NORTH ADAMS, MASS. — Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) will celebrate its 117th Commencement exercises on Saturday, May 14, beginning at 11 a.m., in the Amsler Campus Center Gymnasium.

This year's keynote speaker will be James C. Clemmer ’86, a veteran executive with more than 25 years of business experience, who served as interim president of MCLA since August 2015, until this month’s arrival of 12th president, Dr. James F. Birge. Clemmer will receive an honorary Doctor of Business.

In addition, state Sen. Benjamin B. Downing (D-Pittsfield) will receive an honorary Doctor of Public Service, and Yvonne Spicer, Ed.D., vice president of Advocacy and Educational Partnerships for the National Center for Technological Literacy at the Museum of Science, Boston, will receive an honorary Doctor of Humanities.

In recognition of their awards, the honorary degree recipients will have books placed in MCLA’s Freel Library in their names.

MCLA Board of Trustees Chair Tyler Fairbank commended those who will be honored.

“We are grateful to Jim Clemmer for his leadership to MCLA. During his time as interim president he worked hand-in-hand with the Board of Trustees to keep the College moving forward and to ensure a quality public education that is accessible and affordable for residents of the Commonwealth, and beyond,” Fairbank said. “As a legislator dedicated to the success of this region, Ben Downing has worked tirelessly on behalf of all who make the Berkshires our home. And, through her work to support pre-college science, technology, engineering and math education through numerous educational organizations, Yvonne Spicer encourages youth throughout Massachusetts to prepare for and aspire to STEM careers.” As he begins his tenure at MCLA, Birge said he looks forward to being part of this year’s commencement celebration. He is pleased to recognize Clemmer, Downing and Spicer with honorary degrees.

“We are honored to have James Clemmer with us, along with state Sen. Ben Downing and Dr. Yvonne Spicer,” Birge said. “Their achievements and many contributions are both reflective of  and inspiring to the members of the Class of 2016, as they go on to use the knowledge and skills they have acquired at MCLA to solve complex problems and assume positions of responsibility within their communities. We look forward to hearing from Jim as this year’s keynote speaker. Jim’s successful career in business allowed him to return to MCLA and provide leadership to the campus during a time of transition.

Clemmer is a member of the board of directors for Lantheus Holdings, Inc., of North Billerica, the parent company of Lantheus Medical Imaging (LMI), Inc., a global leader in developing, manufacturing, selling and distributing innovative diagnostic imaging agents and products.

He retired last year from Covidien plc in Mansfield, a multi-billion dollar, global, medical device manufacturing company. Covidien merged last year with Medtronic Inc., one of the largest medical device manufacturing companies in the world, now Medtronic plc.

Clemmer most recently served as president of Covidien’s medical supplies segment, where he was responsible for managing operations and growth of a $2 billion global business, utilizing 15 manufacturing sites around the world.

During his 15-year tenure at Covidien, Clemmer served as group president of Kendall Healthcare and held several increasingly senior roles in marketing and general management within the SharpSafety and Critical Care divisions. He began his career in the medical device industry with Sage Products, Inc., and joined Covidien as part of the Sage Products acquisition in 1999.

A 1986 graduate of the College, Clemmer earned a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration, and served on MCLA’s Board of Trustees as its alumni representative from 2007 to August 2015, when he resigned from the board to act as the College’s interim president.

Downing first was elected to the Massachusetts Senate in 2006, and was re-elected in 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2014. He represents the 52 communities of the Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin and Hampden districts, the largest Senate district in the Commonwealth.

Downing serves as the Senate chairman of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy, which is tasked with reviewing all legislative matters concerning renewable and non-renewable energy sources. He also is the chairman of the Senate Committee on Redistricting.  

In addition, Downing serves as vice-chairman of the Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development, and as the vice-chairman of the Senate Committee on Post Audit and Oversight. He has held multiple leadership posts throughout his tenure in the Senate: in past legislative sessions he served as chair of the Public Service Committee (2007), the Senate Ethics and Rules Committee (2007-2008), the Revenue Committee (2009-2010), the Higher Education Committee (2010), the Senate Committee on Steering and Policy (2012) and the Senate Committee on Bills in the Third Reading (2013-2014).  

He is an active, ranking member of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, and serves on several other Senate and joint committees.  In addition, Downing is a member of several legislative caucuses; he serves as co-chairman of the Gateway Cities Caucus and is an active participant of both the Regional Transit Authorities (RTA) Caucus and the Regional Schools Caucus.

A Pittsfield native, Downing received his B.A. in Political Science from Providence College in 2003. In May 2008 he received a M.A. from Tufts University’s Department of Urban and Environment Policy and Planning.

Before returning to Pittsfield, Downing lived in Washington, D.C., working for former U.S. Rep.William Delahunt (D-Quincy) and U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal (D-Springfield), before joining the staff of former U.S. Rep. John W. Olver (D-Amherst). He served as senior advisor to Olver for nearly two years.  

Spicer is a national and international speaker and advocate for pre-college science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education. She was honored in 2009 by “Mass High Tech: The Journal of New England Technology” as one of 10 “Women to Watch.” Concerned by how many children in the U.S. are shut out of technology and engineering, Spicer makes the case for closing the underrepresented minority gap in engineering and school leadership.

With expertise in technology and engineering education standards development, assessment, and strategic school leadership, Spicer served on the technology and engineering steering committee for the frontrunner of the first national assessment for technology and engineering in the 2014 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Most recently, she served on the technology and engineering design team for the National Research Council (NRC) “Next Generation” Framework for Science Education, which was approved on July 19, 2011.

In January 2010, Spicer was appointed to the Massachusetts Governor’s STEM Advisory Council as the co-chair of the council’s teacher development committee. She was instrumental in establishing the 2001 Massachusetts technology/engineering curriculum framework with Ioannis (Yannis) Miaoulis, president and director of the Museum of Science. She also is an advisor to the National Governors Association.

In addition, Spicer advocates for the Museum’s K-12 curricula, Engineering is Elementary®, Building Math, and Engineering the Future®, and she directs the Gateway Project, which originated in Massachusetts and is being replicated across the country as a model to build leadership capacity for technological literacy.

Spicer earned her doctorate at the University of Massachusetts-Boston in 2004, when she focused her dissertation on how nine African American female public school principals transformed their schools and thrived as educational leaders. She is the former director of career and technical education in Newton, and served as the statewide technology/engineering coordinator at the Mass. Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

She earned B.S. and M.S. degrees in industrial arts and technology from the State University of New York-Oswego. A Brooklyn, N.Y., native, she is committed to improving opportunities for females and students of color in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.

Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) is the Commonwealth's public liberal arts college and a campus of the Massachusetts state university system. MCLA promotes excellence in learning and teaching, innovative scholarship, intellectual creativity, public service, applied knowledge, and active and responsible citizenship. MCLA graduates are prepared to be practical problem solvers and engaged, resilient global citizens.

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