During Swarthmore College’s 150th Commencement ceremony next month, President Valerie Smith will award four honorary degrees: a Doctor of Laws to immigration law scholar T. Alexander Aleinikoff ‘74, a Doctor of Arts to documentary filmmaker Marshall Curry '92, a Doctor of Science to Hawaii Lieutenant Governor Josh Green '92, and a Doctor of Arts to ballet dancer Virginia Johnson.
In addition, approximately 430 undergraduates in the Class of 2022 will receive degrees at the ceremony on Mertz lawn. They will be joined by more than 175 members of the Class of 2020 who plan to take part in the celebration, after their 2020 in-person ceremony was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
T. Alexander Aleinikoff ‘74
T. Alexander Aleinikoff ‘74, a leading immigration and refugee law scholar, has helped direct policy at both the national and international levels.
He co-chaired the Immigration Task Force for President Barack Obama’s transition team in 2008 and served as the United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees from 2010 to 2015. Earlier, he was the executive associate commissioner before becoming general counsel for programs in the U.S. Department of Justice's Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS).
In addition to his public service, Aleinikoff has deep experience within higher education. He currently teaches at The New School in New York City and is the director of the school’s Zolberg Institute on Migration and Mobility. Prior to that, he was a law professor at both the University of Michigan and Georgetown University, where he served as dean of the Law Center and executive vice president of the university.
A member of the American Academy of Arts and Science, Aleinikoff is the sole author of Semblances of Sovereignty: The Constitution, the State, and American Citizenship (2002) and co-author of works such as Immigration and Nationality Laws of the United States: Selected Statutes, Regulations and Forms (2020), The Arc of Protection: Reforming the International Refugee Regime (2019), and Immigration and Citizenship: Process and Policy (2008).
In 2018, he launched Tempest Tossed, a podcast featuring conversations between Aleinikoff and noted guests that provides thoughtful analysis and insights into immigration and refugee issues and policies.
Before earning his law degree at Yale in 1977, Aleinikoff received highest honors as a political science major and also belonged to Phi Beta Kappa. Writing in the 2004 essay collection entitled The Meaning of Swarthmore, he reflected that his time spent in the Peace Collection reading about “individual and collective action for peace” served to “forge iron-like commitments to seek to make the world more just.”
Marshall Curry '92
Marshall Curry ’92 is an Academy Award-winning director, producer, cinematographer, writer, and editor.
He received an Oscar in 2020, winning in the category Best Live Action Short for The Neighbors’ Window, a film inspired by true events that centers on a married woman and her obsession with her 20-something neighbors. Curry wrote, directed, and edited the film, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and won more than 20 other festival awards before winning the Oscar.
Curry has been nominated for an Academy Award on three other occasions. In 2019, A Night at The Garden received the nomination for Best Documentary Short. The film looks at the power of demagoguery and anti-Semitism in the United States through a 1939 Nazi rally that drew more than 20,000 people to Madison Square Garden.
In 2012, If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front was nominated for Best Documentary Feature. The story of the rise and fall of the radical environmental group premiered at the Sundance Film Festival to critical acclaim. The New York Times’ Andrew Revkin called it “extraordinary,” and described it as a “fearless exploration of complexity in a world drawn to oversimplified depictions of events and problems, heroes and villains."
Street Fight, which received a nomination for Best Documentary Feature in 2006, was Curry’s breakthrough. The documentary follows the Newark, N.J. mayoral campaign of future-U.S. Senator Cory Booker as he fights an entrenched political machine. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film boasts a 100% fresh rating with critics praising it as “extraordinary” and “film-making of the first order.”
Street Fight and two other of Curry's films have been featured in the American Documentary Showcase, a program sponsored by the U.S. State Department to share the art and practice of documentary filmmaking with the international community. Through the showcase, he has traveled to Israel, Jordan, Kosovo, and Ukraine to lead classes and discussions about documentary filmmaking
Curry received his bachelor’s in comparative religion in 1992.
Josh Green ’92
Josh Green ‘92 has been serving the public interest for over 20 years as an emergency room physician and elected official in Hawaii, where he is currently Lieutenant Governor and is considered a leading candidate in the state’s gubernatorial election this November.
After earning his M.D. from Penn State University, Green joined the National Health Service Corps and began practicing at rural hospitals and clinics on the Big Island Hawaii in 2000.
In 2004, he was elected to the Hawaii State House of Representatives. During his two terms, he spearheaded a movement to provide affordable and accessible healthcare for all Hawaii citizens. In 2008, Green was elected to the State Senate for the Kona and Ka’u districts.
As a senator, he served as majority floor leader and chaired the Health Committee and Human Services Committee. During this time, Green was also honored as “Hawaii Physician of the Year” in 2009 and “Hawaii Legislator of the Year” in 2013. He was also named physician of the year again in 2022 and will receive lifetime recognition from his peers this fall.
In 2018, Josh won the democratic primary for Lieutenant Governor. In the general election, he and the incumbent governor claimed a landslide victory with over 62 percent of the vote, the highest amount in Hawaii gubernatorial history.
With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Green was named the state’s COVID-19 liaison and has since been a leader in helping curb the spread of coronavirus in Hawaii. This included daily live updates on case counts and the implementation of public health protection measures via social media and news outlets. Despite contracting COVID in September 2020, he remained committed to his work as lieutenant governor and provided live updates as he quarantined in his son’s bedroom.
Virginia Johnson is a renowned and trailblazing ballerina who has shaped her field through work as a performer, editor, and director.
After graduating from the Academy of the Washington School of Ballet in 1968, Johnson moved to New York City, where she became a founding member of the Dance Theatre of Harlem (DTH) under the direction of co-founder Arthur Mitchell. Drawing inspiration from the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights movement, Mitchell’s vision was a company that emphasized aspects of democracy and diversity rarely seen in dance.
“Right from the beginning it was about the richness of diversity, which was very oppositional to the way that ballet was moving in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s in this country,” says Johnson. “At that time, ‘sameness’ was what was signified in ballet.”
Johnson was an integral part of the company for nearly 30 years, with leading roles in Creole Giselle, the first full-length ballet broadcast on network television in America; and Fall River Legend, which won a cable ACE award from the Bravo Network as well as such Balanchine ballets as Allegro Brilliante, Agon and The Four Temperaments.
After retiring from performing, Johnson embarked on a communications degree at Fordham University. While there, she had the opportunity to create Pointe Magazine, an acclaimed magazine covering the world of ballet.
Johnson spent nine years as the magazine’s editor-in-chief before rejoining DTH as the company’s artistic director. In this role, Johnson helped restore Dance Theatre of Harlem’s professional touring company after an eight-year hiatus. She continues the challenging work of balancing the rich history of DTH with building a new and vibrant future for the company and art form of ballet while simultaneously guiding the company through the pandemic.
Her honors include a Young Achiever Award from the National Council of Women, Outstanding Young Woman of America and the Dance Magazine Award, a Pen and Brush Achievement Award, the Washington Performing Arts Society’s 2008-2009 Pola Nirenska Lifetime Achievement Award, and the 2009 Martha Hill Fund Mid-Career Award. She is the recipient of the Mary Day Award from the Washington Ballet and the 2019 CORPS de Ballet International Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2020 she was presented with a medal of honor from the Actor’s Fund. She serves on the Advisory Board of The Center for Ballet and the Arts at NYU, and Dance NYC and serves on the Board of Works & Process.
Image courtesy of Dance Theatre of Harlem