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Commencement 2014: Buffalo State to Confer Two SUNY Honorary Doctorates

Commencement 2014: Buffalo State to Confer Two SUNY Honorary Doctorates

Posted: May 15, 2014

Buffalo State and the State University of New York will bestow two SUNY honorary doctorates during the college’s 2014 Commencement ceremonies on Saturday, May 17.

The college will award SUNY honorary doctor of humane letters to Evelyn S. Lieberman, ’66, director of communications and external affairs, Smithsonian Institution, keynote speaker for the 10:00 a.m. undergraduate ceremony; and Arnold L. Mitchem, founder and president emeritus, Council for Opportunity in Education, keynote speaker for the 2:00 p.m. undergraduate ceremony.

Evelyn S. Lieberman, Class of 1966

Evelyn Lieberman has been the director of communications and external affairs at the Smithsonian since July 2002. She oversees the institution’s internal and external communications, the Office of Government Relations, the Office of Special Events and Protocol, and the Office of Visitor Services, the organization that coordinates Smithsonian volunteers.

Before joining the Smithsonian, Lieberman was the first under secretary for public diplomacy and public affairs at the U.S. Department of State, appointed by President Bill Clinton. While at the State Department, she oversaw the merger of the U.S. Information Agency and the State Department and also directed the first White House Conference on Culture and Diplomacy.

From 1997 to 1999, Lieberman was the director of Voice of America, the largest international nonmilitary broadcast operation, communicating in 52 languages to 93 million people worldwide.

Lieberman was a member of the White House staff from 1993 to 1997. She served as assistant to the president and deputy chief of staff, the first woman to hold that title. She also served as deputy assistant to the president and deputy press secretary for operations and as assistant to the chief of staff in the Office of the First Lady.

Before serving in the White House, Lieberman was press secretary to then-Senator Joseph Biden Jr. (D-Del.) from 1988 to 1993 and was director of communications at the Children’s Defense Fund from 1981 to 1988.

A native New Yorker, Evelyn and her husband, Edward H. Lieberman, an attorney, live in Washington, D.C.

Arnold L. Mitchem, Ph.D.

Arnold Mitchem, president emeritus of the Council for Opportunity in Education (COE), has been a voice for low-income, first-generation college students, individuals with disabilities, adult learners, and veterans throughout his entire career. The mission of the COE is to achieve college access and success for low-income students, first-generation college students, and students with disabilities. COE provides professional development, program improvement, and advocacy for nearly 2,800 federally funded college opportunity programs at more than 1,000 colleges and universities nationwide. Close to 800,000 students are served annually.

During his time as president, Mitchem used his knowledge of grassroots organizing and understanding of the political landscape at the local, national, and international levels to propel COE to become the “voice for college opportunity.” He introduced the concept of “first-generation students” through his Congressional testimony in the late 1970s—and the term was incorporated into the Education Amendments of 1980. Mitchem has testified before Congress more than a dozen times to share his expertise on education reform, the importance of a quality education, and student loan issues.

Mitchem is a member of the Executive Committee of the European Access Network and serves on the Board of Trustees of Marquette University. He is a former trustee of the College Board and past president of the Committee for Education Funding, a Washington, D.C.–based coalition of national education associations, and he served on INROADS Inc.’s first national board. Mitchem was also the founding president of the Mid-America Association of Educational Opportunity Program Personnel (1974–1976) and the recipient of the Arturo Schomburg Distinguished Service Award from the Association for Equality and Excellence in Education Inc. He received the 2013 Award for Advocacy of Independent Higher Education from the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU), the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) Award of Excellence (2013), and the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) Champions of Access and Success Award.

For his tireless advocacy on behalf of underrepresented students, Mitchem was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from HACU and honorary doctorates from 10 universities: CUNY-Lehman College, DePaul University, the University of Illinois, the University of Liverpool, Marquette University, Marycrest College, the University of Massachusetts-Boston, Lewis University in Chicago, Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, and Saint Louis University.

His writing has appeared in the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Chronicle of Higher Education,, the Huffington Post, and numerous other print and online publications.

Mitchem began his career on the history faculty at Marquette University and was later named director of Marquette’s Educational Opportunity Program, serving in that role until 1986, when he moved to Washington, D.C., to assume the presidency of the COE. He holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Southern Colorado, completed graduate work in European history as a Woodrow Wilson Fellow at the University of Wisconsin, and earned a Ph.D. in foundations of education from Marquette University.


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