In an all-campus email sent Thursday afternoon, President Michael Roth announced that U.S. Senator Michael Bennet ’87 will deliver the commencement address at the 180th Commencement ceremony in May. The email also announced 2012’s honorary degree recipients, which include Bennet, conceptual artist Glenn Ligon ’82, and the president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund Cecile Richards P’13. The commencement ceremony will mark a return to campus for some of the University’s leading lights in politics and the arts.

Bennet, a Democrat who was elected to his first full term in the Senate in November 2010 after being appointed to fill Ken Salazar’s vacant seat in 2009, has strong ties to the University. The son of former University President Douglas Bennet ’59 Hon. ’94, Bennet earned a degree in history with honors from Wesleyan and was a member of Beta Theta Pi as a student. After graduation, Bennet attended Yale Law School, where he was Editor-in-Chief of the Yale Law Journal.

Before his career in the Senate,

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Bennet worked as a lawyer and then as a businessman with the Anschutz Investment Company. He would later serve as chief of staff for fellow University alumnus, then-Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper ’74. Hickenlooper was elected as the governor of Colorado in 2010 and delivered the University’s commencement address in 2010. In 2005, Bennet was selected as superintendent of Denver Public Schools—major reform efforts and the turning around of many of Denver’s public schools marked his tenure. Bennet continues to fight for public education as a member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. He is also chairman of the Senate Agricultural Subcommittee on Conservation, Forestry, and Natural Resources.

Alongside Bennet, Cecile Richards and Glenn Ligon will receive Honorary Degrees. Much like Bennet, Richards has been a vigorous and tireless advocate for social causes—in this case, reproductive rights and social justice as president of Planned Parenthood, a national organization providing sexual health care for millions of Americans nationwide. Prior to joining Planned Parenthood in 2006, Richards founded and stood as president of America Votes, a coalition of organizations committed to improving voter turnout across the United States. In 2011, Time Magazine named her as one of the 100 most influential people in the world in its annual list.

While Bennet and Richards have made waves in the political world, Glenn Ligon has long been a celebrated figure in the visual arts. Combining history, language, and questions of identity and representation, Ligon’s work often utilizes text and a variety of media as a means to explore rich conceptual territory. His distinctive and indefinable aesthetic has earned him accolades and exhibitions in museums and galleries across the United States and throughout the world.

Bringing together tireless champions of social causes and artistic discovery, 2012’s Commencement speaker and Honorary Degree recipients promise fresh insight when they arrive on campus this spring. The 180th Commencement will be held on Sunday, May 27.

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