Deborah Bial, a MacArthur “genius” grant recipient and founder and president of the Posse Foundation, will deliver the 2016 Commencement address at Centre College on Sunday, May 22.
The Class of 2016 features an expected 305 graduates, among them a record 20 international students, and collectively offers an impressive four-year graduation rate of 80 percent. The class includes a Fulbright winner, Jeri Howell ’16 of Frankfort, Ky., who will spend next year teaching English in Costa Rica. Also teaching abroad through the Teaching Assistant Program in France is Emily Hooker ’16 of Cincinnati. Seniors Ashley Barker (Boston) and Gray Whitsett (Owensboro, Ky.) will participate in Teach For America, working in Boston and Baton Rouge, La., respectively.
Also among the graduates is Centre’s seventh class of Posse Scholars, for whom Bial’s participation in this year’s Commencement ceremony will have particular meaning. This fall will mark the 10th year of Centre’s relationship with the Posse program.
Posse is a college-access program for talented high school leaders from underrepresented urban populations. It recruits students starting in their junior year, works with them during their senior year to prepare them for academically challenging college environments, then sends them in groups of 10—by then carefully developed into their own support system called a Posse—to 55 mostly liberal arts colleges throughout the country.
Centre’s Posse students are from Boston, though the foundation also recruits students in Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York City, the San Francisco Bay area and Washington, D.C. The partnering colleges provide scholarships and mentoring.
Bial founded Posse in 1989, when she was just 23, after talking with a student who had dropped out of college after his first semester. He said that he probably would not have left school if he’d had his “posse” with him. She realized then the importance of a support system—as well as the need to help students learn to navigate college’s many challenges—if they were to succeed.
She holds a B.A. from Brandeis University and an M.A. and Ed.D. from Harvard University. In 2007, she received a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant for her work with the Posse Foundation.
Bial will be awarded an honorary degree during the Commencement ceremony, as will Harold H. Smith ’64, president of the Kentucky Governor’s Scholars Program Foundation and president emeritus of Pikeville College. Smith enjoyed a long and remarkable career in higher education that began with 19 years of service at Centre as dean of admission and later vice president and dean of student life.
Beth Glazier-McDonald, H.W. Stodghill Jr. and Adele H. Stodghill Professor of Religion and associate academic dean of the College, will give the baccalaureate sermon prior to Centre’s Commencement. The service will be held at 11 a.m. on May 22 in Newlin Hall of Centre College’s Norton Center for the Arts.
The Commencement ceremony will begin at 3 p.m., also in Newlin Hall. All seats are by ticket only.
by Amy Clark Wise
May 16, 2016