CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer will speak at Commencement in addition to keynote speaker University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, GW announced Thursday.
Blitzer is one of five honorary degree recipients who will address graduates and families at the University-wide event May 20, according to a University news release. Other recipients include Ralph Cicerone, president of the National Academy of Sciences; Harvey Fineberg, president of the Institute of Medicine; and Lowell Weicker Jr., president of the Trust for America’s Health and former U. S. senator and Connecticut governor.
The University confirmed Wednesday that Linda Cropp, former D.C. mayoral candidate and city council member, will also speak at the ceremony, which will take place on the National Mall.
Tracy Schario, director of Media Relations, called the field of recipients an “eclectic group.”
“If you look at past recipients, it’s usually a cross section of folks,” she said. “We look for people that represent excellence in their fields.”
Blitzer, who can be seen at many home GW men’s basketball games, is the anchor of CNN’s “The Situation Room” and an Emmy-Award winning journalist. He has authored two books and won the Journalist Pillar of Justice Award from the Respect for Law Alliance in 2004 and the Daniel Pearl Award from the Chicago Press Veterans Association.
“Wolf is an accomplished professional; he’s won numerous awards, including an Emmy. He’s an accomplished broadcaster and he is representative of what we hope our students aspire to,” Schario said.
She added that Blitzer is a friend of Trachtenberg’s who has been eligible to receive an honorary degree before, but this year was “an appropriate time to extend an invitation” because it is Trachtenberg’s last year as president. Trachtenberg will be stepping down as University President this July after 19 years at the post.
When Trachtenberg confirmed Wednesday that he will be the keynote speaker for the ceremony, many students and parents criticized the choice. Schario said the Commencement ceremony should be viewed as a complete package, not just one speaker.
“It is not uncommon for speakers at this University to generate dialogue and sometimes students express disappointment,” she said.
“I hope now that the complete list of honorary degree recipients, particularly the celebrity personality, will help people put things in perspective,” Schario said. “It’s not about one speaker, it’s a package, it’s an experience.”
Ralph Cicerone is an environmental scientist who specializes in atmospheric chemistry and is president of the National Academy of Sciences. According to the release, his “research in atmospheric chemistry and climate change has involved him in shaping science and environmental policy at the highest levels nationally and internationally.”
Lowell Weicker Jr. is president of the nonprofit organization Trust for America’s Health, an organization which lobbies for making disease prevention a national priority. He is a former mayor of Greenwich, Conn., and is a former U.S. congressman, senator and governor from Connecticut. He has also held a position as a visiting professor at the GW Law School.
Harvey Fineberg is a former Harvard University provost and president of the Institute of Medicine. He has served as the dean of the Harvard School of Public Health for 13 years. He has also authored books and articles on AIDS prevention, medical technology, and clinical and public health decision making.
Linda Cropp is a former D.C. mayoral candidate and was the first woman elected chair of the D.C. Council. She served on the body since 1990 and was its chair for nine years. Her husband, Dwight Cropp, is a professor at GW.