Interim President Constance Hungerford will award honorary degrees to conductor and teacher John Alston, Justice Randy J. Holland ’69, and scientist and educator Molly Miller Jahn ’80 at the 143rd commencement on May 31, 2015. In addition, approximately 350 undergraduates will receive degrees at the ceremony in Scott Amphitheater.
John Alston - Doctor of Arts
As a musician, conductor, and teacher, John Alston has dedicated his life to inspiring young minds and enriching souls.
Alston is the founding director of the Chester Children's Chorus, which was formed in 1994 at Swarthmore College with the goal of using music as a vehicle to offer children who live in the Chester-Upland School District the opportunity to expand their intellectual and cultural horizons. While working at Swarthmore in the Music Department, Alston was inspired to create the chorus because of his own transformative experiences as a member of the Newark (N.J.) Boys Chorus.
Beginning as a small chorus composed of seven boys from Chester, the chorus now comprises 135 boys and girls between the ages of 8 to 18 who sing a challenging and sophisticated repertoire. Housed at Swarthmore since its inception, the chorus has involved many volunteers from the College and neighboring communities throughout the years.
Alston's work with the children of Chester extends far beyond the chorus. He is also the founder of The Chester Fund for Education and the Arts (TCF), a nonprofit organization in Chester with the mission to "ensure that disadvantaged children in Chester have access to superior arts and academic programming, and to demonstrate that Chester children can achieve great things with a great education." Closely allied with TCF is the Chester Charter School for the Arts, which opened its doors to 325 students in 2012 and is dedicated to improving the Chester community through high academic achievement and artistic excellence. In 2008, Dr. Alston founded the Chester Upland School of the Arts, which was the predecessor to the Chester Charter School for the Arts.
Alston is the recipient of numerous awards for his work with the children of Chester, including the Marie Whitaker Humanitarian Award (2010) and Omega Psi Phi Community Service Award (2008). Recently, he and the chorus received a proclamation from the Pennsylvania State Senate for 20 years of artistic and civic contributions to the city of Chester. On Jan. 20, the chorus will sing at the inauguration of Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf.
Until the end of the 2013 spring semester, Alston was an associate professor of music at Swarthmore. He began his career conducting the College Chorus, which he led for 22 years. He also conducted the College Jazz Ensemble and Orchestra and taught jazz improvisation.
Alston received a B.M. from Yankton College, an M.M. from the University of Northern Iowa, and a D.M. from Indiana University.
Randy J. Holland '69 – Doctor of Laws
Randy J. Holland '69 is the longest-serving justice in the history of the Delaware Supreme Court and is widely respected among his peers for his commitment to legal ethics. His more-than 700 written opinions include landmark decisions on a wide variety of matters.
In 1986, Holland became the youngest person ever appointed to the Delaware Supreme Court. In 2011, he was reappointed by Gov. Jack Markell and unanimously confirmed by the state senate for an unprecedented third 12-year term. Before serving on the court, he was in private practice as a partner at Morris, Nichols, Arsht & Tunnell.
Holland has received many national awards throughout his legal career, most recently the prestigious Lewis F. Powell Award for Professionalism and Ethics, presented at the U.S. Supreme Court. Other accolades include the 2012 First State Distinguished Service Award, the 2011 Dwight D. Opperman Award for Judicial Excellence, the 2009 James Wilson Award from the University of Pennsylvania School of Law, the 2007 American Inns of Court Christensen Award, the 2003 American Judicature Society's Herbert Harley Award, and the 1992 Judge of the Year Award from the National Child Support Enforcement Association. He is one of three Americans named honorary Masters of the Bench at Lincoln's Inn in London. The others were Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and John Paul Stevens.
Recognized as one of the top 100 influencers of both corporate governance and business ethics in the United States, Holland has traveled internationally to advance legal professionalism and ethics, working with officials from Taiwan, Qatar, England, and the European Union.
Throughout his career, Holland has served on numerous committees and he is currently the co-chair of the national Advisory Committee to the Center for Judicial Ethics of the National Center for State Courts. He is a former president of the American Inns of Court Foundation, chairman of the American Bar Association National Joint Committee on Lawyer Regulation, and a member of the ABA Presidential Commission on Fair and Impartial Courts, the Standing Committee on Client Protection, and the Judicial Division's Ethics and Professionalism Committee.
Author, co-author, or editor of nine books, most recently Magna Carta: Muse and Mentor for the Library of Congress (2014), Holland has also published several law review articles, primarily on judicial ethics and legal history. He is an adjunct professor at the Widener University School of Law, Iowa School of Law, Vanderbilt School of Law, and the University of Washington in St. Louis.
Holland graduated from Swarthmore in 1969 with a B.A. in economics and was a member of the football and baseball teams. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania Law School, cum laude, and received a master of laws from the University of Virginia. Holland's immediate family is composed of Swarthmore alumni, including his wife Ilona Szucs Holland '72; his son Ethan Bela Holland '98; and his brother and sister-in-law James C. Holland II '71 and Nancy Noble Holland '72.
Molly Miller Jahn '80 - Doctor of Sciences
Molly Miller Jahn is an educator and world-renowned authority on plant genetics.
Jahn is a professor at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, holding appointments in the department of agronomy, the laboratory of genetics, and the Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment.
Her research career has focused on genomics and plant breeding of vegetable crops, with particular emphasis on the molecular genetics of disease resistance and quality traits. From 2006 to 2011, she was dean of Wisconsin's College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and director of the Wisconsin Agricultural Experiment Station. Her research programs at the University of Wisconsin and earlier at Cornell University have produced vegetable varieties grown commercially and for subsistence on six continents.
Jahn's prominence in the field of plant genetics has led her to work outside the field of academia. In 2009 and 2010, she was the deputy and acting under-secretary of research, education, and economics at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in Washington, D.C. In 2011, she was chosen to represent the United States on a high-level international Commission for Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change. In 2012, Jahn was recognized as part of a team receiving the highest award conferred by the USDA, the Secretary's Honor Award, and, in 2013, was named a Rothamsted Fellow in the United Kingdom. Jahn served on the drafting team commissioned by the President's Council of Advisors for Science & Technology for a seminal report to the President on Agricultural Preparedness. Because of her contributions to that report, she was chosen to launch and lead a national student prize for agricultural innovation.
Jahn has published extensively and holds more than 60 active commercial licenses from her plant-breeding programs. She is the co-author of a recent book, The Role of Biotechnology in a Sustainable Food Supply, and serves as co-editor-in-chief of the open access journal Agriculture and Food Security. Jahn is a member of many boards and scientific advisory panels, including service as chair of the Scientific Advisory Committee for the Energy and Environmental Sciences Directorate at the U.S. Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Lab.
Jahn received a B.A. with honors in biology from Swarthmore and holds an M.S. from M.I.T. (1983) and Ph.D from Cornell University (1988). She remains close to the College, serving as an honors examiner in 2013 and delivering a lecture in the Biology Department in 2010.