Bowdoin College will bestow four honorary degrees at its 212th Commencement exercises May 27, 2017. The ceremony will begin at 10 a.m. on the Quad in front of the Bowdoin College Museum of Art.
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Anthony E. Doerr ’95; Harry Pratt Judson Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of History and president emeritus, University of Chicago, Hanna Holborn Gray; Immigrant Resource Center of Maine founder and executive director Fatuma Hussein; and Grammy-winning musician and conservationist Chuck Leavell are this year’s honorands.
Anthony Doerr ’95 was awarded the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, and the 2015 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction, for his book, All the Light We Cannot See. Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, Doerr graduated from Bowdoin cum laude with a history major in 1995, and earned his master of fine arts degree in creative writing at Bowling Green University in 1999.
He is also the author of two short-story collections, The Shell Collector (2002) and Memory Wall (2010), the memoir Four Seasons in Rome (2007), and two novels, About Grace (2004) and All the Light We Cannot See (2014).
Other acclaim for Doerr’s writing includes four O. Henry Prizes, the Barnes & Noble Discover Prize, Rome Prize, four Pushcart Prizes, Guggenheim Fellowship, NEA Fellowship, National Magazine Award for Fiction, four Ohioana Book Awards, two Pacific Northwest Book Awards, the 2010 Story Prize, and the Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award.
Doerr lives in Idaho with his wife, Shauna E. Doerr ’94, and their two sons.
Hanna Holborn Gray, president emeritus of the University of Chicago, was the first woman to be full president of a major university in the United States. She held that position from 1978 to 1993, after having served as interim president of Yale University for fourteen months (1977-78).
Gray is also the University of Chicago’s Harry Pratt Judson Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of History.
Born in Heidelberg, Germany, Gray and her family fled Nazi Germany to America. She graduated from Bryn Mawr College in 1950, was a Fulbright Scholar at Oxford, and earned a Ph.D. from Harvard in 1957. In addition to her roles at the University of Chicago, Gray’s distinguished career as a scholar of humanism, political and historical thought, and the history and politics of the Renaissance and Reformation has earned her faculty positions at Harvard, Northwestern University, and Yale.
An outstanding leader and administrator, Gray also has been a director, board member, or trustee of many institutions, including the Harvard Corporation, Yale Corporation, Smithsonian Institution, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Council on Foreign Relations, Mayo Clinic, Brookings Institution, Newberry Library, JP Morgan Chase, and Bryn Mawr College.
Gray also served as the board chair for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the second-largest foundation in America. In 1986, she received a Medal of Liberty award from President Ronald Reagan; in 1991, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, from President George H. W. Bush. Gray delivered the keynote address at the inauguration of Clayton Rose as fifteenth president of Bowdoin College.
Fatuma Hussein is the founder and executive director of the Immigrant Resource Center of Maine (formerly the United Somali Women of Maine), an organization developed to help Somali immigrants settle in the state. Hussein is a leading voice against gender-based violence in the African immigrant community and in society at large. Born in Mogadishu, Somalia, the oldest of thirteen children, Hussein lived in a Kenyan refugee camp after civil war broke out in Somalia in 1991. She moved to Atlanta, Georgia, in 1993, where she attended high school.
Seeking relief from congestion and crime in urban Atlanta, she moved with her family to Maine, eventually settling in the Lewiston-Auburn area. While there were many French-speaking West Africans living in the area, Somalis and immigrants from other parts of Africa faced additional challenges—of culture, religion, and language. In response to an open letter from the mayor of Lewiston asking members of the Somali community to discourage relatives from resettling in the area, Hussein began building bridges within the community by making informal arrangements to provide transportation, translation, and counseling services for the immigrant community.
Originating as a refugee center in 2001, the organization has grown to include a full-time staff, network of volunteers, and statewide advisory council. It also provides housing resettlement services and helps families navigate a complex landscape of local, state, and federal regulations so that the talents and abilities of Maine’s immigrant community can best serve the common good.
Chuck Leavell, who was born in Birmingham, Alabama, started his first band in 1966 at the age of fourteen. A largely self-taught keyboard artist, he became a session musician and later performed with Dr. John, The Marshall Tucker Band, and Gregg Allman. He joined the Allman Brothers Band in 1972, and his piano and keyboard work may be heard on works by Eric Clapton, The Rolling Stones, The Black Crowes, George Harrison, Indigo Girls, Blues Traveler, John Mayer, Lee Ann Womack, and many other artists.
Leavell then joined the rock/jazz/blues group Sea Level, which released five critically acclaimed albums. In 1982, he became keyboardist and musical director for The Rolling Stones, a position he still holds. In 2012, he received a Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award with other members of the Allman Brothers Band.
In addition to his long and illustrious music career, Leavell has extensive experience in forestry and conservation—work he regards as equally significant. He became a tree farmer in the early 1980s, when he and his wife, Rose Lane Leavell, created Charlane Plantation, a 2,500-acre tree farm and hunting preserve. The Leavells are two-time Georgia Tree Farmers of the Year and in 1999 were named National Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year for their work in sustainable forestry. Leavell is the author of several books on forestry as well as an autobiography about his life in music. He serves on the boards of the American Forest Foundation and the U.S. Endowment for Forestry & Communities. He co-founded The Mother Nature Network, an environmental news and information website in 2009. In 2012, he was made an Honorary Forest Ranger by the U.S. Forest Service.