Agnes Scott College held its 121st Commencement on May 8, featuring remarks by former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and honorary degree recipient and Agnes Scott alumna Gay McDougall. Nearly 200 graduates received their diplomas at the ceremony. Albright encouraged grads to challenge conventional wisdom and be tenacious in their pursuit of truth.
“This mission begins with an important premise—that we don’t know everything there is to know,” Albright said. “The pursuit of truth in the 21st Century is truly a global one.”
“Don’t settle for an old or well-worn path,” she added.
Albright received an honorary degree from the college for her amazing achievements, both for women’s rights and human rights.
Albright was the 64th Secretary of State of the United States. As the first female to be named to that position, she became at that time, the highest ranking woman in the history of the U.S. government. As Secretary of State, Albright reinforced America’s alliances, advocated democracy and human rights and promoted American trade and business, labor and environmental standards abroad.
Albright is the Michael and Virginia Mortara Distinguished Professor of Diplomacy at the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service. She chairs both the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs and the Pew Global Attitudes Project and serves as president of the Truman Scholarship Foundation. She serves on the Board of Directors of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Board of Trustees for the Aspen Institute. In 2009, Albright was asked by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen to chair the Group of Experts on NATO’s New Strategic Concept.
McDougall was also presented with an honorary degree, recognizing her distinguished career as a world-renowned attorney and advocate for international human rights. McDougall, the United Nations’ Independent Expert on Minority Issues, delivered remarks to the graduates.
McDougall enrolled at Agnes Scott in 1965 as its first black student but transferred two years later. Since leaving Agnes Scott, McDougall has played a leading role in the international human rights movement.
“I want to thank President Kiss and Agnes Scott’s students of color for persuading me to return to Agnes Scott. This has really had a deep meaning for me,” McDougall said.
McDougall encouraged students to leverage their youthful passion and impatience as a group to affect real and lasting change.
“We all have the power to transcend and transform the historical moment in which we exist. And that kind of change is never achieved by one individual,” she said.
Active in anti-apartheid efforts during the 1980s, she was one of five international members (and the only American) to serve on South Africa’s 16-member Independent Electoral Commission. The goal to organize and administer that country's first post-apartheid elections was successful, and Nelson Mandela was elected president. She served as executive director of Global Rights from 1994 to 2006 and in 1999 received a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship for “innovative and highly effective” work toward the establishment of international human rights.
In 1998, McDougall was the first American ever elected to serve on the United Nations treaty body that oversees the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. She subsequently served as a special rapporteur to the United Nations on the issue of systematic rape, sexual slavery and slavery-like practices in armed conflict. In 2005, McDougall was named the first United Nations Independent Expert on Minority Issues. In 2006, she was named Distinguished Scholar in Residence at American University’s Washington College of Law.
Agnes Scott College educates women to think deeply, live honorably and engage the intellectual and social challenges of their times. Students are drawn to Agnes Scott by its excellent academic reputation, exceptional faculty and metropolitan Atlanta location – offering myriad cultural and experiential learning opportunities. A diverse and growing residential community of scholars, this highly selective liberal arts and sciences college is known for its dynamic and challenging intellectual community. Encouraging students to engage the wider world through study abroad and presenting its curriculum with international context, Agnes Scott College delivers on its promise: The World. For Women.