HuffPo Editorial Director to Deliver Keynote at 216th Commencement Ceremony

Created: April 22, 2015  |  Last Updated: July 14, 2020  |  Category:   |  Tagged:

*Commencement details, including dates and times, information about local accommodations and restaurants, special needs, parking and travel advisories, is available at

WASHINGTON, PA (April 22, 2015) — More than 300 Presidents will graduate from Washington & Jefferson College (W&J) on May 16, 2015 at the institution’s 216th commencement ceremony.

Commencement will be held on the Olin Fine Arts Center lawn of the W&J campus at 10 a.m. and will be streamed live via the College’s website at The feed will be active 30 minutes before the ceremony.

Howard Fineman, an award winning journalist currently serving as the Global Editorial Director of the AOL Huffington Post Media Group, will give the keynote address.

On May 15, the evening prior to commencement, the Baccalaureate service will be held at 6 p.m. at Church of the Covenant on Beau Street in Washington, Pa. The Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, 26th Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, will be the keynote speaker at this service.

Fineman and Jefferts Schori each will receive honorary degrees from W&J, as will Tony and Grammy award-winner and Pittsburgh native Billy Porter, and distinguished civil rights activist Thomas Gaither, Ph.D.

One of the nation’s leading political journalists, Fineman’s career has been filled with milestones and awards. A Pittsburgh native, Fineman began his career at the Louisville Courier-Journal in 1973, joining the Newsweek Washington Office in Washington, D.C. in 1980. He was named Chief Political Correspondent in 1984, and has interviewed every major presidential candidate since that time. He became the Deputy Washington Bureau Chief in 1993 and Senior Editor in 1995. His work includes the widely recognized November 2001 Newsweek Cover story featuring the first extensive interview since Sept. 11, 2001 with George W. Bush and the “Bush and God” series, which won the 2003 National Magazine Award for General Excellence. Fineman’s reporting helped Newsweek win honors from the Magazine Publishers Association and the American Journalism Review. He began his post as Editorial Director of the AOL Huffington Post Media Group in 2010, and was named Global Editorial Director in 2015. Fineman has traveled to more than 40 countries, reported from 49 of the 50 states, and authored the best-selling book, “The Thirteen American Arguments.” His expertise is widely sought and he regularly offers his political analysis on major news and public affairs television shows. A Phi Beta Kappa scholar, Fineman holds a Bachelor of Arts from Colgate University, a Master of Science in Journalism from Columbia University and a Juris Doctorate from the University of Louisville. He will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from W&J.

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori is chief pastor to the Episcopal Church’s 2.1 million members in 17 countries and 108 dioceses, ecumenical officer, and primate, joining leaders of the other 38 Anglican Provinces in consultation for global good and reconciliation. Elected in June 2006 for a nine year term, Jefferts Schori’s current term will end on November 1, 2015. Previously elected as the 9th Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Nevada, she is the first woman elected as a primate in the Anglican Communion. A trained oceanographer, Jefferts Schori holds a B.S. in biology from Stanford University, an M.S. and Ph.D. in oceanography from Oregon State University, and a M.Div. from Church Divinity School of the Pacific. She was ordained into the priesthood in 1994. She was elected Bishop of the Diocese of Nevada in 2000 and ordained to the episcopate in February 2001. At the time of her election she was a priest, university lecturer and hospice chaplain in Oregon. Jefferts Schori is also an active, instrument-rated pilot. She will receive an honorary Doctor of Divinity from W&J.

W&J will present an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts to Billy Porter, a Tony and Grammy award-winning singer, composer, actor, playwright and director from Pittsburgh, Pa. Known for his powerhouse performances and creative presence, Porter made his name on Broadway before pursuing a solo career as a singer and making his directorial and writing debuts. Some of Porter’s more recognized performances have included “Teen Angel” in the original 1994 cast of Grease!, Belize in Signature Theatre Company’s 20th Anniversary production of Tony Kushner’s Angels in America, and for the original role of “Lola” in Kinky Boots. Porter won the 2013 Tony Award for Best Actor, a 2013 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theatre Album, and the 2013 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actor in a musical for his performance in Kinky Boots. Porter was also nominated for a 2005 GLAAD Media Award for his one-man show, Ghetto Superstar: The Man That I Am, and is the NAACP Theatre Award winner for Best Direction of a Musical for his production of Once on This Island at Reprise Theatre Company. Porter graduated from Carnegie Mellon with a bachelor of fine arts and holds a certification from The Professional Program in Screenwriting at UCLA.

Thomas Gaither, Ph.D., is a civil rights activist and retired Slippery Rock University professor of Biology/Botany. Gaither grew up in Great Falls, SC and as a young man engaged in key portions of the non-violent civil rights movement. In 1961, while serving as the field secretary for the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), he and eight students of Rock Hill’s Junior College commemorated the one-year anniversary of the Greensboro sit-ins by ordering hamburgers and sitting down at the whites-only lunch counter of McCrory’s variety store in Rock Hill, SC. Within seconds of sitting the group was arrested. Convicted of trespassing, the group, known as the “Friendship Nine,” were sentenced to either pay a $100 fine or serve a month of labor at a prison camp. By mutual consent, they chose to not pay bail and support the faulty system that punished them. This choice began the “jail no bail” phase of the Civil Rights movement. This was the third time Gaither had been arrested for non-violent civil rights protests. Gaither, as a part of leadership of the movement, helped recruit and train Freedom Riders on non-violent reactions, arranged legal representation along the path, and sought community contacts through the NAACP and other groups. Gaither was eventually forced to leave the movement due to the draft and deferment of selective service. He received his bachelor of arts from Claflin University, master’s degree at Atlanta University, and Ph.D. from the University of Iowa. He will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws from W&J.

More information about the Baccalaureate service and commencement ceremony, as well as information about local accommodations and restaurants, special needs, parking and travel advisories, is available at


About Washington & Jefferson College

Washington & Jefferson College, located in Washington, Pa., is a selective liberal arts college founded in 1781. Committed to providing each of its students with the highest-quality undergraduate education available, W&J offers a traditional arts and sciences curriculum emphasizing interdisciplinary study and independent study work.