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MCLA Picks Alumnus & Former Leader as Commencement Speaker

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State Sen. Benjamin B. Downing and STEM educator Yvonne Spicer will also receive honorary degrees at commencement.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts will celebrate its 117th commencement exercises on Saturday, May 14, beginning at 11 a.m., in the Amsler Campus Center Gymnasium.

This year's keynote speaker will be James C. Clemmer, a veteran executive with more than 25 years of business experience and an alumnus, who served as interim president of MCLA from August 2015 until the arrival of the college's new President James F. Birge in March.

Clemmer will receive an honorary doctor of business.

In addition, state Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, D-Pittsfield, will receive an honorary doctor of public service, and Yvonne Spicer, vice president of Advocacy and Educational Partnerships for the National Center for Technological Literacy at the Museum of Science in Boston, will receive an honorary doctor of humanities.

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

MCLA Board of Trustees Chair Tyler Fairbank commended those who will be honored.

"We are grateful to Jim Clemmer for his leadership to MCLA. During his time as interim president he worked hand in hand with the board of trustees to keep the college moving forward and to ensure a quality public education that is accessible and affordable for residents of the Commonwealth, and beyond," Fairbank said. "As a legislator dedicated to the success of this region, Ben Downing has worked tirelessly on behalf of all who make the Berkshires our home.

"And, through her work to support precollege science, technology, engineering and math education through numerous educational organizations, Yvonne Spicer encourages youth throughout Massachusetts to prepare for and aspire to STEM careers."

As he begins his tenure at MCLA, Birge said he looks forward to being part of this year's commencement celebration. He is pleased to recognize Clemmer, Downing and Spicer with honorary degrees.

"We are honored to have James Clemmer with us, along with state Sen. Ben Downing and Dr. Yvonne Spicer," Birge said. "Their achievements and many contributions are both reflective of and inspiring to the members of the class of 2016, as they go on to use the knowledge and skills they have acquired at MCLA to solve complex problems and assume positions of responsibility within their communities. We look forward to hearing from Jim as this year's keynote speaker. Jim's successful career in business allowed him to return to MCLA and provide leadership to the campus during a time of transition."

Clemmer is a sits on the board of directors for Lantheus Holdings Inc. of North Billerica, the parent company of Lantheus Medical Imaging Inc., a global leader in developing, manufacturing, selling and distributing innovative diagnostic imaging agents and products.

He retired last year from Covidien plc in Mansfield, a multibillion dollar, global, medical device manufacturing company. Covidien merged last year with Medtronic Inc., one of the largest medical device manufacturing companies in the world, now Medtronic plc.

Clemmer most recently was president of Covidien's medical supplies segment, where he was responsible for managing operations and growth of a $2 billion global business, utilizing 15 manufacturing sites around the world.

During his 15-year tenure at Covidien, Clemmer served as group president of Kendall Healthcare and held several increasingly senior roles in marketing and general management within the SharpSafety and Critical Care divisions. He began his career in the medical device industry with Sage Products Inc. and joined Covidien as part of the Sage Products acquisition in 1999.

A 1986 graduate of the college, Clemmer earned a bachelor of science degree in business administration, and served on MCLA's board of trustees as its alumni representative from 2007 to August 2015, when he resigned from the board to act as the college's interim president.

Downing first was elected to the Massachusetts Senate in 2006 and has served five terms. He represents the 52 communities of the Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin and Hampden districts, the largest Senate district in the commonwealth.

He is Senate chairman of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy, which is tasked with reviewing all legislative matters concerning renewable and non-renewable energy sources. He also is the chairman of the Senate Committee on Redistricting.  

In addition, Downing serves as vice chairman of the Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development, and of the Senate Committee on Post Audit and Oversight. He has held multiple leadership posts throughout his tenure in the Senate including as chairman of the Public Service Committee (2007), the Senate Ethics and Rules Committee (2007-2008), the Revenue Committee (2009-2010), the Higher Education Committee (2010), the Senate Committee on Steering and Policy (2012) and the Senate Committee on Bills in the Third Reading (2013-2014).  

He is an active, ranking member of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, and serves on several other Senate and joint committees. Downing is a member of several legislative caucuses, and is co-chairman of the Gateway Cities Caucus and is an active participant of both the Regional Transit Authorities Caucus and the Regional Schools Caucus.

A Pittsfield native, Downing received his degree in political science from Providence College in 2003 and his master's from Tufts University's Department of Urban and Environment Policy and Planning. He does not plan to run for re-election this year.

Spicer is a national and international speaker and advocate for pre-college science, technology, engineering, and math education. She was honored in 2009 by "Mass High Tech: The Journal of New England Technology" as one of 10 "Women to Watch." Concerned by how many children in the United States are shut out of technology and engineering, Spicer makes the case for closing the underrepresented minority gap in engineering and school leadership.

With expertise in technology and engineering education standards development, assessment, and strategic school leadership, Spicer served on the technology and engineering steering committee for the frontrunner of the first national assessment for technology and engineering in the 2014 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Most recently, she served on the technology and engineering design team for the National Research Council (NRC) "Next Generation" Framework for Science Education, which was approved on July 19, 2011.

In January 2010, Spicer was appointed to the Massachusetts Governor's STEM Advisory Council as the co-chair of the council's teacher development committee. She was instrumental in establishing the 2001 Massachusetts technology/engineering curriculum framework with Ioannis (Yannis) Miaoulis, president and director of the Museum of Science. She also is an advisor to the National Governors Association.

In addition, Spicer advocates for the Museum's K-12 curricula, "Engineering is Elementary," "Building Math" and "Engineering the Future," and she directs the Gateway Project, which originated in Massachusetts and is being replicated across the country as a model to build leadership capacity for technological literacy.

Spicer earned her doctorate at the University of Massachusetts at Boston in 2004, when she focused her dissertation on how nine African-American female public school principals transformed their schools and thrived as educational leaders. She is the former director of career and technical education in Newton, and served as the statewide technology/engineering coordinator at the Mass. Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

She earned bachelor's and master's of science degrees in industrial arts and technology from the State University of New York at Oswego. A Brooklyn, N.Y., native, she is committed to improving opportunities for females and students of color in STEM fields.

For more information, go to  www.mcla.edu/commencement.


Tags: commencement,   graduation 2016,   MCLA,   

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