Talk Show Host Michael Smerconish to Deliver 2024 Dickinson Commencement Address

Portrait of Micahel Smerconish

Michael Smerconish

Dickinson Announces 2024 Commencement Speaker, Honorees

Michael Smerconish, political commentator, author and lawyer, known for his eponymous programs on SiriusXM and CNN, will deliver Dickinson’s Commencement address on Sunday, May 19. He will also receive a Doctor of Public Affairs honorary degree. Fellow honorary degree recipients are five-time Grammy® Award-winning soprano and recent Kennedy Honors recipient Renée Fleming; David Thornburgh, a nationally recognized “civic entrepreneur,” senior advisor to the committee of seventy and chair of Ballot PA; and civil rights activists Judith Rogers '65 and Maureen Newton Hayes '65, who were the first to integrate the college’s women’s residence halls.

Commencement will also include the traditional presentation of the Sam Rose ’58 and Julie Walters Prize for Global Environmental Activism. This year’s recipient is accomplished atmospheric scientist and advocate Katharine Hayhoe. She is the chief scientist for The Nature Conservancy, a distinguished professor and endowed chair at Texas Tech University and a United Nations Champion of the Earth. Hayhoe will accept the award during the Commencement ceremony.

Michael Smerconish 
Doctor of Public Affairs 

Michael Smerconish is the host of a daily radio program heard nationwide on SiriusXM’s POTUS channel from 9 a.m.–noon ET. He is also the host of CNN’s “Smerconish,” which airs Saturdays at 9 a.m. ET. 

He was a longtime newspaper columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News and Sunday Philadelphia Inquirer, and his columns were routinely re-printed in newspapers across the country.

His website offers news and information from multiple points of view and calls itself a “home base for non-ideological thinking. Here, independent viewpoints not tethered to partisan perspective are welcomed and showcased.” Smerconish continues: “Never before have we had so much choice in where we get our news and information, but so few take advantage of their access to diverse perspectives.” Smerconish also authors a daily newsletter from

Ad Fontes Media, known for its Media Bias Chart, rates Smerconish’s programs among the most unbiased outlets for political analysis and commentary in the country. Trade publication Talkers magazine named him one of America’s most important talk show hosts.

Smerconish is the author of seven books. He has donated all of the proceeds for four of them to charity. One was a novel, TALK, for which the television rights were optioned by Warner Brothers. His latest book is titled: Clowns to the Left of Me, Jokers to the Right: American Life in Columns.

His one-man, live performance, “Things I Wish Knew Before I Started Talking” debuted on Hulu and is currently streaming on Amazon, Apple and Google.   

Smerconish became involved in politics early in his life, and at age 29, he was appointed by President George H.W. Bush as the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s regional administrator for an area covering five states and the District of Columbia.

He is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Lehigh University and the University of Pennsylvania Law School, and he resides in the Philadelphia suburbs where he and his wife have raised four children. 

Renée Fleming. Photo by Andrew Eccles.

Renée Fleming. Photo by Andrew Eccles.

Renée Fleming 
Doctor of Music 

Renée Fleming is one of the most highly acclaimed singers of our time, performing on the stages of the world’s great opera houses and concert halls. Honored with five Grammy® Awards and the U.S. National Medal of Arts, Fleming has sung for momentous occasions from the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony to the Diamond Jubilee Concert for Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace. Fleming is among the artists celebrated at the 2023 Kennedy Center Honors, recognizing her lifetime of achievement in artistry, advocacy and leadership. Last May, the World Health Organization appointed her as a Goodwill Ambassador for Arts and Health. In 2014, Fleming became the first classical artist ever to sing the National Anthem at the Super Bowl. A ground-breaking distinction came in 2008 when she became the first woman in the 125-year history of the Metropolitan Opera to solo headline an opening night gala. The Washington Post calls her “one of the most influential musicians of her time as well as a powerful advocate for the healing powers of music.”

Fleming’s latest recital and concert program, Voice of Nature: the Anthropocene, inspired by her 2023 Grammy Award-winning album, includes an original film created by the National Geographic Society to reflect the musical selections. Her current concert calendar includes appearances in London, Vienna, Milan, Los Angeles, and at Carnegie Hall. In May at the Metropolitan Opera, she is reprising her role in The Hours, an opera which premiered last year, based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel and award-winning film. In 2023, she portrayed Pat Nixon in Nixon in China at the Opéra de Paris, and she starred in a pair of IMAX films, Renée Fleming’s Cities That Sing, highlighting the music of Paris and Venice, respectively, with performances and visits to notable locations.

