Ice cream magnate Jerry Greenfield has come quite a way since his $5 correspondence course in ice-cream making in 1976, and his success in cocreating a socially-conscious, multi-million dollar corporation is in part what led to the conferral of an honorary doctor of humanities degree during Commencement ceremonies in May.
Greenfield '73 is cofounder and vice chair of the board of directors of Ben & Jerry's Homemade Inc., and president of the Ben & Jerry's Foundation, which offers grants to organizations that address underlying conditions of social or environmental problems. He and partner Ben Cohen were named U.S. Small Business Persons of the Year in 1988, won the James Beard Humanitarians of the Year Award in 1993, and were recognized by the Peace Museum as the 1997 Community Peacemakers of the Year. The pair has authored two books, Ben & Jerry's Homemade Ice Cream & Dessert Book and Ben & Jerry's DoubleDip: Lead With Your Values and Make Money, Too.
Joining Greenfield at the podium was mezzosoprano Denyce Graves '85, who was presented with an honorary doctor of music degree. The former Oberlin student has sung the title role in Carmen in at least 15 productions, including the Metroplitan Opera's production in which she played opposite Placido Domingo, and Franco Zeffirelli's production for Arena di Verona. She has sung title or leading roles in operas and oratorios around the world, including performances at the Zurich Opera, Vienna State Opera, Israel Philharmonic, Spoleto Festival USA, and the Kennedy Center, and several of her performances have been broadcast on television and radio. Graves' many honors include the Marion Anderson Award and the Grand Prix Lyrique, and she has received endowed grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and from Opera America.
President Nany Dye, center, spends a lighthearted moment with honored guests (from left to right) Denyce Graves, Al McQueen, Jerry Greenfield, Damon Keith, and Francine Toss. Not pictured: F. Champion Ward.
The honorary doctor of humanities degree was conferred upon F. Champion Ward '32, an honorary trustee of Oberlin College. Ward began his teaching career at Denison University and the University of Chicago, where he also served as dean of the undergraduate college. He changed his career direction in the 1950s, working as an educational consultant to the governments of India, Turkey, Jordan, and Burma, and directing the Ford Foundation's Overseas Development Program for the Middle East and Africa. Later, he served as the foundation's deputy vice president for international programs, vice president for education and research, and senior advisor in education to the International Division.
Since his retirement in 1977, Ward has been an active consultant to many organizations, including the World Bank, the MacArthur Foundation, and the Association of American Universities. In the early 1980s, he served as chancellor and acting dean of the graduate faculty of the New School for Social Research. Ward is the father of Geoffrey Ward '62, and son of professor emeritus Clarence Ward.
Following his delivery of the Commencement address, Damon Keith, United States Court of Appeals judge for the Sixth Circuit since 1977, received an honorary doctor of law degree.
Keith, former chief judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, is most cited for his opinion, referred to as the Keith Decision, in United States v. Sinclair, a case involving illegal governmental wiretapping. He chaired or was a member of several committees relating to the bicentennial of the Constitution--posts to which he was appointed by Justice Warren Burger, Chief Justice William Rehnquist, and President George Bush. A graduate of West Virginia State College, Howard University School of Law, and Wayne State University, Keith has received more than 30 honorary degrees and numerous awards. His daughter is Gilda Keith '82.
The Distinguished Service to the Community Award was presented to Francine Toss '71, director of pupil services for the Oberlin Public Schools and champion of causes for school-aged youth since the beginning of her teaching career at Eastwood School in 1970. Her community activism is impressive: The Oberlin Community Services Council, Friends of the Oberlin Public Library, the Oberlin branch of the American Association of University Women, and Friends of Oberlin. As cochair of the Oberlin Interagency Council, the alumna helped to bring together nonprofit organizations, the city government, the schools, and Oberlin College to work toward an improved community. Toss is a coowner of the Carlyle Gift & Flower Shop, and has encouraged downtown merchant involvement in Heritage Days, the Easter Egg Hunt, and the annual holiday Friendship Tree lighting program.
Touching the lives of generations of Oberlin students is 1998 Alumni Mewdal recipient Albert J. McQueen '52 who, as a sociology professor at Oberlin from 1966 to 1992, helped develop the Black Studies Program (now the African-American Studies Program) and the first African-American House in Talcott Hall.
As a student at Oberlin, McQueen was a founder of cooperative housing on campus. The civil rights activist also helped to desegregate the city's barber shops and to pass a petition against a restaurant that favored white customers over black.
A frequent member of faculty councils and the Educational Plans and Policies Committee before his retirement, McQueen currently serves on the nominations committee of the Alumni Council. He has addressed alumni groups across the country, and was inducted last year into the African American Alumni/ae Committee's African-American Hall of Fame.