 1974. He lost his re-election bid, but then won a second term in 1982 and was voted the most effective governor in 1986 by the National Governors Association, the same year he was elected to a third term.
After losing the 1988 presidential election to Republican George H.W. Bush, Dukakis became a professor of political science at Northeastern University, visiting professor of political science at Loyola Marymount University, and visiting professor in the School of Public Affairs at UCLA.
Dukakis, who earned his B.A. from Swarthmore College and his law degree from Harvard Law School, will deliver a talk about the current political climate on Saturday, May 18 at 2 p.m. in McCook Auditorium.
Kolbert is returning to campus this spring to receive a degree along with the class she spoke to four years ago. Kolbert has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1999 and has written on a variety of topics, including climate change. Her three-part series on global warming, “The Climate of Man,” won the 2006 National Magazine Award for Public Interest, the 2005 American Association for the Advancement of Science Journalism Award, and the 2006 National Academies Communication Award.
She has also written profiles of many prominent Americans, among them former U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. Prior to joining The New Yorker, she held a variety of positions at The New York Times, where she worked as a reporter from 1984 to 1999.
Kolbert studied literature at Yale University and was a Fulbright Scholar in Germany. She has received a Lannan Literary Fellowship, an American Association for the Advancement of Science Journalism Award, a Heinz Award, and the Sierra Club’s David R. Brower Award.
For more information about Trinity’s 187th Commencement ceremony, please visit: http://www.trincoll.edu/AboutTrinity/commencement.