McInerney, Coakley to Speak at Williams Commencement

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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Two Berkshire County notables and Williams graduates have been named as the main speakers for the college's 221st commencement exercises.

Author and Taconic High School graduate Jay McInerney, a 1976 graduate of the college, will be the principal speaker at commencement on Sunday, June 6. His contemporary at the college, state Attorney General Martha Coakley, will give the baccalaureate speech on Saturday, June 5.

Both will receive honorary degrees at commencement, along with the college's 17th president, Adam F. Falk, astronaut Stephanie Wilson, another Taconic High School graduate, and G. Wayne Clough, secretary of the Smithsonian Institution.


Jay McInerney
McInerney is probably best known for his novel "Bright Lights, Big City" that won immediate acclaim and was turned into a movie starring Michael J. Fox in 1988. The novel, the first of seven he has written, garnered him comparisons to F. Scott Fitzgerald and secured his place in the "literary brat pack," a group of iconic new writers that included Bret Easton Ellis and Tama Janowitz.

Born in Hartford, Conn., McInerney graduated from Taconic High in Pittsfield in 1972. At Williams, he majored in philosophy, snippets of which appear in the pages of "Bright Lights, Big City." His other novels to date are "Ransom," "Story of My Life," "Brightness Falls," "The Last of the Savages," "Model Behavior" and "The Good Life." He's also published a short-story collection ("How It Ended"), two compilations of his essays on wine for House & Garden magazine, numerous short stories, and some screenplays. His path has included a stint in Japan on a Princeton in Asia fellowship, work as a fact checker for The New Yorker, and a master's degree in English in 1984 from Syracuse University, where he studied under Raymond Carver.


Martha Coakley
The 1971 Drury High School graduate and the state's first woman attorney general is seeking a second term this fall. Last year, she won the Democratic nomination in the race to fill the U.S. Senate seat of the late Ted Kennedy only to lose to Republican Sen. Scott Brown. 

Born in Lee, she graduated from Williams in 1975 and received her juris doctorate from Boston University School of Law in 1979. She began working in civil litigation with Boston law firms Parker, Coulter, Daley & White and Goodwin Procter LLP, Coakley began her career in public service in as assistant district attorney in the Lowell District Court Office. She was elected Middlesex district attorney in 1998 and championed the causes of public safety and victim-centered, child-abuse prosecution. She returned to her hometown of North Adams to be sworn in as attorney general in 2006 and has since defended the federal Americans with Disabilities Act and the state's Equal Rights Act, and challenged the constitutional validity of the Defense of Marriage Act. She has also fought for greater funding for DNA analysis capabilities at the state police crime lab and changes in laws to streamline the approval process for stem cell research.


Adam F. Falk
Falk begins his presidency on April 1, after serving as dean of the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences at Johns Hopkins. He succeeds Morton O. Shapiro, who was named president of Northwestern University in 2008.

Falk joined the Johns Hopkins physics faculty in 1994, was promoted to associate professor after only three years and to full professor just three years after that. In 2002, he was appointed the Krieger School's vice dean of faculty, a title that was changed to dean of faculty in 2004. He became James B. Knapp Dean of the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences on Feb. 1, 2006. Falk is a high-energy physicist whose research focuses on elementary particle physics and quantum field theory, particularly the interactions and decay of heavy quarks. He graduated with highest distinction as a Morehead-Cain Scholar from the University of North Carolina in 1987 and earned his doctorate from Harvard University in 1991, winning six awards for excellence in undergraduate teaching while a graduate student. He held postdoctoral appointments at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center and the University of California at San Diego, before joining the Johns Hopkins faculty.


Stephanie Wilson
Born in Boston, NASA astronaut Wilson graduated from Taconic in 1984 is the second African-American woman to travel to space, assigned to Space Shuttle missions STS-121 in July 2006, STS-120 in October 2007, and STS-131 this April. Her hometown has celebrated her achievements with declarations of "Stephanie Wilson Day" and she's spoken at local schools and been grand marshal of the Pittsfield Fourth of July Parade.

NASA selected her as an astronaut candidate in 1996. Initially, she was assigned to the Astronaut Office Space Station Operations Branch and worked on space station payload displays and procedures. She later worked for Mission Control in the Astronaut Office CAPCOM Branch as a prime communicator with on-orbit crews. As part of her flight missions, Wilson has worked in the Astronaut Office Shuttle Operations Branch. Before selection by NASA in April 1996, Wilson worked for the former Martin Marietta Astronautics Group in Colorado and for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. She received her bachelor's degree in engineering science from Harvard University and her master's in aerospace engineering from the University of Texas.


G. Wayne Clough
Clough is the 12th secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, the world's largest museum and research complex with 19 museums, nine research centers, the National Zoo, and research activities in more than 90 countries.

He became head of the Institution in 2008, following tenure as president of the Georgia Institute of Technology. Clough is a member of the National Science Board and previously served on the President's Council of Advisers on Science and Technology (2001-08) and as co-chairman of the 2004 National Innovation Initiative and as member of the National Governors Association's 2006-07 Innovation America Task Force. He was vice chairman of the U.S. Council on Competitiveness and as chairman of the Engineer of 2020 Project of the National Academy of Engineering. He received his bachelor's and master's degrees in civil engineering from Georgia Tech and his doctoate from the University of California at Berkeley.

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