Fleming’s anthology, Music and Mind: Harnessing the Arts for Health and Wellness, is being published this spring by Penguin Random House. A prominent advocate for research at the intersection of arts, health, and neuroscience, as Artistic Advisor to the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Fleming launched the first ongoing collaboration between America’s national cultural center and its largest health research institute, the National Institutes of Health. She created her own program called Music and the Mind, which she has presented in more than 50 cities around the world, earning Research!America’s 2020 Isadore Rosenfeld Award for Impact on Public Opinion. In 2020, Fleming launched Music and Mind LIVE, a weekly web show exploring the connections between arts, human health, and the brain, amassing nearly 700,000 views, from 70 countries. She is now an advisor for major initiatives in this field, including the Sound Health Network at the University of California San Francisco and the NeuroArts Blueprint at Johns Hopkins University.

Fleming has recorded everything from complete operas and song recitals to indie rock and jazz. In 2023 she received the Grammy Award for Best Classical Vocal Solo for her album Voice of Nature: The Anthropocene, with Yannick Nézet-Seguin as pianist. The same year, Decca released a special double-length album of live recordings from her iconic performances at the Metropolitan Opera, Renée Fleming: Greatest Moments at the Met. Known for bringing new audiences to classical music and opera, Fleming has sung not only with Luciano Pavarotti and Andrea Bocelli, but also with Elton John, Paul Simon, Sting, Josh Groban, and Joan Baez. She has hosted a variety of television and radio broadcasts, including the Metropolitan Opera’s Live in HD series and Live From Lincoln Center. Fleming’s voice is featured on the soundtracks of Best Picture Oscar winners The Shape of Water and The Lord of the Rings.

Fleming’s first book, The Inner Voice, was published by Viking Penguin in 2004 and is now in its 16th printing. It is also published in France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, Poland, Russia and China. Co-Artistic Director of the Aspen Opera Center and VocalArts at the Aspen Music Festival and School, Fleming is also Advisor for Special Projects at LA Opera, and she leads SongStudio at Carnegie Hall. Her other awards include the 2023 Crystal Award from the World Economic Forum in Davos, the Fulbright Lifetime Achievement Medal, Germany’s Cross of the Order of Merit, Sweden’s Polar Music Prize, and France’s Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur.

David Thornburgh

David Thornburgh

David Thornburgh 
Doctor of Public Policy 

David Thornburgh is senior advisor to the Committee of Seventy and chair of Ballot PA, a campaign created by the organization to repeal closed primaries in Pennsylvania and allow the state’s 1.2 million independent voters to vote in every election. He is also a professor of practice in Temple University’s Master of Public Policy program.

Thornburgh is a nationally recognized “civic entrepreneur” who throughout his career has created and led high-impact initiatives to promote economic development and good government in Pennsylvania and around the country.

He served as president and CEO of the Committee of Seventy from November 2014 to January 2022. Seventy is Pennsylvania’s oldest and largest good-government group. Over the years, Seventy has championed measures to limit the influence of money in politics, make government more accountable and transparent, and educate and engage citizens in the political process. In that vein, Thornburgh was co-founder and Chair of Seventy’s signature Draw the Lines PA initiative, which in the 2021 redistricting cycle enlisted more than 7,200 Pennsylvanians in drawing their own congressional maps and advocating for more citizen engagement in the redistricting process. The Citizens’ Congressional Map produced from that work was one of the 13 final maps reviewed by the PA Supreme Court. Recognizing his leadership on the redistricting issue, then-Governor Tom Wolf appointed him chair of the Pennsylvania Redistricting Reform Commission in 2019.

Thornburgh came to Seventy from the University of Pennsylvania’s Fels Institute of Government, where he served as executive director for almost seven years. While at Fels he doubled applications to the program, created an annual national Public Policy Challenge student competition in partnership with Governing magazine that drew teams from 12 top universities, and launched an innovative hybrid Executive MPA program.

Thornburgh served as executive director of the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia from 1994-2006 where, under his leadership, the League became one of the nation’s best regional “think and do tanks.” There he co-founded Graduate! Philadelphia, an innovative approach to encourage adults to come back to college to complete their degree. It has since been replicated in dozens of communities across the country. He also co-founded Campus Philly, an organization dedicated to increasing the magnetic pull of the Philadelphia region for college students and young college graduates, as well as the Greater Philadelphia Leadership Exchange, an annual learning opportunity for regional leaders to visit and learn from their peers in another region.

From 1988-94 he served as director of the Wharton Small Business Development Center, the consulting and training arm of The Wharton School’s Entrepreneurial Center, where he founded The Enterprise Center, a nationally recognized business accelerator serving minority businesses, and co-founded the Philadelphia 100, an annual celebration of the region’s fastest growing privately held companies.

