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President Valerie Smith's Charge to Karama Neal '93

Karama Neal '93

Karama Neal, Swarthmore College Class of 1993, came to Swarthmore from Little Rock, Ark., where she graduated from the historic Little Rock Central High School. After majoring in biology here and then earning a Ph.D. in genetics and molecular biology, she was well prepared for a career in the biosciences — which she pursued successfully. 

But drawing inspiration from her grandmother, who instilled the importance of service and education, and her mother, she returned to Little Rock and transitioned to work that she describes as having “a more immediate effect on human well-being.” And so began her anti-poverty work and efforts to promote the economic and social development of the Delta. Karama once said she thinks “some of the most interesting work happens at the intersection of different fields.” Her inspiring career and self-chartered path is a testament to the good that can come from seeking those intersections, and a true embodiment of the value of the liberal arts.

Karama Neal, you received the Oak Leaf Award when you first crossed Swarthmore’s graduation stage. You have used your knowledge, keen analysis, and natural leadership abilities to address inequities, inadequacies, and marginalization. Now, upon the recommendation of the faculty, and by the power vested in me by the Board of Managers of Swarthmore College and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, I have the honor to bestow upon you the degree of Doctor of Laws.