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Retired admiral to deliver Hamilton College Commencement

Posted 3/14/23

Retired Navy Adm. Michelle J. Howard will deliver Hamilton College’s 2023 Commencement address and receive an honorary degree on Sunday, May 21.

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Retired admiral to deliver Hamilton College Commencement


CLINTON — Retired Navy Adm. Michelle J. Howard will deliver Hamilton College’s 2023 Commencement address and receive an honorary degree on Sunday, May 21, at 10:30 a.m., in the Margaret Bundy Scott Field House.

Howard chaired the 2020-22 Congressional Naming Commission that identified and made recommendations to remove, rename, or modify Department of Defense assets that commemorated the Confederacy or those who voluntarily served it.

In addition to Howard, an honorary degree will be awarded to Hamilton alumnus Evan Smith, a senior advisor at Emerson Collective, where he advises local news non-profits around the country and advocates for strengthening democracy by informing communities.  

Smith will offer the Baccalaureate Address on Saturday, May 20, at 3 p.m., in the Scott Field House. A class of 503 students are expected to receive bachelor’s degrees during Hamilton’s commencement ceremony. 

Michelle J. Howard

A graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Howard served 35 years in the U.S. Navy. She led sailors and Marines multiple times in her career as the commander of a ship, an expeditionary strike group, task force, and a Naval theater. Her last command was from 2016-17 as U.S. Naval Forces Europe and U.S. Naval Forces Africa.

She simultaneously led NATO’s Allied Joint Force Command Naples with oversight of missions from the Western Balkans to Iraq. Operations in her career include NATO peacekeeping, West African training cruise, Indonesia tsunami relief operations, and the rescue of Maersk Alabama from Somali pirates. Howard is a Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran.

In 1999, Howard became the first African American woman to command a ship in the U.S. Navy. In 2014, she was the first woman to become a Navy four-star admiral and the first woman appointed to the position of vice chief of Naval Operations (number two in a military service). She is the first African American woman to reach the rank of three-stars and four-stars in the Armed Forces.

Howard served as the Shapiro Visiting Professor at the Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University, where she taught courses on cyber and policy from 2018-20. She is on the Board of Directors of the Stimson Center, a leading foreign affairs think tank promoting international security and shared prosperity through applied research and global engagement; the board of IBM; and an advisory panel to the U.S. Institute of Peace.

Evan Smith

In addition to his work at the Emerson Collective, Smith is a senior advisor at The Texas Tribune, the pioneering non-profit digital news organization he co-founded in 2009 and led for more than 13 years as CEO. Previously he spent 18 years at Texas Monthly, including nine years as the magazine’s editor-in-chief and a year as its president.

Smith hosts “Overheard with Evan Smith,” a weekly half-hour interview program that airs on PBS. Over 17 seasons, his guests have included Presidents Obama and Bush, Walter Cronkite, Isabella Rossellini, Roger Clemens, Amy Tan, Jeff Tweedy, Gloria Steinem, and Sonya Sotomayor.

A native of New York, he graduated from Hamilton in 1987 with a bachelor’s of arts degree in public policy and the following year earned a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University’s Medill School, which inducted him into its Hall of Achievement in 2006.


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