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MCLA to Celebrate 113th Commencement

05:02PM / Friday, March 23, 2012
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Robert Rabil
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts will celebrate its 113th Commencement exercises on Saturday, May 19, beginning at 11 a.m. in the Amsler Campus Center Gymnasium.

Robert Rabil, director of graduate studies and associate professor of Middle East Studies at Florida Atlantic University will deliver the keynote address to the members of the class of 2012 who will receive their bachelors’ and masters’ degrees and Certificates of Advanced Graduate Study at the ceremony. Rabil, a 1987 graduate of MCLA, will receive an honorary doctor of humanities degree.

Also receiving honorary degrees this year will be Sandra Burton, Lipp Family director of dance at Williams College, who will receive an honorary doctor of fine arts; attorney and philanthropist Samuel H. “Sandy” Laitman, who will receive an honorary doctor of laws; and MCLA Trustee Dr. Eugene Leibowitz, who will receive an honorary doctor of public service.

In recognition of their awards, the honorary degree recipients will have books placed in MCLA's Freel Library in their names.

"This year’s honorees are inspiring and remarkable. It is my great pleasure to celebrate this distinguished group of friends and colleagues at this year’s MCLA Commencement ceremony," said President Mary K. Grant. "From Dr. Rabil’s contributions and insightful work in the areas of national and international political issues to Sandra Burton’s passion for artistic and creative expression, to Sandy Laitman’s philanthropic support of art, culture, and education in the Berkshires, to Dr. Leibowitz’s distinguished surgical career and his unwavering service to the College for 12 years, this year’s honorees are exemplary models for our graduates as they forge ahead on life’s journey."

Rabil has offered his expertise and insight to a range of national and international media outlets. He has spoken at Harvard University, Johns Hopkins, Brandeis, Case Western Reserve, and the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, and has participated in roundtable discussions and forums sponsored by the U.S. government, including the Army and National Intelligence Council.

Previously, he was the chief of emergency services for the Red Cross in Beirut, Lebanon. He has taught at Suffolk University, and was the project manager of the State Department funded-Iraq Research and Documentation Project.

Sandra Burton
Rabil earned his bachelor of arts in computer science from Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, his Masters in Government from Harvard University Extension School and his Ph.D. in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies from Brandeis University.

Sandra Burton
As a dancer, choreographer, educator, and arts presenter, Burton's study, research, and travel focus on traditional and contemporary forms from Africa and the Diaspora.

She co-founded an annual conference held at Williams College, called "Stalwart Originality: New Traditions in Black Performance," and is co-artistic director of Kusika, a traditional African dance and percussion company.

Burton holds an MFA in dance and choreography from Bennington (Vt.) College.

Samuel H. Laitman
Samuel H. Laitman
Laitman is a retired attorney and philanthropist who lives in Williamstown. He is a supporter of a range of arts and cultural organizations in the region, and has provided opportunities for students in the MCLA Arts Management program to attend national and international conferences and programs that help them to connect their academic work with experience and practice in the field.

Following service in the Air Force, Laitman worked as an auditor and tax accountant in New York City. He later joined the firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP, in which he became partner and head of the trusts and estates department.

Laitman is a graduate of Williams College. He earned an master of business administration from New York University Graduate School of Business Administration, and bachelor and master of laws degrees from New York University School of Law.

Dr. Eugene Leibowitz
Eugene Leibowitz was appointed to the MCLA board of trustees in 2000. He is a former board chairman and has served on every committee of the board during his tenure. During his time on the board, the college has experienced tremendous growth, including the addition of several new majors and programs, expanded student life programs, growth in enrollment, deeper engagement in the community, and new and enhanced campus facilities.

Dr. Eugene Leibowitz
He is a graduate of the State University of New York at Albany, and Albany Medical College, and served in the Army. As part of his medical training, Leibowitz studied neurology, neuropathology, and neuroradiology at National Hospital for Neurologic Diseases at Queen Square in London England. During this time, he participated in the first preclinical studies of the CAT scanner, that involved large animals from London’s the Regent Park Zoo.

Leibowitz began his medical practice in New Jersey, before moving to Pittsfield, where he has lived since 1973. He established and maintained the first combined neurosurgery-neurology practice in Massachusetts.

He is an instructor in neurosurgery at Albany Medical College and currently serves as a professor of neurosurgery at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He is past president of the Massachusetts Neurosurgical Society and the New England Neurosurgical Society, and a former member of the Joint Council of State Neurosurgical Societies.
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