Two to Receive Honorary Degrees at 2020 Commencement

Environmentalist Bill McKibben will be awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters degree at Ithaca College’s 125th Commencement during a series of virtual ceremonies held August 2-5. Communications industry trailblazer and Ithaca College alumna Cindi Berger '83 will also be awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters degree and deliver the main address at the ceremonies.

Bill McKibben

Bill McKibben

photo by Nancie Battaglia

One of the nation’s leading environmentalists, Bill McKibben has helped shape public perception—and public action—on climate change, alternative energy, and the need for more localized economies.

His seminal 1989 book The End of Nature is regarded as the first book for a general audience about climate change. He is a cofounder and senior advisor at 350.org, the first planet-wide, grassroots climate change movement, which has organized thousands of rallies around the world, spearheaded the resistance to the Keystone Pipeline, and launched the fast-growing fossil fuel divestment movement. The organization takes its name from scientific data indicating that 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is the safe upper limit.

McKibben currently serves as the Schumann Distinguished Scholar in Environmental Studies at Middlebury College and as a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

In 2014, McKibben was honored with the Right Livelihood Award, often called the “alternative Nobel Prize.” His other honors include the Gandhi Peace Award, the Thomas Merton Award, and the Lannan Prize for nonfiction writing. He was named by Foreign Policy to its inaugural list of the world’s top 100 Global Thinkers, and Time magazine described him as “the world’s best green journalist.”

A former staff writer for the New Yorker, McKibben writes frequently for a wide variety of publications, including the New York Review of Books, National Geographic, and Rolling Stone. He lives in the mountains above Lake Champlain with his wife, the writer Sue Halpern. In 2014, biologists honored him by naming a new species of woodland gnat—Megophthalmidia mckibbeni—in his honor.

McKibben has spoken frequently at Ithaca College as part of Earth Day and Sustainability Week activities.

Cindi Berger ’83

Cindi Berger

A trailblazer within the communications industry, Cindi Berger is the chairman of international public relations and marketing firm R&C PMK, whose client roster features more than 400 of the most prominent and influential actors, musicians, producers, directors, content creators, and athletes, in addition to over 50 global brands.

After earning her BA degree in politics from the School of Humanities and Sciences in 1983, Berger started her entertainment career as a receptionist at PMK, rising through the ranks to serve as an assistant, account executive, vice president, managing director, and partner. In 2019, she played an instrumental role in PMK•BNC’s merger with Rogers & Cowan, bringing together Hollywood’s two largest public relations and entertainment marketing agencies, to form the preeminent creative communications agency in global entertainment.

A storytelling visionary, Berger has personally influenced some of the most groundbreaking campaigns and has helped launch and manage the careers of many of the biggest names in entertainment, sports, and media, including Robert Redford, Barbara Walters, Norah O’Donnell, Billie Jean King, Billy Crystal, Sharon Stone, Rosie O’Donnell, Sean Combs, DJ Khaled, and The Chicks. Additionally, she consults with Oprah Winfrey and her team on her book club and documentary series for Apple TV+.

Berger most recently returned to the Ithaca College campus in 2016 to moderate a Women’s History Month panel discussion sponsored by the Roy H. Park School of Communications, designed to shine a light on the underrepresentation of women in the industry as a whole while highlighting some of their accomplishments.

Among other honors, Berger is a recipient of the New York Women in Communications Matrix Award and New York Women in Film & Television Muse Award, and she is the first publicist to ever be included in Variety’s prestigious Women’s Impact List. She has also been recognized as one of New York’s 50 Most Powerful Women by the New York Post, one of the Top 50 Women Who Run New York by Gotham magazine, and in 2016 was honored with Adweek’s Advertising Working Mother of the Year Award.

She is a member of the International Alliance of Theatrical State Employees Publicists Guild and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and resides in New York with her husband and two children.