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McCullough, Chomsky
to speak at Commencement
(April 12, 1999)

Award-winning historian David McCullough will receive an honorary doctor of letters degree and speak at the undergraduate commencement exercises on May 15.

Commencement 1999

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"No one of this generation has done more to make American history and culture accessible to a wide audience than has David McCullough," says University President Philip E. Austin. "Through his efforts he has conveyed to millions of his fellow citizens a sense of their relationship with their nation's past."

McCullough received the Pulitzer Prize for Truman, his 1992 biography of the 33rd President of the United States. To millions of television viewers, he is perhaps best known as host of The American Experience on PBS, and narrator of Ken Burns' production of The Civil War and other PBS documentaries.

McCullough is also the author of Mornings on Horseback, a biography of the young Theodore Roosevelt; Brave Companions, a collection of essays on heroic figures past and present; and three works concerning humanity's relationship with the physical world - The Johnstown Flood, The Great Bridge (the story of the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge), and The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal 1870-1914.

"Through his books, as essayist, narrator of numerous television documentaries, and host of The American Experience on PBS, McCullough demonstrates the extraordinary capacity to tell complex stories in a manner that is as clear as it is compelling, mindful of his audience's need for detail but abundantly respectful of his readers' or viewers' intelligence," Austin says.

In addition to the Pulitzer Prize, McCullough is two-time winner of the National Book Award, two-time winner of the prestigious Francis Parkman Prize, and winner of an Emmy for his work on public television. He has also been honored with both the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters and the National Humanities Medal.

McCullough is president of the Society of American Historians and is one of the few private citizens ever invited to address the U.S. Congress. He has been honored with the Harry S. Truman Award for Service, a Guggenheim fellowship, and has been elected to membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has taught at Cornell University, Dartmouth College, and the Wesleyan University Writers Conference.

A native of Pittsburgh, McCullough graduated from Yale with honors in English literature in 1955.

Shortly after 3 p.m. Sunday, May 16, Noam Chomsky, an internationally renowned linguistics scholar and noted critic of American foreign policy, will deliver the keynote address to about 670 candidates for advanced degrees.

A long-time professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Chomsky revolutionized the field of linguistics, theorizing that language is the core property of the mind, and that even very young children can develop language skills without training.

But Chomsky's writings and speeches on international affairs and foreign policy are what brought Chomsky fame outside academe.

A noted critic of the Vietnam War, Chomsky has written dozens of books and articles on American involvement in overseas conflicts, including a recent piece in Z Magazine, an Internet-based publication, on the rhetoric surrounding U.S. involvement in Yugoslavia.

A native of Philadelphia, Chomsky received his bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees at the University of Pennsylvania. He has taught at MIT since 1955. He also served for three years as a visiting fellow at Harvard University, and is a much sought-after speaker.

In the morning of May 16, the Honorable Harry T. Edwards, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, will address about 200 candidates for master of law or J.D. degrees at the School of Law on Elizabeth Street in Hartford.

Appointed to the Court of Appeals by President Carter in 1980, Edwards was named chief judge in 1994.

The co-author of four books and author of scores of articles and booklets, Edwards also authored The Growing Distinction Between Legal Education and the Legal Profession, a 1992 article in the Michigan Law Review that sparked years of discussion and debate among legal scholars and practitioners.

And at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, May 20, more than 150 soon-to-be doctors and dentists will receive their diplomas and hear from Abraham Verghese, a professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in El Paso.

Born and raised in Ethiopia, Verghese is an expert on AIDS and HIV, and the author of My Own Country, a book describing his experiences as a doctor in Johnson City, Tenn., where he began working with AIDS and HIV patients - work that soon became almost his sole focus.

Gary Frank and Richard Veilleux