Journalist, Philanthropist, and Actor/Playwright Named 2017 Honorary Degree Recipients
President Valerie Smith will award honorary degrees to film producer and journalist David Gelber ’63, philanthropist John Goldman '71, and actor and playwright Anna Deavere Smith at the 145th commencement on May 21, 2017. In addition, approximately 350 undergraduates will receive degrees at the ceremony in Scott Amphitheater.
David Gelber '63
David Gelber ‘63 is an award-winning producer and the managing director and co-founder of Roaring Fork Films.
In 2014, he produced Years of Living Dangerously, an Emmy-winning documentary series on climate change that first aired on Showtime. The second round of Years aired recently on the National Geographic Channel. The series features a number of experts and celebrities who help break down complicated scientific concepts into an entertaining and understandable graspable message for viewers.
Along with his Prime Time Emmy for Years of Living Dangerously, Gelber is the recipient of a Peabody Award, two DuPont Awards, and eight additional Emmy Awards.
Previously, he spent nearly three decades at CBS News, mostly as Ed Bradley’s producer at 60 Minutes. His work at 60 Minutes included award-winning stories on prison camps in China, sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, and AIDS in Africa. He was also executive producer of Peter Jennings Reporting at ABC News, where he won Emmy and DuPont awards for his coverage of the war in Bosnia.
Gelber has remained involved with Swarthmore, serving on the Board of Managers from 2004 to 2016. In 2005, he suggested the idea for and helped found War News Radio (WNR), the independent, award-winning journalism project of Swarthmore students devoted to putting a human face on the long-term causes and consequences of conflict. Gelber based WNR on his experience with Pacifica Radio in the 1960s during the anti-Vietnam War movement.
Additionally, he has served as the keynote speaker at the Jonathan R. Lax ’71 Conference, volunteered with Admissions and Career Services, served on Alumni Council, and emceed the New York launch of the Meaning of Swarthmore campaign.
Gelber earned a B.A. in history from the College. He is married to Kyoko Inouye Gelber. They have two daughters, Maya and Clara.
John Goldman '71
John Goldman ’71 is a civic volunteer who has dedicated his life to public service following his business career.
He is the co-founder and president of the John and Marcia Goldman Foundation, which aims to impact the quality of life of individuals and communities in the San Francisco Bay Area by focusing its grants in the areas of youth, health, and the arts. Goldman is the immediate past president of the San Francisco Symphony (2001-2012), was board president of the San-Francisco-based Jewish Community Federation, and over the years has served as a trustee of the American Conservatory Theater, the Trust for Public Land, and Project Open Hand, among others. He recently was president of the Board of Directors of the Goldman Environmental Foundation and is a trustee of the Walter and Elise Haas Fund. In 2014, President Obama appointed Goldman as general trustee to the Board of Trustees of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.
Professionally, he was the chairman of Willis Insurance Services of California and CEO of Goldman Insurance Services after serving as Assistant Secretary of Transportation for the State of California from 1978-1981.
A member of the College’s Board of Managers for more than a decade (1997-2009), Goldman has remained committed to Swarthmore throughout his life. Over the years, he has established the John Goldman ’71 Athletic Endowment (2000) and the Marcia and John Goldman ’71 Scholarship (1991). For the past 11 years, he has served as an admissions volunteer as an interviewer, reception host, and college fair representative. He was also co-chair of The Meaning of Swarthmore campaign (2001-07).
Goldman graduated from the College with a B.A. in economics. He also received an MBA from the Stanford University Graduate School of Business in 1975. He and his wife Marcia have two children, Jessica and Aaron, a member of the Class of 2003.
Anna Deavere Smith
Anna Deavere Smith is an acclaimed actor, playwright, and author who has demonstrated a commitment to civic engagement throughout her career.
Smith is perhaps best known to television audiences as Nancy McNally on The West Wing or Gloria Akalitus on Nurse Jackie. She has also appeared in numerous movies, including Philadelphia, Dave, The American President, and Rent.
Since the early 1980s, Smith has been a pioneer of verbatim theater (also known as documentary drama) with her series of one-woman shows, including most recently, Notes from the Field: Doing Time in Education. In these works, she performs excerpts from her interviews with private citizens and public figures alike, weaving these excerpts, or scenes, into multi-faceted explorations of some of the most urgent controversies of our time.
Smith is driven by the belief that art can motivate, provoke, and inspire real-world action through civic engagement. This philosophy led her to found the Institute on the Arts and Civic Dialogue, and it has inspired her to tackle the most vexing and contentious issues of civil rights and social justice.
Among numerous awards and honors, Smith has been awarded a MacArthur Award, a National Humanities Medal, the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Award, the Phyllis Franklin Award from the Modern Language Association, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. When she received the MacArthur Award, her work was described as “a blend of theatrical art, social commentary, journalism, and intimate reverie.”
Smith is the author of two books and five plays. She currently teaches at the New York University Tisch School of the Arts and is affiliated with NYU’s School of Law. She has been artist-in-residence at places as varied as MTV and the Aspen Institute. Her board memberships include the Museum of Modern Art, the American Museum of Natural History, the Playwrights Realm, Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, and the Aspen Institute.
Smith earned a B.A. from Beaver College (now Arcadia University) and an M.F.A. from the American Conservatory Theater.