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Commencement 2006

Swarthmore Holds 134th Commencement May 28, 2006

Swarthmore College President Alfred H. Bloom awarded honorary degrees to philosopher and Africana studies scholar Kwame Anthony Appiah, renowned scientist and inventor Neil Gershenfeld '81, and distinguished jurist Mary Murphy Schroeder '62 at the College's 134th commencement on Sunday, May 28. About 350 seniors graduated at the ceremony, held in the Scott Outdoor Amphitheater.

Dean of the College Robert Gross '62 addressed the graduating class at baccalaureate services on May 27. The senior class speaker on May 28, as voted by his classmates, was Toby David '06, an English literature major with a minor in religion from Columbia, Md.

Of the 346 graduates, 330 received the bachelor of arts degree and 22 received the bachelor of science in engineering degree. Six had double degrees. Highest honors were awarded to 10, with 64 collecting high honors and 40 receiving honors.

Kwame Anthony Appiah

Appiah is the Laurance S. Rockefeller University Professor of Philosophy at Princeton University's Center for Human Values. Writing widely on issues of diversity, community-building, and cultural identity, Appiah is best known for his book In My Father's House (1992), one of the most-assigned books on Africana studies reading lists.

Raised in Ghana, Appiah earned his undergraduate degree from Clare College, Cambridge University, in 1975, and went on to complete his M.A. and Ph.D. from Cambridge, in 1980 and 1982, respectively. He held teaching posts at Harvard, Duke, Cornell, and Yale universities before joining the Princeton faculty in 2002.

Drawing from disciplines including linguistics, philosophy, sociology, and history, Appiah's work explores African, American, and European ideas. His In My Father's House — considered an instant classic upon its publication — offers a trenchant critique of the concept of race. Among his other works are Color Conscious: The Political Morality of Race (1998), co-authored with Amy Gutmann, now president of the University of Pennsylvania; The Ethics of Identity (2004); and Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers (2006). He has teamed with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. to edit numerous volumes, including Encyclopedia Africana (2005), and has published an annotated edition of proverbs in Twi, the language of the Asante people in West Africa. He is also the author of three mystery novels. His major current project deals with the philosophical foundations of liberalism.

Neil Gershenfeld '81

Gershenfeld, director of the Center for Bits and Atoms at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is a renowned scientist whose unique research group investigates the relationship between the content of information and its physical representation in forms that have ranged from molecular quantum computers to musical instruments. He and his colleagues have created a computerized cello for the acclaimed musician Yo-Yo Ma, interactive furniture for New York's Museum of Modern Art, an instrumented stage for the juggling Flying Karamazov Brothers, and widely-used automobile safety systems. They performed one of the first complete quantum computations, and his "Internet 0" initiative extends the principles of the Internet to connect everyday devices. The "fab" labs that he developed are bringing prototype tools for personal fabrication out of the laboratory and into the field, spreading from Boston to rural India, from the coast of Africa to above the Arctic Circle, and launching the global Fab Foundation to enable aid through invention.


In addition to numerous scholarly articles and patents, Gershenfeld has written Fab: The Coming Revolution on Your Desktop (2005) and When Things Start To Think (1999). He has also published the technical texts The Nature of Mathematical Modeling (1999) and The Physics of Information Technology (2000). His work was featured by the White House and Smithsonian Institution in their Millennium celebrations and has attracted coverage in media including The New York Times, The Economist, CNN, and PBS. He was also elected to The Prospect/FP's "top 100 public intellectuals" list.

Gershenfeld graduated from Swarthmore with high honors and Phi Beta Kappa in physics in 1981. He was a member of the research staff at Bell Labs from 1981-83, received his Ph.D. in applied physics from Cornell University in 1990, and was a Junior Fellow of the Harvard Society of Fellows from 1989 to 1992. He has taught at MIT since 1992. Among the many honors and awards he has received is the 1998-1999 MIT Graduate Student Council Teaching Award.

Mary Murphy Schroeder '62

Mary Murphy Schroeder is Chief Judge of the Ninth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals. After earning her undergraduate degree from Swarthmore College in 1962, Schroeder completed her J.D. at the University of Chicago Law School in 1965. In 1975, Schroeder was appointed to the Arizona Court of Appeals, becoming the youngest and the 12th woman appellate judge in the nation. She has served on the Ninth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Phoenix, Ariz., since 1979 and as Chief Judge since December 2000.

Schroeder has written major opinions on a wide variety of topics, including one that rendered invalid convictions of Japanese aliens dating from World War II. Her 1982 ruling in Gerdom vs. Continental Air Lines, Inc., struck down height and weight requirements for female flight attendants. She has worked in judicial reform, served for two years as co-chair of the Arizona Appellate Project, and finished a term as president of the National Association of Women Judges. In 2001, Schroeder received the Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award from the American Bar Association.

Schroeder once wrote: "At Swarthmore, I felt I had to run to keep up with everyone there. After I left Swarthmore, I kept the same pace and discovered I was running faster than just about everybody else." Her essay appeared in The Meaning of Swarthmore (2004), a collection of alumni reflections about the College.