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March 25, 2009

MEDIA CONTACT: Tracy Schario
(202) 994-3566;



White House Chief of Staff TO BE GW's COMMENCEMENT SPEAKER on the National Mall


Rahm Emanuel, Esteemed Higher Education Advocate Jeanne Narum, and Internationally Renowned Sculptor John Safer to Receive Honorary Degrees


WASHINGTON - GW President Steven Knapp announced today the honorary degree recipients and speakers for the Commencement on the National Mall, May 17, 2009. Rahm Emanuel, chief of staff to President Barack Obama, will deliver the keynote address and receive an honorary Doctor of Public Service degree. Jeanne Narum, director of Project Kaleidoscope and the Independent Colleges Office, will receive a Doctor of Science, honoris causa. John Safer, B.A. '47, whose sculptures can be seen at public installations around the globe, will receive a Doctor of Fine Arts, honoris causa.


"These esteemed individuals were selected for this honor because they so clearly exemplify the University's ideals of excellence, leadership, and service," said Knapp. "They also demonstrate the diversity of academic interests pursued by this year's more than 5,000 GW graduates. I am especially grateful to the students, faculty, and staff on the Special Advisory Committee on Commencement Speakers for their role in identifying a nationally recognized leader as our keynote speaker."


Emanuel was selected as President Barack Obama's White House Chief of Staff two days after the historic election. He was first elected to Congress in 2002 and led the Democratic party's effort to successfully capture the majority in the House of Representatives in the 2006 elections as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC). He most recently served as chairman of the Democratic Caucus. Emanuel served as senior adviser for policy and strategy for President Clinton. He also worked as an investment banker at Wasserstein Perella (now Dresdner Kleinwort) where he was a managing director at the firm's Chicago office. He holds a bachelor's degree from Sarah Lawrence College and a master's degree from Northwestern University.


Narum's current endeavors focus on undergraduate education and creating the necessary infrastructure to promote learning in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines through Project Kaleidoscope (PKAL). PKAL is an informal alliance taking responsibility for shaping STEM learning environments that attract undergraduate students to STEM fields. She also is director of the Independent Colleges Office, which provides services for member institutions to be competitive in the search for grants from federal agencies for faculty, as well as curriculum development and institutional renewal. She holds five honorary degrees and a Bachelor of Music degree from St. Olaf College.


Safer's career spans art, politics, real estate, and banking. The New York Times has compared Safer's position as a sculptor to that of Georgia O'Keeffe as a painter and Ansel Adams as a photographer. His works can be viewed in more than 1,000 private collections and public sites and have been exhibited in museums, galleries, and embassies. Ascent, a 75-foot-tall work, stands at the entrance of the Smithsonian's Udvar-Hazy Center of the National Air and Space Museum. Safer is the owner of the real estate development firm John Safer Properties. He was chairman of the board of directors for NationsBank and Materia, Inc. and chairman, executive committee, for Financial General Bankshares. He is a member of the board of directors for the Smithsonian Institution, National Air & Space Museum; The Shakespeare Guild; and The Scripps Research Institute. His degrees include: B.A. from GW, LL.B. from Harvard Law School, Doctor of Letters degree from Lees-McRae College, and Ph.D. from Daniel Webster College.


In the heart of the nation's capital, The George Washington University was created by an Act of Congress in 1821. Today, GW is the largest institution of higher education in the District of Columbia. The University offers comprehensive programs of undergraduate and graduate liberal arts study, as well as degree programs in medicine, public health, law, engineering, education, business, and international affairs. Each year, GW enrolls a diverse population of undergraduate, graduate, and professional students from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and more than 130 countries.



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