The Board of Trustees of the State University of New York has authorized Genesee Community College to confer the honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree on Alexander resident Charlotte W. Conable during May commencement ceremonies, Board Chairman Glenn R. Morton announced this evening.
This year's commencement, scheduled for May 18 at the Batavia Campus, will hold special significance, stated Dr. Stuart Steiner, President of Genesee. This will be the College's 35th commencement ceremony, he noted, and the College will award its 15,000th degree. And the commencement speaker will be Robert L. King, Chancellor of the State University of New York. Chancellor King is expected to award the Doctor of Humane Letters degree to Mrs. Conable.
For thirty years, Mrs. Conable has advocated for the needs of women and the elderly, both in the United States and broad. She is known throughout the world as an outstanding women's historian, author, and advocate. She is the author of the highly acclaimed book, Women at Cornell - The Myth of Equal Education (1977). The book explored the historical implications of coeducation in higher education, and shattered many of the emerging beliefs about the equality of men and women pursing college and university degrees.
Although many private and public colleges award honorary doctoral degrees, it is unusual for community colleges to do so, explained President Stuart Steiner. No other two-year community college in the SUNY system, except for Fashion Institute of Technology (which awards Bachelor's and Master's degrees) will award honorary doctorates this year, he said. The only other community college to award an honorary doctorate in the last five years was Corning Community College, which awarded the honorary Doctor of Science degree to U. S. Air Force Colonel and current astronaut Eileen Marie Collins in 1998.
Mrs. Conable is a 1951 graduate of Cornell University. She served as president of her junior and senior classes. Later she was elected by her fellow alumni to serve on Cornell University's Board of Trustees.
She received a master's degree in Women's Studies from George Washington University (M.A., 1976), one of the first individuals to receive this degree. She also served on the GWU staff for five years, and during this period was active as an organizer, advocate, and writer on national and international women's and aging issues. She has also authored other papers on women's issues that have received wide attention across the globe.
She has been active in the YWCA, the American Association of University Women, and has served as a member of the College Council of the State University of New York at Brockport. She has also been involved in the growth of the Women's Hall of Fame and the national Women's Rights Park in Seneca Falls, New York. She has been an active participant in other national and international organizations, including the United Nations Conference for Women. She was one of one hundred Women of Achievement chosen by Washingtonian Magazine for her outstanding efforts on behalf of women in developing countries. In 1999, she was selected as a recipient of the New York State Senate's Women of Distinction Award, being nominated by Senator Mary Lou Rath. Also in 1999, local citizens petitioned Genesee Community College's Board of Trustees to name the College's new technology building in honor of Charlotte and her husband, Barber, former member of the U. S. Congress and former President of the World Bank. The Conable Technology Building opened in August 2000.
Honorary degree recipients in the State University of New York are first nominated by faculty-staff committees appointed by their respective college presidents. Mrs. Conable's nomination originated from a Genesee Community College committee appointed by Dr. Steiner and comprised of Charles A. Boyd, Professor of English; Katharina Kovach-Allen, Dean of Human Communications and Behavior; Betty P. Lapp, Professor of Nursing; Maxine M. Long, Professor of English; and Bernard Marcus, Professor of Biology. The College's Board of Trustees enthusiastically endorsed the nomination, said Dr. Steiner, and the SUNY Board of Trustees approved it at its February meeting.