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MCLA ANNOUNCES KEYNOTE SPEAKER, HONORARY DEGREE RECIPIENTS FOR 118TH COMMENCEMENT EXERCISES

01/17/17

NORTH ADAMS, MASS. — Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) will celebrate its 118th Commencement exercises on Saturday, May 13, beginning at 11 a.m., in the Amsler Campus Center Gymnasium.

This year's keynote speaker will be U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Georgia), a leader of the Civil Rights Movement who, as chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), was one of the “Big Six” leaders of groups to organize the 1963 March on Washington. Lewis will receive an honorary Doctor of Public Service.

 In addition, Anne W. Crowley ’77, a corporate executive and communications strategist who enjoyed a lengthy career in both the public and private sectors, which included serving as a senior advisor to former New York Gov. Mario M. Cuomo, will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters. David E. Phelps, president and CEO of Berkshire Health Systems, will receive an honorary Doctor of Public Service.

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

MCLA President James F. Birge said he is pleased to recognize Lewis, Crowley and Phelps with honorary degrees. The campus looks forward to hearing from Lewis as this year’s keynote speaker.

“We are honored that Congressman John Lewis, Anne Crowley and David Phelps will join us at our 118th Commencement. Their achievements and contributions will inspire the members of the Class of 2017 as they move forward to assume positions of responsibility throughout Massachusetts and beyond,” Birge said.

MCLA Board of Trustees Chair Susan Gold commended those who will be honored.

 “We are delighted to welcome Rep. John Lewis as our keynote speaker at this year’s Commencement ceremony. Often called one of the most courageous people produced by the Civil Rights Movement, for his dedication to protecting human rights and securing civil liberties, John Lewis is known for the many key roles he played to end segregation in America,” Gold said.

  “We also will be pleased to recognize Anne Crowley, who specialized in crisis, reputation and issue management throughout her 35-year career, and Pittsfield native David Phelps, who has served as the president of Berkshire Health Systems and Berkshire Health Care Systems since 1993,” Gold said.
 
Lewis was elected to Congress in November 1986 and has served as U.S. Representative of Georgia’s Fifth Congressional District since. He is Senior Chief Deputy Whip for the Democratic Party leadership in the House, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, a member of its Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support, and Ranking Member of its Subcommittee on Oversight.

In August 1963, at the age of 23, Lewis was an architect of and a keynote speaker at the historic March on Washington. On March 7, 1963, he led more than 600 peaceful, orderly protestors across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., to demonstrate the need for voting rights in the state. Confronted by Alabama state troopers in what became known as “Bloody Sunday,” this event helped hasten the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Lewis is the recipient of numerous awards from eminent national and international institutions, including the Medal of Freedom, the Lincoln Medal from the historic Ford’s Theatre, and the Golden Plate Award given by the Academy of Excellence. He received the only John F. Kennedy “Profile in Courage Award” for Lifetime Achievement ever granted by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. 

Lewis is co-author of the number-one New York Times-bestselling graphic novel memoir trilogy, MARCH. He also co-wrote Across That Bridge: Life Lessons and a Vision for Change, the winner of the 2012 NAACP Image Award for Best Literary Work-Biography.

His biography, published in 1998, is titled “Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement.” It received the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, as well as the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award.

Lewis holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in religion and philosophy from Fisk University, and is a graduate of the American Baptist Theological Seminary, both in Nashville, Tenn.
 
Crowley is a corporate executive and communications strategist who enjoyed a lengthy career in both the public and private sectors.

During Mario M. Cuomo’s third term in office as the governor of New York, Crowley served as his press secretary and director of communications. Earlier in her career, she was a journalist for several years, holding editor and reporter roles at the Times Herald-Record in Middletown, N.Y., and the Westfield Evening News in Westfield.

Crowley retired from Fidelity Investments in January 2014 after working for the company as a corporate executive and communications strategist. She joined Fidelity in 1995 as director of public affairs and, throughout her 19 years at the firm, she held several progressive leadership roles, including executive vice president.
 
Crowley is a 1977 alumna, and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English. In 1994, the College honored her with its Distinguished Alumni Award.

Phelps was appointed President of Berkshire Health Systems (BHS), the primary provider of health care services in Berkshire County, and Berkshire Healthcare Systems (BHCS) in 1993.

BHS affiliates include Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield and Fairview Hospital in Great Barrington, both national award winning hospitals.  Managed by BHS, BHCS is the largest non-profit provider of post-acute services in Massachusetts and operates 17 skilled nursing, rehabilitative care and senior housing facilities across the state, including 7 in Berkshire County. BHS and BHCS employ more than 5,000 people in Berkshire County.

Most recently, in order to ensure that residents of northern Berkshire County receive the care they need close to home, Phelps led efforts to stabilize medical services in the northern tier by supporting primary care practices, introducing and expanding other physician services in Williamstown, North Adams and Adams and establishing of a wide array of outpatient programs at the North Adams Campus of Berkshire Medical Center.  In addition, Phelps has encouraged BHS support for many other community healthcare providers and service agencies in order to better address the health and wellness needs of the entire county, including the causes and consequences of the current opioid epidemic.

A Pittsfield native, Phelps attended local schools. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree from St. Mary’s University of Minnesota and a Master of Business Administration degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York.
 
Phelps currently serves on the Board of the Massachusetts Council of Community Hospitals and is its former Chair. He has served multiple terms on the Board of the Massachusetts Hospital Association and has served as a member of the American Hospital Association’s Regional Policy Board.

He is actively involved with business leaders, government officials and numerous human service organizations throughout Berkshire County.

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.

For more information, go to www.mcla.edu/commencement .