Thornburgh received several awards for his professional and civic leadership. In 2006 he was recognized as one of the 101 most trusted and respected civic “connectors” in the Philadelphia area by LEADERSHIP Philadelphia. In 2000, he was awarded an Eisenhower Fellowship and traveled to Australia and New Zealand to learn about entrepreneurial development and public management in those countries. In 1991 he was named one of 40 Under 40 leaders by the Philadelphia Business Journal, and in 2017 he was named one of City and State PA’s 50 Over 50 influential public leaders in the Commonwealth.

An avid reader of history and political biographies, he has also taught graduate and undergraduate courses in politics, leadership, and economic development at the University of Pennsylvania, Temple University, Drexel University and Franklin & Marshall College. He has written opinion pieces for the Philadelphia Inquirer, Politico, Real Clear Politics and CNN, among others, and has appeared frequently in local and national media. He is an accomplished keynote speaker and has moderated and participated in dozens of panel discussions and roundtables on a variety of public policy issues.

He is the second son of Dick Thornburgh, who served with distinction as Governor of Pennsylvania from 1979-87 and U.S. Attorney General from 1989-91, and Ginny Thornburgh, a lifelong advocate for people with disabilities.


Judith Rogers ’65

Judith Rogers ’65


Judith Rogers ’65 & Maureen Newton Hayes ’65
Doctor of Humane Letters 

Judith Rogers and Maureen Newton began their studies at Dickinson College in 1961, during an era of tremendous racial, social and political strife. While not the first African American women granted admission to and ultimately graduating from Dickinson, they were the first to integrate the women’s residence halls. As such, and because of their pioneering volunteer work, they helped create the diverse campus we know today.

While Rogers and Newton (now Newton Hayes) enjoyed their academic experiences, life on campus and in the borough of Carlisle was difficult, given the looming specters of racism and segregation. Some parents of white students expressed concerns about their daughters rooming with Rogers or Newton Hayes and did not want them using the same restroom facilities as their children. The pair recalled being assailed with demeaning names in Carlisle and denied service at a local diner. The Dickinson School of Law represented Rogers in a suit against the diner and the pair went on to desegregate the community’s restaurants.

Maureen Newton Hayes.

Maureen Newton Hayes ’65

By persevering, these young civil-rights champions set Dickinson—and the local community—on a trajectory toward greater equity, justice and inclusion.

Rogers, the daughter of a World War II veteran, came to Dickinson from her home in New Jersey, spurred by family and mentors to “open doors for other Black girls.” She formed a local chapter of the civil rights group CORE (Congress of Racial Equality), where she trained people to participate in civil rights protests. She also organized Project Africa, raising funds for students to travel to Sierra Leone through Operation Crossroads Africa, an intercultural and service opportunity. As a result, in summer 1963, she joined other American, Canadian and African college students to help build a boys’ school dormitory in Sierra Leone (three more Dickinson students participated the following year). She was also appointed by the faculty to serve as an upper-class counselor in a first-year women’s dormitory—the first Black student to serve in this role.

“Dickinson was a life-changing experience that prepared me for a life of service and led me to become a citizen of the world,” Rogers said.

As an undergrad, Newton Hayes, a Philadelphia native, managed Dickinson’s yearbook, The Microcosm, and broke barriers as the first woman in the college’s chapter of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, the first Black woman in Phi Delta Epsilon, and the first Black woman in Wheel and Chain. Together with Rogers, Newton Hayes led a Brownie troop for local Black girls, preparing them for an integrated Girl Scouts experience.

Their postgraduation lives were also impactful.

After graduating with honors in sociology and a minor in English, Rogers spent two months in Singapore, representing the U.S. Youth Council; earned a Master of Social Work from New York University; and enjoyed a long and successful career helping vulnerable people, especially children and adolescents, as a licensed clinical social worker. After 25 years at Harlem Hospital’s Department of Psychiatry, she continued to teach psychiatry residents in her retirement. She was named Social Worker of the Year in New York City in 2001, served as mental health consultant for Headstart programs and made many presentations at conferences in America and South Africa. Rogers co-founded Nah We Yone and Telem, providing services to African displaced persons, refugees and asylum-seekers in New York City, where she resides close to her son and his family. She serves on the board of directors for Dances for a Variable Population, a dance organization for seniors, and she participates in the book ministry and grief ministry at Abyssinian Baptist Church.

Newton Hayes graduated with a biology major and a minor in chemistry. After studying at Women’s Medical College in Philadelphia, she launched her career as an analytical chemist and the first Black woman employed by Atlantic Richfield. Pausing her career to raise two children, she returned to the workplace as the first Black woman pharmaceutical salesperson at Hoffman-LaRoche, Philadelphia. Newton Hayes also worked in medical-supply sales, as a recruiter for scientific and technical positions and in management at an emergency-room billing company. She was the founder and president of Athena Personal Concierge Services, LLC, and she founded an organizing business, Straighten Up.

