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News Release

January 13, 2009


Elaine Ray, News Service: (650) 723-7162,

Kathleen J. Sullivan, News Service: (650) 724-5708,

Justice Anthony Kennedy to give Commencement address

Anthony M. Kennedy, associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court and a longtime legal educator, will be the 2009 Commencement speaker at Stanford.

Stanford's 118th Commencement Weekend, which is scheduled June 12-14, also will feature a Class Day lecture by Robert Sapolsky, a MacArthur Fellow and neuroscientist at Stanford, and a Baccalaureate address by Ruth W. Messinger, president of American Jewish World Service.

Anthony Kennedy, '58

Kennedy took his seat on the Supreme Court in February 1988 after being appointed by President Ronald Reagan. He was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in 1975. From 1965 to 1988, he served as a professor of constitutional law at the McGeorge School of Law of the University of the Pacific in Sacramento.

"Anthony Kennedy's pivotal role on the Supreme Court and his expertise in constitutional law have made him one of the great thought-leaders of our time," said university President John Hennessy. "He understands the challenges facing our nation and the world today and the role that our students will play in improving the future. I believe that Justice Kennedy's thoughts on leadership will be inspiring to our graduates as they embark on a new chapter in their lives. I am honored that he has agreed to mark the 50th anniversary of his own Stanford graduation to impart his wisdom to our next generation."

Kennedy, who was born in Sacramento in 1936, earned a bachelor's degree in political science in 1958 from Stanford after spending a year studying at the London School of Economics. He graduated cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1961.

He served in the California Army National Guard in 1961 and was in private practice in San Francisco and Sacramento from 1961 to 1975. He has served on numerous boards and committees during his career, including the board of the Federal Judicial Center from 1987 to 1988, and on two committees of the Judicial Conference of the United States: the Advisory Committee on Codes of Conduct and the Committee on Pacific Territories.

Senior Class Presidents Jordan Goldberg, Dimitar Iliev, Jess Lu and John McCormick said that Kennedy's Stanford connection and life experience will bring valuable perspective to the Commencement ceremony.

"We are honored to have Justice Kennedy meet us with enthusiasm as we welcome him back to his alma mater," the class presidents said in a joint statement. "He has taken his education and unique perspective to make influential decisions on a national scale. As someone who shares a Stanford undergraduate degree, he is a wonderful example of how our education can influence society at large."

Senior Class Day speaker

Robert Sapolsky, the John A. and Cynthia Fry Gunn Professor, will give this year's Senior Class Day lecture. A neuroendocrinologist, he has focused his research on issues of stress and neuron degeneration, as well as on the possibilities of gene therapy strategies for help in protecting susceptible neurons from disease.

In his well-known book Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers: An Updated Guide to Stress, Stress-Related Diseases and Coping, Sapolsky examines how prolonged stress can cause or contribute to physical and mental afflictions. His lab was among the first to document that stress can damage the neurons of the hippocampus.

"Professor Sapolsky's dedication to his students, charisma for teaching and cutting-edge research will make him a superb Class Day speaker," the class presidents said. "He will make the Class of 2009's final lecture at Stanford unforgettable, and we are lucky to have him."

Sapolsky has received numerous honors and awards for his work, including a MacArthur Fellowship, an Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship and the Klingenstein Fellowship in Neuroscience. He has received the Presidential Young Investigator Award from the National Science Foundation and a Young Investigator of the Year Award from the Society for Neuroscience, the Biological Psychiatry Society and the International Society for Psychoneuro-Endocrinology.

Baccalaureate speaker

Speaking at the Baccalaureate ceremony will be Ruth W. Messinger, president of American Jewish World Service, an international development organization providing support to 350 grassroots social change projects worldwide. Prior to assuming this role in 1998, Messinger was in public service in New York City for 20 years. She is an active member of her synagogue and serves on the board of several nonprofit organizations.

In honor of her tireless work to end the genocide in Darfur, Messinger received an award from the Jewish Council for Public Affairs in 2006. She was recently awarded honorary degrees by both Hebrew Union College and Hebrew College. Forward, an American Jewish weekly newspaper, has named her one of the 50 most influential Jews of the year seven times.

"We believe Ruth Messinger's background in philanthropy and social justice work provides us with a wonderful example of how to give back through a life of public service," the senior class presidents said.

Rabbi Patricia Karlin-Neumann, senior associate dean for religious life, said she was delighted that Messinger will bring her messages of social service to Stanford's diverse, multifaith community.

"Ruth Messinger is a justice-maker and a global activist," Karlin-Neumann said. "She invokes the best of religion and civic commitment to motivate activists to envision and create a world free of poverty, hunger and disease for all humanity. She will inspire our graduates as they go out to repair the world."

Stanford's 118th Commencement, Senior Class Day lecture and Baccalaureate ceremonies are part of a celebration for graduates, their families and friends, and members of the Stanford community. The Baccalaureate ceremony will be held on the Main Quad, and the Senior Class Day lecture will be held in Maples Pavilion, both on Saturday, June 13. Commencement will be held in the Stanford Stadium on Sunday, June 14.


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