Commencement Speakers

May 17, 2010

On May 16, 2010, Smith College hosted political commentator, Rachel Maddow, as its 132nd Commencement speaker.  A question was asked earlier in the week: “Is Maddow the youngest Commencement speaker Smith has ever had?”  A little detective work came up with the answer: no, at 37 years old, Maddow is not the youngest.  That honor goes to the American philosopher and educational reformer, John Dewey, who appeared at Smith in 1890 at the ripe old age of 31.  Numerous others in their 30s have given Smith women Commencement advice, including:

1891:  Jacob G. Schurman, 37 y.o.

1894:  William DeWitt Hyde, 36 y.o.

1940:  W. H. Auden, 33 y.o.

1947:  Edward R. Murrow,  39 y.o.

1971:  Gloria Steinem, 37 y.o.

1987:  Garry Trudeau, 39 y.o.

The first woman to give a Commencement address at Smith was Virginia C. Gildersleeve, who in 1919 was the Dean of Barnard College, and 42 years old.  Gloria Steinem and Maddow are currently the reigning youngest women Commencement speakers at Smith.  The oldest speaker, you ask?  John Kenneth Galbraith, who gave the address in 1989.  He was 81 years old.

The College Archives sends best wishes to all of the new alumnae from the Class of 2010.  We got to know quite a number of you from class assignments, tea talks, history talks, and just plain saying ‘hello’–we know you’ll find that ‘glory’ that Maddow was talking about in your long lives ahead of you!

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