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April 29, 2009

MSU welcomes Dan Rather as advanced degree commencement speaker

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Respected for his 40-plus years of dedication to hard news, award-winning journalist Dan Rather will be the featured speaker during Michigan State University’s advanced degree commencement, where he will also receive an honorary doctor of humanities degree.


“It brings us great pride to honor such an esteemed journalist,” said MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon. “With a voice many of us have come to equate with honest journalism, Rather will inspire our advanced degree candidates as they, too, prepare to leave their legacy.”


The ceremony will be held at 7 p.m. May 8 at the Jack Breslin Student Events Center. There are 1,857 advanced degree candidates. The undergraduate convocation will be held the same day at 1 p.m. and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984, will be the featured speaker. There are 4,737 undergraduate degree candidates. Tickets will not be required for either event, which are free and open to the public.


Other honorary degrees will be given to Tutu, a South African anti-apartheid activist, and MSU alumnus Wallace Jefferson, chief justice of the Supreme Court of Texas.


A former “CBS News” anchor and “60 Minutes” correspondent, Rather has covered every presidential election since 1960 and is well known for using home-spun “Ratherisms” during his coverage. 


Rather’s broadcast journalism career has been marked by several firsts: He was the first journalist to report President Kennedy had been assassinated; he was among the first Western journalists to report on the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests; and he was the first journalist to report from underneath “The Pile” at Ground Zero following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.


Currently, Rather hosts the weekly news television show “Dan Rather Reports,” which is broadcasted on HDNet.


From Kennedy’s assassination to wars in Vietnam and Iraq, Rather’s coverage of major stories exemplifies hard-hitting, gutsy journalism.


Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Tutu will receive an honorary doctor of humane letters degree during the undergraduate convocation.

After becoming the first black general secretary of the South African Council of Churches in 1979, Tutu, an Anglican priest, spoke out strongly against apartheid in South Africa and began pushing for nonviolent change and sanctions against the country. Tutu is also respected for his activist work in fighting AIDS, poverty and homophobia throughout Africa and the world. 


Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson

Jefferson, chief justice of the Supreme Court of Texas, will receive an honorary doctor of laws degree during the undergraduate convocation.


He has twice made history as the first African American justice and chief justice on the Supreme Court of Texas. Gov. Rick Perry appointed Jefferson to the Court in 2001, and he was elected in 2002 and re-elected in 2008.


Jefferson has served on the Supreme Court of Texas Advisory Committee, the Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct and was chair of the host committee for the 2000 Fifth Circuit Judicial Conference. He was recently elected, unanimously, by his peers across the country to become president of the Conference of Chief Justices in 2010, where Jefferson will guide national judicial policy.


After receiving a bachelor’s degree in political philosophy from MSU’s James Madison College in 1985, Jefferson earned his juris doctorate in 1988 from the University of Texas School of Law. In 2007, MSU named Jefferson an Outstanding Alumnus. In 2005, the University of Texas School of Law honored Jefferson with its Outstanding Alumnus Award.  He received the James Madison College Distinguished Alumnus award in 2002.


Information on college commencement ceremonies can be found at or at individual college Web sites:


College of Communication Arts and Sciences:

College of Veterinary Medicine:

College of Social Science:

College of Nursing:

College of Arts and Letters:

College of Natural Science:

James Madison College:

Lyman Briggs College:

Eli Broad College of Business:

College of Music:   

Residential College in the Arts and Humanities:

College of Agriculture and Natural Resources:

College of Engineering:

College of Education: 



Michigan State University has been advancing knowledge and transforming lives through innovative teaching, research and outreach for more than 150 years. MSU is known internationally as a major public university with global reach and extraordinary impact. Its 17 degree-granting colleges attract scholars worldwide who are interested in combining education with practical problem solving.


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