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President Bloom's Introduction of James C. Hormel '55

James C. Hormel '55

Jim Hormel, your care for humanity, expressed in transformative activism and philanthropy, place you among the alumni of this College who have had the greatest impact on shaping a more inclusive and generous world.

You were born in Minnesota in 1933, the grandson of the founder of the Hormel Foods Corporation. You transferred from Princeton to Swarthmore as a sophomore, and majored in History with a concentration in politics and world affairs. Following graduation in 1955, you earned a J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School, went on to practice law, to clerk at the Illinois Appellate Court; and in 1961 you returned to the University of Chicago Law School, as Assistant Dean and then Dean of Students.

The breadth and effectiveness of your activism in support of civic responsibility and social justice have been extraordinary. Through, among others, founding The City Club of San Francisco and serving on the Boards of such institutions as the American Civil Liberties Union, the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, and People for the American Way; through helping to shape the Democratic Party platform and representing that party as a delegate to its '92 and '96 conventions; and through serving on the U.N. Human Rights Commission and then representing the U.S. as a delegate to the 51st U. N. General Assembly, you have cemented the bonds of diverse communities, advanced the legal underpinnings of a more inclusive society, and contributed your persuasive vision and energy to a more cooperative world.

And central to that activism has been your powerful, nationally and internationally recognized leadership in the struggle for gay rights and for the health and empowerment of gay communities. You helped found the Human Rights Campaign, the largest political advocacy group for gay and lesbian rights in the United States and established, at the main branch of the San Francisco Public Library, the James C. Hormel Gay and Lesbian Center, which contains the largest collection of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered literature in the world. Your generous philanthropy has accelerated the emergence of more effective treatments for HIV/ AIDS and sustained organizations that provide desperately needed relief to those suffering from that tragic disease.

In 1997, President Clinton nominated you to be this nation's Ambassador to Luxembourg. A two-year confirmation process ensued in which you and the Clinton administration vigorously confronted deplorable forces of prejudice and homophobia in the Senate, and you prevailed. You were appointed to the post, becoming the first openly gay ambassador in U.S. history. At the swearing in ceremony, Secretary of State Albright declared: "Today, we send a message that neither race nor creed nor gender nor sexual orientation should be relevant to the selection of ambassadors for the United States."

You have been recognized by the lifetime achievement award of The Human Rights Campaign, the Equality Forum's International Business Leadership Award, and the Outstanding Philanthropist Award from the Association of Professional Fund Raisers.

And moved by your passion to build a more responsible, just and inclusive world, you have extended your generosity to many other organizations as well, foremost among them, Swarthmore.

Yours was the founding gift that established The Swarthmore Foundation; and yours was the founding gift to staff the Intercultural Center. You established the Hormel Professorship for Social Justice, awarded to a professor, and I quote, "whose teaching and scholarship stimulate increased concern for and understanding of social justice issues, including those pertaining to sexual orientation." You created a new position in the Political Science Department at the College's request, focused on public policy and social justice, in order to bring an exceptional faculty member to Swarthmore. And your recent significant commitment to financial aid is helping the College to sustain that critical responsibility through the current challenging financial environment.

You have quietly built the confidence and deepened the wisdom of generations of Swarthmore students. You chaired the Student Life Committee of the Board over many years and from 1988-2007 served on the Board of Managers, a service you will resume this fall. Your partner is a Swarthmore alum.

Jim, you believe deeply in Swarthmore, in its exceptional intellectual strengths, in its distinctive capacity to transform students into powerful agents like you of a better world, in the model of inclusive and humane community it sets for that better world. You have played a central role in shaping the College's modern evolution and this president has relied heavily on your counsel and care.

In the middle of the difficult Senate confirmation process your son expressed what he learned from you and I quote: "My father taught me kindness, acceptance of others, honesty, self-esteem, and standing up for what you believe." You have helped your alma mater and the world to live those words. Thank you.

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.

Read James Hormel's address.