Megan Smith to Speak at 2016 Commencement


Photo courtesy of | On Rally Day, President McCartney announced Megan Smith as the 2016 Commencement Speaker.  

Rachel Farber '16 Assistant News Editor

Seniors dressed in their graduation gowns, wore quirky hats instead of graduation caps and waited with excitement for President Kathleen McCartney to announce their commencement speaker.

McCartney announced Megan Smith, the United States Chief Technology Officer in the Office of Science and Technology Policy at the White House as Smith’s 2016 commencement speaker.

In addition to serving as the first woman in her position, Smith served as vice president at Google[x] – Google’s lab for more ambitious projects such as delivery-by-drone and a balloon-borne Internet connectivity program. Smith also co-created Google’s “Women Techmakers,” a project aimed at supporting and empowering women in the tech industry through global initiative programs.

“I am really happy with the decision to bring Megan Smith to campus as our commencement speaker,” senior Claire Kellar ’16 said. “I think she’s a great role model – a powerhouse in the tech world using her intelligence and influence to empower young people.”

In addition to her work at Google, Smith also served as CEO of the LGBT online community PlanetOut, took part in designing early smartphone technologies and has contributed to engineering projects such as a bicycle lock, a space station construction program and solar cookstoves.

In addition to the commencement speaker, McCartney announced that honorary degrees will be awarded to Alison Bechdel, Roslyn Brock, Ruchira Gupta, Abby Wambach and Stephanie D. Wilson.

Bechdel is the cartoonist and memoirist of “Fun Home” and “Dykes to Watch Out For” and won a MacArthur Genius Award winner. The “Bechdel-Wallace test” measures gender equality in film, television and books.

Brock is chairman of the National Board of Directors of the NAACP.  At the age of 44, she became the youngest person to hold this position.

Gupta is a journalist and the founder of Indian anti-sex trafficking organization Apne Aap Worldwide, which helps marginalized women and girls work collectively to lift themselves out of the sex industry through empowerment groups.  In addition, Gupta has lobbied for the United Nations’ anti-trafficking fund for survivors and has spoken to the UN General Assembly on the behalf of the women and girls she advocates for.  Gupta was awarded an Emmy for outstanding investigative journalism for her documentary “The Selling of Innocents.”

Wambach is a FIFA Women’s World Cup champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist. She is the all-time leading scorer in international soccer history for both female and male soccer players, with 184 goals. Wambach was also recognized in Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World.

“Having Abby Wambach, who is a soccer legend, come and send us off after our final year of soccer is probably one of the most poetic send-offs you can get,” Lily Eriksen ’16 said. “It’s so surreal.”

Wilson is an engineer and NASA astronaut from Western Massachusetts. Having served on three space missions, she has spent a collective 42 days, 23 hours and 46 minutes in space. Wilson is the second African American woman to go into space.

Wilson was a loads and dynamics engineer for the Titan IV rocket, the largest unmanned space booster used by the Air Force, and she was selected by NASA as an Astronaut Candidate in 1996.  After two years of training and evaluation, she qualified for flight assignment as a mission specialist.

Following the announcement of the Honorary Degree recipients, the Rally Day ceremonies concluded with the awarding of the Best Senior Hat and Best House Banner prizes. Jordan Houston ’16 and Jessica Marlor ’16 took home prizes for best hat, and Chapin House and Tyler House won prizes for their house banners.