Active in her church, Newton Hayes also volunteers for Vanguard Theater, a food pantry and a book drive. She resides in the New York City area, close to her grandchildren, and volunteers for their school. Currently, she’s secretary of the local high-school PTA.

“Life after Dickinson has been adventurous and rich,” Newton Hayes said. “I truly believe my education gave me a very broad view of the world, and I am grateful.”

Katharine Hayhoe 
2024 Rose-Walters Prize Recipient 

Katharine Hayhoe. Photo by Ashley Rodgers.

Katharine Hayhoe. Photo by Ashley Rodgers.

Katharine Hayhoe is an award-winning atmospheric scientist whose research focuses on understanding the impacts of climate change on people and the planet. Recognized as a United Nations Champion of the Earth, Hayhoe calls climate change “one of the most pressing issues we face today.”

Hayhoe is the chief scientist for The Nature Conservancy and holds the positions of Paul Whitfield Horn Distinguished Professor and the Political Science Endowed Chair in Public Policy and Public Law at Texas Tech University, where she is also an associate in the public health program of the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. She is the principal investigator for the U.S. Department of the Interior’s South-Central Climate Adaptation Science Center and the National Science Foundation’s Global Infrastructure Climate Network.

Hayhoe has served as a lead author for the Second, Third, and Fourth U.S. National Climate Assessments. Her work has resulted in more than 125 peer-reviewed papers, abstracts, and other publications. Her latest books, Saving Us: A Climate Scientist’s Case for Hope and Healing in a Divided World and Downscaling Techniques for High-Resolution Climate Projections: From Global Change to Local Impacts, were both released in 2021.

A woman of faith, Hayhoe is also well known for her work bridging the gap between scientists and Christians. She has been named by Christianity Today as one of their 50 Women to Watch and she serves as the World Evangelical Alliance’s Climate Ambassador. Hayhoe hosts the PBS digital series “Global Weirding: Climate, Politics and Religion.” Her husband, Andrew Farley, is a pastor, radio host and best-selling author of numerous popular Christian books. The couple co-wrote A Climate for Change: Global Warming Facts for Faith-Based Decisions. Hayhoe is also a co-founder of nonpartisan advocacy group Science Moms.

Hayhoe is a fellow of the American Geophysical Union and the American Scientific Affiliation, an honorary fellow of the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society, and an Oxfam Sister of the Planet. She has received the National Center for Science Education’s Friend of the Planet Award, the American Geophysical Union’s Climate Communication Prize and Ambassador Award, the Sierra Club’s Distinguished Service Award, the Stephen H. Schneider Climate Communication Award, and has been named to several lists including the TIME100 most influential people, Fortune 50 world’s greatest leaders, Foreign Policy’s 100 global thinkers, and Working Mother’s 50 influential moms. 

Hayhoe’s research currently focuses on establishing a scientific basis for assessing the regional to local-scale impacts of climate change on human systems and the natural environment. She analyzes observations, compares future scenarios, evaluates global and regional climate models, builds and assesses statistical downscaling models, and constantly strives to develop better ways of translating climate projections into information relevant to agriculture, ecosystems, energy, infrastructure, public health, and water resources.

In 1997, Hayhoe founded ATMOS Research, where she worked for many years to bridge the gap between scientists and stakeholders to provide relevant, state-of-the-art information on how climate change will affect people’s lives to a broad range of non-profit, industry and government clients.

Hayhoe holds a B.Sc. in physics from the University of Toronto and an M.S. and Ph.D. in atmospheric science from the University of Illinois.

Dickinson will welcome Hayhoe to campus for a residency during the 2024-25 academic year. During that time, she will meet with students, visit classes and participate in a public event.

She joins a distinguished group of prior winners of the Rose-Walters Prize, including award-winning actor and activist Mark Ruffalo; Pulitzer Prize-winning author Elizabeth Kolbert; Apple’s vice president of environment, policy and social initiatives and former EPA administrator Lisa Jackson; award-winning nature photographer James Balog; environmental and Indigenous-rights advocate Tara Houska; author and journalist Bill McKibben; Varshini Prakash, co-founder and executive director of Sunrise Movement; Brett Jenks, president and CEO of conservation group Rare; and Armond Cohen, founder and executive director of the Clean Air Task Force. Institutional winners of the Rose-Walters Prize include the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the Natural Resources Defense Council and Our Children’s Trust, the advocacy organization that represented 21 young plaintiffs in the landmark federal climate change lawsuit Juliana v. United States.


Published March 21, 2024