The State University of New York at New Paltz will confer its highest form of recognition on two members of its college community at commencement ceremonies this May. An honorary doctorate of humane letters — honoring exceptional scholarship, service and professional achievements — will be presented to alumna Janus Adams during commencement ceremonies on Saturday, May 19 with the same honor conferred on philanthropist James H. Ottaway Jr. during commencement on Sunday, May 20.
(With enrollment and graduation rates high, dividing the graduates into two groups lessens the strain on campus security during the ceremonies and provides a better overall experience for the graduates and their families. The college will recognize graduates of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences on Saturday, May 19 and graduates of the Schools of Business, Education, Fine & Performing Arts and Science & Engineering on Sunday, May 20.)
Janus Adams is a 1967 alumna of the theater arts program and an Emmy Award-winning journalist, producer, historian, speaker, musician and bestselling author of eleven books, including the forthcoming collection of essays, Sediddy: Attitude, Gratitude and Seeing Red.
Adams has dedicated her life to chronicling and promoting social justice and civil and human rights. She was NPR’s first National Arts Correspondent, and lectures widely on business, women’s rights and her signature theme, “history and healing.”
She has enjoyed a long and decorated career as a news commentator and pioneer of issue-oriented African-American and women’s programming, hosting her own radio and television talk shows, appearing as a guest on all the major news outlets and publishing articles, essays and columns in newspapers that include Newsday, USA Today, and the Huffington Post.
Adams returned to her alma mater for her 50th class reunion last fall, to give a Distinguished Speaker Series address titled “Know When to Leave the Plantation,” which narrated a journey that began when she was selected one of just four children who would break New York’s segregated school bar in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education.
A classically trained pianist, she graduated from New York’s famed High School of Performing Arts (now known as Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts) and earned the nation’s first graduate degree in black studies from Mills College. She pursued doctoral studies at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where she studied with author and composer Shirley Graham DuBois, widow of NAACP co-founder Dr. W.E.B. DuBois until DuBois’ death.
James H. Ottaway Jr., is a journalist, newspaper executive, philanthropist and longtime friend of the college. He became a reporter and associate editor at the Danbury, Connecticut News-Times newspaper in 1960, then a part of Ottaway Newspapers Inc., and has worked to produce and support good journalism ever since.
As chairman and chief executive officer of Ottaway Newspapers, which became the community newspaper subsidiary of Dow Jones & Company in 1970, Ottaway carried on the legacy of his father, James Ottaway, Sr., overseeing 20 daily newspapers across the country, including the Middletown, New York-based Times Herald-Record. He served as a director of Dow Jones & Co., Inc., from 1987 to April 2006. Ottaway was also a senior vice president at Dow Jones and president of the International and Magazine divisions. He is a graduate of Phillips Exeter Academy and Yale University.
In 2000, Ottaway and his wife Mary (SUNY New Paltz alumna 1970 in elementary education), established the college’s first and only endowed professorship in journalism, named in honor of Ottaway’s father.
Over the course of nearly two decades, the James H. Ottaway Sr. Visiting Professorship has brought a visiting professor to campus each spring, providing hundreds of students a rare opportunity to study and work alongside Pulitzer, Emmy and Peabody Award-winning journalists at the pinnacle of their profession.
This spring the program will bring veteran foreign correspondent Ann Simmons to campus, to share lessons learned from her experiences covering the fall of the Soviet Union, the War in Iraq and Hurricane Katrina.
James and Mary Ottaway are also patrons of the arts, and have generously dedicated time and support (including a catalog endowment) to the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art at SUNY New Paltz, helping make possible a number of exciting exhibitions and nurturing the Dorsky’s development into a premier public showplace for Hudson Valley art and artists.
The Ottaways’ philanthropy and public service extends to a number of other civic and professional organizations, including the Mohonk Preserve, the Wallkill Valley Land Trust, Phillies Bridge Farm and Bard College, as well as the American Society of Newspaper Editors, the World Press Freedom Committee, Doctors Without Borders, Human Rights Watch and Words Without Borders.org.
For more information, visit http://www.newpaltz.edu/.