Global and Local Changemakers to be Honored at this Year’s Commencement

Rhiannon Giddens ’00, Nancy Dandridge Cooper ’51, MA ’54, Kathryn Anastos ’75, and John Gates, MAT ’72 and Linda Gates, MAT ’65 to be Awarded Honorary Degrees

May 20, 2024

Communications Staff

Student looks at the stage during graduation ceremony
Class of 2023 graduation exercises.
Photo credit: Kadrian Hinton

A physician who works to advance HIV and AIDS research and treatment; a couple dedicated to serving the Oberlin community; and a cofounder of the college’s first co-op will all be honored during this year’s Commencement exercises.


Before singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Rhiannon Giddens ’00 presents the keynote address on May 27 to 660 members of the graduating class, she will be presented with the Honorary Doctor of Music in recognition of her contributions to American musical history and advocacy for a more accurate understanding of the country’s musical origins through art. Joining Giddens on stage for honorary degree recognition are Nancy Dandridge Cooper ’51, MA ’54,  Dr. Kathryn Anastos ’75, and John Gates, MAT ’72 and Linda Gates, MAT ’65.


Dr. Kathryn Anastos ’75

Older woman Anastos will be awarded the Honorary Doctor of Science for her work in advancing HIV and AIDS research and treatment on a global and local scale. For more than 40 years, she’s provided primary medical care for persons living with HIV in the Bronx, New York. Anastos also has 30 years of experience conducting research to improve the lives of persons with HIV, especially women. Accordingly, she’s served as principal investigator of the New York City/Bronx Consortium of the Women's Interagency HIV Study (WIHS) since it launched in 1993. Anastos also builds local research capacity and leads research related to HIV and HIV-related cancers in several countries in Africa. Anastos serves as professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the departments of medicine; epidemiology and public health; and obstetrics, gynecology, and women’s health. Anatos majored in psychobiology at Oberlin.

Nancy Dandridge Cooper ’51, MA ’54 

Woman posed in a rocking chairDandridge Cooper will be awarded the Alumni Medal for her dedication to service to Oberlin College. As a student, the sociology major and Phi Beta Kappa member was one of the cofounders of the first Oberlin co-op, Pyle Inn before beginning a career at the college  that stretched more than 40 years. Her contributions to students, faculty, and staff endure to this day, but she is proudest of her work on the formation of the Status of Women Committee. For 10 years, Dandridge Cooper served as chair of and a mediator on the committee, which was instrumental in mapping out a clear grievance procedure for sexual harassment reporting, increasing maternity leave benefits, and working on equity issues for adjunct faculty—the majority of them women—to ensure they were offered health benefits as part of their employment. Dandridge Cooper also created Oberlin’s Parents Program and served as the organization’s director for 35 years, among her many other forms of service.

John Gates, MAT ’72, and Linda Gates, MAT ’65

A man and woman posed togetherJohn and Linda Gates will be presented with the Award for Distinguished Service to the Community. Linda joined the Office of Student Life at Oberlin in 1989, retiring in 2011 after serving seven years as dean of students. Meanwhile, John taught in local elementary schools for 17 years, was principal of Oberlin’s Prospect Elementary School for three years, and retired from public school administration in 2000. In the 1980s, John and Linda were members of the Oberlin Overground Railroad Coalition, a local interfaith organization that hosted 25 refugees from El Salvador and Guatemala who were securing political asylum in Canada. In 1997, John and Linda became founding members of the Santa Elena Project of Accompaniment, an organization formed to support Guatemalan refugees returning to their native Guatemala after fleeing Mexico during the civil war. From 2000 to 2012, John organized and led Winter Term trips with Oberlin College students to Guatemala. This work with refugees led to John and Linda’s involvement with the Oberlin Community Supporting Immigrants, which supports immigrants resettling in Lorain County by expanding access to legal services, housing, employment, health care, and education.

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