Ithaca College to Award Honorary Degrees

By Dave Maley, April 10, 2019
Educator and journalist Melissa Harris-Perry and City of Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick will be presented with degrees at May 19 Commencement ceremony.

Educator and journalist Melissa Harris-Perry and City of Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick will both be awarded honorary Doctor of Letters degrees at Ithaca College’s 124th Commencement on Sunday, May 19. As previously announced, national higher education leader Mildred García will also be awarded an honorary doctorate and deliver the main address at the ceremony.

In recommending approval by the Ithaca College Board of Trustees, President Shirley M. Collado called them a passionate and trailblazing group of nominees who have deeply impacted a wide range of fields.

“By granting honorary degrees to these individuals, Ithaca College is demonstrating our deep commitment to honoring leaders who use their talents, expertise and platforms to give voice to important issues and demonstrate the values our college seeks to exemplify,” said Collado.

For more than a decade, Harris-Perry has contributed to American public life through her distinct combination of scholarly analysis and ordinary wisdom applied to the issues of race, gender, politics and power. Currently the Maya Angelou Presidential Chair at Wake Forest University, she is also the founding director of the university’s Anna Julia Cooper Center, whose mission is to advance justice through intersectional scholarship. She founded and serves as director of the innovative bipartisan program Wake the Vote.

Harris-Perry is the author of the books “Barbershops, Bibles, and BET: Everyday Talk and Black Political Thought” and “Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America.” She serves as editor-at-large at and a contributing editor at The Nation, where her commitment to diversifying American journalism and mentoring emerging public voices led her to develop and implement innovative mentoring programs. From 2012–16 she hosted her own weekend show on MSNBC, for which she was awarded a 2016 Hillman Prize for Broadcast Journalism.

Harris-Perry previously served on the faculties of the University of Chicago, Princeton University and Tulane University. She received her B.A. degree in English from Wake Forest and her Ph.D. degree in political science from Duke University.

Sworn into office in January of 2012 at the age of 24, Svante Myrick became both the youngest mayor of the City of Ithaca and its first mayor of color. He had previously been elected to the city’s Common Council while still a junior at Cornell University. 

After being elected to a second four-year term, in 2016 Myrick released The Ithaca Plan: A Public Health and Safety Approach to Drugs and Drug Policy, which garnered international attention for its forward thinking. From turning his dedicated mayoral parking space into a public park to strengthening Ithaca’s status as a sanctuary city for refugees, he has demonstrated a progressive approach to governing.

Myrick has provided both local and national leadership in critical areas such as public health, housing, poverty and access to education. In 2017, he was awarded an Aspen Institute-Rodel Fellowship in Public Leadership, a program that identifies and brings together the nation’s most promising young political leaders to explore the underlying values and principles of democracy, the relationship between individuals and their community, and the responsibilities of public leadership.

His other honors include a John F. Kennedy New Frontier Award, which recognizes Americans under the age of 40 who are changing their communities and the country with their commitment to public service, and being named to the Forbes magazine “30 under 30” list in the area of law and policy.

Mildred García is currently president of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, representing nearly 400 institutions whose members share a learning and teaching–centered culture, a historic commitment to underserved student populations and a dedication to research and creativity that advances their regions’ economic progress and cultural development.

Prior to joining AASCU, García served as president of California State University, Fullerton, during which time it became number one in California and second in the nation in awarding bachelor’s degrees to Hispanics as well as sixth in the nation in graduating students of color. She had previously served as president of California State University, Dominguez Hills, becoming the first Latina president in the largest system of public higher education in the country.

“The committee recommended honorary degrees for the three nominees because their accomplishments in politics, education and communications embody values that resonate with students and are worth emulating,” said Warren Schlesinger, associate professor of accounting and chair of Ithaca College’s Honorary Degree Advisory Committee.