Emory Report
March 6, 2006
Volume 58, Number 22


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March 6 , 2006
CDF founder named as commencement keynote speaker

BY beverly clark

PChildren’s Defense Fund founder and president Marian Wright Edelman will deliver the keynote address at Emory’s 161st Commencement on May 15, and will receive an honorary doctor of humane letters degree.

Two other individuals will be awarded honorary degrees: public interest attorney Stephen Bright, president of the Southern Center for Human Rights, and art historian and archeologist Dietrich von Bothmer, distinguished research curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

“These three extraordinary individuals exemplify Emory’s commitment to creating positive change in the world, and we are honored to recognize them for their achievements as we celebrate the Class of 2006,” said President Jim Wagner.

Edelman has been an advocate for disadvantaged Americans her entire professional life. Under her leadership, the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) has become one of the nation’s strongest voices for children and families.

“Mrs. Edelman has been high on Emory’s list of potential speakers for a long time,” Wagner said. “Her ethical engagement in society, her commitment to education in a variety of arenas and her restlessness to achieve better communities for the children of our world resonate fully with Emory’s own vision.

In addition, she is a wonderfully inspiring speaker.”

A graduate of Spelman College and Yale Law School, Edelman began her career in the mid-1960s when, as the first black woman admitted to the Mississippi bar, she directed the NAACP legal defense and educational fund office in Jackson, Miss. In l968, she moved to Washington as counsel for the Poor People’s Campaign, which Martin Luther King Jr. helped begin. Edelman founded the Washington Research Project, a public
interest law firm and the parent body of CDF, which she formed in 1973.

In 2000, Edelman received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award, and the Robert F. Kennedy Lifetime Achievement Award for her writings. She is the author of eight books, including 2005’s I Can Make a Difference: A Treasury to Inspire Our Children.

Dietrich von Bothmer, considered by many to be the world’s leading archaeologist and historian of classical art, has served at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art in various roles since 1946. He is one of the remaining giants of a wave of German intellectuals who escaped pre-war Germany to build a career in America. Before obtaining U.S. citizenship, von Bothmer joined the U.S. Army and was assigned to the Pacific theater during World War II, where he was wounded and awarded the Bronze Star for gallantry.

Von Bothmer studied at the University of Chicago before completing his Ph.D. at the University of California at Berkeley in 1944. His scholarship focuses on the style, shape and iconography of Greek vases, and he is the author of 265 publications. In 1999, the Met named its two principal galleries of classical pottery the “Bothmer Gallery I” and the “Bothmer Gallery II” in his honor.

At Emory, von Bothmer has bolstered the Carlos Museum’s collections of Greek vase fragments with gifts from his personal collection, considered among the best in the world.

Stephen Bright is a nationally renowned public interest lawyer. A graduate of the University of Kentucky School of Law, Bright gave up a potentially lucrative practice to pursue public interest and social justice law, and has been an advocate for addressing flaws in the criminal justice system.

As director and president of the Atlanta-based Southern Center for Human Rights, Bright helps provide legal representation for people facing the death penalty and for prisoners challenging unconstitutional conditions in prisons and jails throughout the South. The Center also is engaged in efforts to improve access to lawyers and the legal system for poor people accused of crimes and in prison, and to bring about greater judicial independence.

In addition to serving as a trial attorney in capital cases since 1979, Bright regularly teaches law, social justice and the death penalty courses at Emory’s School of Law, as well as at Yale and Harvard universities. He also actively mentors Emory law students who take field placements at the center.

Bright previously has served as an attorney for the Public Defender Service in Washington and for the Appalachian Research and Defense Fund in Kentucky. He has received numerous awards for his work, including the John Minor Wisdom Professionalism and Public Service Award from the American Bar Association, and the Award for Leadership in Human Rights from Columbia University.