Trinity Announces Featured Speaker, Honorary Degree Recipients for 191st Commencement

Philosopher, Writer, and Cognitive Scientist Daniel C. Dennett to Speak at Commencement on Sunday, May 21

Hartford, Connecticut, March 6, 2017 – Philosopher, writer, and cognitive scientist Daniel C. Dennett will be the featured speaker at Trinity College’s 191st Commencement on Sunday, May 21. The co-director of Tufts University’s Center for Cognitive Studies, as well as University Professor and Austin B. Fletcher Professor of Philosophy at Tufts, Dennett is well-known for his theories on the mind-body connection explaining that free will and human consciousness are based on physical processes in the brain.

Dennett will be awarded an honorary degree at Trinity’s Commencement. Additional honorary degree recipients will be D. David Dershaw, the founding director of the Breast Imaging Service at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and LaTanya Langley, vice president and general counsel of BIC International Company.

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


Daniel C. Dennett.
Photo by Juan Alonso, Tufts University.
Daniel C. Dennett

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

A 1963 graduate of Harvard University with a B.A. in philosophy, Dennett completed a D.Phil. in philosophy at the University of Oxford under the supervision of British philosopher Gilbert Ryle. He has been awarded two Guggenheim Fellowships, a Fulbright Fellowship, and a Fellowship at the Center for Advanced Studies in Behavioral Science. He also was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, which gathers leaders from the academic, business, and government sectors to tackle the critical challenges of today.

The author of best-selling books such as Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon and Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, Dennett’s most recent work is From Bacteria to Bach and Back: The Evolution of Minds. Dubbed one of the Four Horsemen of Atheism, Dennett is also noted for his role in the New Atheist movement.

He is the 2012 recipient of the Erasmus Prize, the Netherlands’s highest prize, an annual award given by the Praemium Erasmianum Foundation to individuals or institutions that have made exceptional contributions to culture, society, or social science in Europe and the rest of the world; the 2011 Mind and Brain Prize, granted by the Center for Cognitive Science of Turin in Torino, Italy, in recognition of outstanding achievement in advancing knowledge about mind and brain in the field of cognitive science; and the American Philosophical Association’s 2004 Barwise Prize, bestowed for significant and sustained contributions to areas relevant to philosophy and computing.


D. David Dershaw, Trinity College Class of 1970.
D. David Dershaw, Trinity College Class of 1970

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

At Trinity, Dershaw majored in biology and graduated Phi Beta Kappa before earning his M.D. at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelophia. As the founding director of the Breast Imaging Service at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City and a longtime professor of radiology at Weill College of Medicine, Cornell University, he has made the difference between life and death for thousands of women.

Well-known as an expert in breast cancer screening, Dershaw has authored multiple books; published more than 200 peer-reviewed papers, chapters, commentaries, and editorials; and lectured throughout the United States and around the world. His numerous honors include the Society of Breast Imaging’s 2013 Gold Medal, given to individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the field of breast imaging.


LaTanya Langley, Trinity College Class of 1997.
 LaTanya Langley, Trinity College Class of 1997

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

After earning her B.A. in political science at Trinity, Langley went on to receive a J.D. from the University of Connecticut. She has served in corporate associate positions at the law firms Paul Hastings; Weil, Gotshal & Manges; and Shipman & Goodwin. In 2015, she joined BIC, the well-known international brand in writing instruments, lighters, and shavers, as vice president and general counsel.

Langley is active in her hometown community of Norwalk, Connecticut, serving as a member of the Mayor’s Business Advisory Council and as a commissioner for the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency. Her honors include the National Bar Association’s 2016 Excellence in Leadership Award and its Nation’s Best Advocates: 40 Lawyers Under 40 Award, and the Woman of the Year Classic Award from the State of Connecticut African-American Affairs Commission.


Baccalaureate Speaker

At Trinity’s Baccalaureate ceremony on Saturday, May 20, the speaker will be Ruby Nell Sales, a nationally-recognized human-rights activist, public theologian, and social critic whose articles and work appear in many journals, online sites, and books. The Baccalaureate service honors the graduating seniors and celebrates Trinity’s community of learning. Students representing various faith traditions will offer their prayers for their class and for the College.

For more information on Commencement Weekend, including a full schedule of events, please visit the College’s website at