Chain Restaurant Chief to Speak at Williams Commencement
Clarence Otis, a 1977 graduate of Williams and chairman and CEO of Darden Restaurants, will also be conferred an honorary degree by President Morton O. Schapiro at the 220th commencement ceremonies, along with award-winning journalist Anne Garrels, famed astronaut Sen. John H. Glenn, best-selling author Tracy Kidder and multiplatinum singer/songwriter James Taylor, and Civil War historian James McPherson.
Garrels, senior foreign correspondent of National Public Radio, will be the baccalaureate speaker on Saturday, June 6.
Darden Restaurants is the world's largest full-service restaurant operating company. It employs nearly 180,000 people and serves 400 million meals annually in its Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Longhorn Steakhouse, The Capital Grille, Bahama Breeze and Seasons 52 restaurants.
Before joining Darden in 1995 as corporate treasurer, Otis was managing director and manager of public finance for Chemical Securities, Inc. (now JP Morgan Securities Inc.). He also worked for Siebert Municipal Capital Group, The First Boston Corp., and Kidder, Peabody & Company.
Otis earned a juris doctor degree from Stanford Law School and is a member of the New York Bar Association. He worked as a securities attorney in New York City for four years prior to beginning his career in financial services.
Born in Vicksburg, Miss., he grew up in Watts, Calif., at the height of the civil unrest of the 1960s. His family expected him to work hard in school and, as a standout student, he was encouraged to apply to Williams by Felix Grossman, a 1956 graduate, and recommended for a scholarship by a high school guidance counselor. He earned a bachelor's degree, magna cum laude, and was elected a member of the Phi Beta Kappa Society.
He is actively involved in a wide range of educational civic activities. He serves on the board of directors of The Association to Preserve the Eatonville Community Inc., a historic cultural preservation organization in central Florida that represents the nation's oldest incorporated African-American municipality.
In April 2007, Otis was presented with a Horatio Alger Award and inducted as a lifetime member of the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans. He is also an active member of the Executive Leadership Council, a professional network and forum for Fortune 500 black executives.
Her celebrated work on Iraq, which began during the Saddam Hussein regime in 2002 and continued as she led NPR coverage there until 2008. Her other postings have included Russia and other former Soviet republics, China, Saudi Arabia, Mongolia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Israel and the West Bank.
Garrels cut her journalistic teeth at ABC News; over the course of her 10 years there, she served as bureau chief for Moscow and Central America. She also was State Department correspondent for NBC News before joining NPR in 1988.
Garrels' journalism has won her numerous accolades, including the George Polk Award, the Courage in Journalism Award from the International Women's Media Foundation, the Alfred I. DuPont Columbia University Award, and the Overseas Press Club Award.
Listeners across the country continue to enjoy Garrels' reports on "All Things Considered," "Morning Edition," "Weekend Edition Saturday," "Weekend Edition Sunday," and "Day to Day."
She is currently a board member of the Committee to Protect Journalists. She received her B.A. from Harvard University in 1972.
Glenn attended Muskingum College in Ohio, where he received his private pilot's license at age 21, months before Pearl Harbor was bombed. He arrived at the Navy's pre-flight school in March 1942 and served in the Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force over the next decade, earning the nickname "MiG Mad Marine" for shooting down three enemy MiG jet fighters on a Korean War border patrol.
After returning from Korea in 1953, Glenn served for six years as a test pilot and rose to national fame, receiving the fifth of his six Distinguished Flying Crosses for completing the first transcontinental flight to average supersonic speed.
In 1959, he volunteered for Project Mercury, NASA's first manned space program, and made history as the third person and first American to orbit the earth in 1961.
Glenn was an executive with Crown Royal for a decade. Throughout his corporate career, he had been encouraged by Robert Kennedy to enter public service. His first Senate campaign in the 1964 hit a wall when he sustained a concussion in a fall but he won 10 years later. Throughout his tenure, the Democrat was known for working on legislation to restrict the proliferation of nuclear weapons around the world and address radioactive waste accumulations domestically.
Glenn teaches in the department of political science and the school of public policy and management at Ohio State University, where he also chairs the board of directors for the John Glenn Institute of Public Service and Public Policy.
He has written on topics as varied as railroads, energy, architecture, and the environment. His books include "House," "Among Schoolchildren," "Home Town," "Old Friends," "My Detachment: A Memoir," and perhaps his most famous book, "Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World."
"Mountains Beyond Mountains" follows Farmer's endeavors to improve international health care. The work depicts a modern-day hero who strives to help the needy, specifically focusing on treating HIV and tuberculosis in Haiti.
Kidder earned his bachelor's degree from Harvard University in 1967. The following year, he served as a lieutenant in the Vietnam War. He attended the University of Iowa, from which he received his master of fine arts and where he participated in the Writers' Workshop, a program known for its literary luster.
In 2009, McPherson was awarded the Lincoln Prize for the second time for his book "Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief." The award is given for the finest scholarly work on Abraham Lincoln or the American Civil War soldier. He won the award in 1998 for his book "For Cause and Comrades." His 1964 "The Struggle for Equality," received the Anisfield-Wolf Award, given to writers who have made important contributions to the understanding of racism and diversity.
In 2000, he was named the Jefferson Lecturer by the National Endowment for the Humanities. It is the highest honor the federal government confers for distinguished intellectual achievement in the humanities. In 2007, he became the first-ever recipient of the $100,000 Pritzker Military Library Literature Award for lifetime achievement in military history.
An avid preservationist, he has served on the boards of both the Civil War Trust and the Association for the Preservation of Civil War Sites. As president of Protect Historic America, he successfully opposed a plan to build a commercial historical theme park near Virginia's Manassas battlefield.
He earned his bachelor's degree from Gustavus Adolphus College and his doctorate from Johns Hopkins University.
The Berkshire resident's musical path began with cello lessons as a child in North Carolina. He soon switched to the guitar, and was playing in coffeehouses with aspiring guitarist Danny Kortchmar by age 15. He gained his first experience with the recording industry three years later with Kortchmar and the band The Flying Machine, which played material that Taylor had written.
Taylor became the first non-British act signed to the Beatle's Apple label. Two years later, Warner Brothers released his album "Sweet Baby James," which held the wildly popular single "Fire and Rain" and went triple-platinum.
The following year Taylor won the first of his five Grammy awards for "You've Got a Friend" and also saw him gracing the cover of Time magazine as a forerunner of "the singer/songwriter era."
In 1976, just eight years after releasing his first album, Taylor recorded his "Greatest Hits" album. It received the RIAA's diamond award and sold more than 11 million copies.
Recently, there have been a constant stream of accolades: Billboard magazine's 1998 Century Award, inductions into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriter's Hall of Fame in 2000, and a 2008 Emmy nomination for his CD/DVD "One Man Band."
Taylor is active in the environmental and political sphere. He served as a board member of the Natural Resources Defense Council for 25 years and has worked with several presidential and gubernatorial campaigns.